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Lawn Ideas and Resources

lawn sodTop 5 Things to Consider When Using Sod for Your Lawn

Do you hate to see an empty plot or overgrown grass in your yard every time you come out of the house or when you arrive from work? Do you envy your neighbor’s lawn and how much it adds curb appeal to his property?

Well, it's time for you to have a new lawn and improve your property’s lawn and value, as well. Planting a new lawn is a time-consuming and a backbreaking project, not to mention the fact that it entails additional investment. To ensure its success, you can hire one of the local landscaping companies to do the job. Incidentally, there are two popular ways of planting a new lawn – planting seeds or installing sod. The major difference between the two is the time it takes to develop mature or durable turf. However, if you want to save money and are willing to wait, you can choose to plant seeds. But if you want an instant lawn with fewer time-consuming hassles, go for sod. Seeding, though economical, is a more complicated process, and you have to wait for the proper time to plant, which is from late summer to early fall. If you are planning a substantial sodding or renovation project, most landscaping companies offer this type of service.

A sod is a mature turf that is grown and cared for by a professional. So basically, sodding is transplanting the sod to your plot. Though more expensive than seeding, the installation of sod offers these advantages:

  • Whereas seeding takes longer to produce green turf, you can have a lawn in a day or two if you use sod, especially if you hire one of the many local landscaping companies to do the job.
  • Rapid establishment of lawn.
  • Can be installed on slopes or areas prone to erosion.
  • The possibility of mud and dirt getting inside the house is considerably reduced.
  • Immediately control erosion.
  • You can install sod any month of the year, except when the ground is frozen, but make sure the newly planted turf receives enough water, especially during the hot summer months. 

Some people don’t mind getting their hands dirty and so they would prefer not to hire a landscaper and install the sod themselves. However, rolling out the sod is just part of the picture. To ensure the success of installing a sod lawn, these are the top 5 noteworthy things to consider:

#1 - Site Conditions

Make a survey of the site. Is it too shady or does it receive full sunlight all day? Your answer to this question will greatly determine the type of and/or variety of grass you need to purchase.  There are a few varieties that can tolerate moderate amounts of shade while there are those that require a lot of sunlight. Do you have an old lawn that must be removed? What about the slope of the lawn in reference to your house? Does it need to be improved? Take note of the drainage system. Drainage problems, if any, will have to be solved before a sod lawn is installed. Are there buried lines in your lawn for your utilities (water, gas, phone, cable, electricity)? These must be marked to avoid any inconvenience and possibly, accidents. 

#2 -  Site Preparation

Sunlight, air, water and nutrients are needed to encourage deep rapid rooting. Proper preparation of the soil is the initial step in establishing a healthy lawn. Remember, the finished product is only as strong as the preparation. The quality of your soil will make or break your sodding project, wasting all your efforts, your time and your money. 

  • Work the soil

If you have an old lawn, you must remove it first to ensure that the roots of the new turf can penetrate the soil in order to absorb water and nutrients. Cultivate the soil to a depth of 4 inches with a garden rake or a mechanical tiller. This will remove debris, your old lawn (if any), old roots, stones and other plant parts. Make sure to break up clods and remove weeds. Weeds are more of a problem if you plant seeds since a sod-planted turf can smother weeds until they die. Old lawns must be removed to a depth of 2-3 inches. Some people may resort to using broad-spectrum herbicide to kill-off grass and weeds from the old lawn. This way, they don’t have to remove the old lawn since the old grass and weeds can be tilled into the soil.

  • Soil analysis

One overlooked factor is the soil type, which can be clay, sand or loam. You need this information because soil types have different watering properties. Sandy loam soil is the best one to grow turf. The condition of the soil must also be tested to measure its pH and nutrient levels. You can send samples to the nearest professional soil testing laboratory or you can buy a home-testing kit and test the soil yourself. The type of soil and the results of the test would determine which amendments are needed to improve the composition and texture of the soil. 

The soil’s pH level is directly proportional to the availability of plant nutrients. Generally, the desired pH level is 6 to 7. For levels outside this range, changing the composition of the soil is necessary.

  • Grading

Excess water results in a poor root system, which can eventually weaken the turf grass. That is why drainage problems need to be addressed at this stage of the project and not later. By this time you can roughly grade the slope of your lawn away from your house, the sidewalk and your neighbors lawn. The ideal slope is 1% to 2% or 1 - 2 foot drop per 100 feet of run from your house. If need be, install the proper drainage system to ensure that excess water will drain rapidly to places other than your house and your neighbor’s property. If you think you need a sprinkler system, this is also the best time to install it.   

#3 -  Soil Improvement

Depending on the results of the soil test, you will need to till in soil amendments. The introduction of limestone to the soil increases its pH. Ideally, it should be mixed with the top 6 inches of soil. On the other hand, acids may be introduced to lower the pH. Add nutrients and starter fertilizer (with the top 6 inches of soil) before the final grading. You may even opt to add organic matter, which improves the condition of most types of soil. If you need to raise-up an area, then add topsoil but make sure it is less than 20% clay and free of residual herbicides. Call lawn companies in your area and get a list of topsoil suppliers. 

For the final grade, use a rake to level and smooth out the surface. Remove rocks and large chunks of soil. Level the surface by filling low spots with soil and removing high spots. Don’t stop until the site is firm and level.

#4 -  Selecting the Lawn Sod

The choice of lawn sod variety depends on these factors:

  • Consider the use of your lawn. Will you use it as a play area for your children? Do you expect a lot of foot traffic?
  • The amount of sunlight that your lawn receives on a daily basis significantly affects your choice of sod. Some varieties require vast amount of sunlight while others prefer shade.
  • The climate in the area as well as seasonal temperatures should also be considered. For example, Kentucky blue grass grows well in cool climates but is not recommended in hot or dry areas.

#5 -  Lawn Sod Installation

Good quality lawn sod is the foundation of a beautiful and healthy lawn that you will enjoy for a long time. Now that you have prepared and improved the soil, you are now ready to install the sod. Purchase only fresh sod that has is cut no more than 24 hours before delivery. It is critical that the sod be installed within a day after delivery. However, should it need to wait, store it in a cool, shaded area to avoid drying out or wilting.  Also, avoid stacking the sod in piles. 

Lightly irrigate the site and let it settle before installing the sod. Lay the sod tightly together, staggering the joints as if you are laying bricks and filling the cracks with soil. When done, immediately soak the sod. When you think it is dry enough to walk on, roll the sod to ensure that it has full contact with the soil underneath. For a few days, regularly water the sod to keep it moist but not saturated. Gradually reduce watering and expect the roots to knit to the soil in 1 to 3 weeks. Approximately 7 to 10 days from the time of its installation check that the sod is firmly rooted to the soil. If it is, mow your sod lawn with a sharp mower, removing no more than 1/3 of the grass height. In 2 to 3 months, your new sod lawn is ready for use, providing beauty and an improved environment for you and your family.

If everything discussed above seems daunting for you, an experienced landscaper can do a better job of installing your new lawn. You can always get in touch with any of the local landscaping companies who provide lawn care services and maintenance. Hiring a landscaper may free you from the above tasks but it does not mean you don’t have to do any work yourself. Basic lawn maintenance practices include regular watering, mowing and edging, let alone controlling the weeds. To get the most out of the services of landscaping companies, you need to determine and decide your role in maintaining the health and beauty of your lawn. If you still can’t handle the regular maintenance, then contact a local landscaper immediately.


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