Installing Sod: What You Need to Know About Laying & Maintaining New Sod
Installing sod in your yard is a great way to instantly add life to a dull and bleak area, and brings in the color quickly to barren landscape.
Since sod is a lot of work before, during, and after the actual installation, you’ll want to make sure you get the best return on your investment of both time and money. Adequately preparing the soil at the installation helps ensures that your sod will have a great starting point. After installation, you'll need to care for your sod the right way. Read on for tips and tricks on how to get that grass to root right.
How to Prepare Your Site for Sod Installation
Prepare the site by removing all vegetation, such as grass, from the area completely. Sod grows best when it has direct contact with the soil beneath it, so don’t just plop the sod over your existing lawn or it may not grow at all.
Strip the area down to the soil, then till it up to loosen the soil. If necessary, bring in some new soil, preferably at least 2 inches, and incorporate it into your existing soil so it blends nicely. Loose soil allows the new roots to grow down into the existing soil best.
Consider testing your soil to see if the nutrients are balanced, and add amendments as necessary. Then re-till the soil to spread soil amendments around. Finish the prep work by grading the soil and raking it smooth. Avoid packing down the soil, as the roots in the sod grow easier in loosened soil.
How to Install the Sod
Slightly moisten the soil before you place the sod pieces on the soil. While moistened soil helps the sod stay in place, soggy soil could make the sod pieces slide around, so make sure you don’t overly wet the area.
Start laying the sod pieces near straight lines, such as near your sidewalk, and stagger the placement like a mason staggers bricks. Not only does the staggered appearance easier on the eyes — you won’t see the lines as well — it helps the pieces grow together better, since the edges lose moisture quicker than the center of the sod pieces. Position the sod pieces together as close as possible without overlapping them. Cut pieces as necessary to get a good fit, and remove any dead or dried areas of the sod as necessary; use the sharp edge of a trowel, or a utility knife to make the cuts. End your installation in the least viewed area, such as the back corner of the yard.
Avoid walking directly on the newly laid sod. Instead, lay a piece of cardboard or plywood on the sod when laying new pieces or adjusting the sod.
Video on Installing Sod
University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program; Installing a Sod Lawn
How to Care for Freshly Laid Sod
Deeply water the new sod on the day of installation. Ensure the water goes about 6 to 8 inches deep, or until the soil can’t handle any more water. Some sod selling companies suggests that you water the sod until the water runs into the street. After the first day, decrease the amount of water your grass gets on a daily basis — about 1 inch a day— or as suggested by your sod provider.
Continue watering your sod deeply over the next few weeks to encourage roots to grow from the sod soil layer and into your existing soil. Check for rooting by tugging on a corner of a sod piece; if it comes up easily, the roots haven’t grown into the soil, if you feel resistance when pulling on a piece of sod the roots are growing. Rooting typically takes between 2 to 6 weeks, depending upon your care and the type of sod you purchased.
Don't mow your lawn until the roots have firmly established. But don't remove more than 1/3 of the height of the blades, or you may stress the grass ;cutting off too much height allows in excess heat and light and may kill the new grass. If the sod has grown extremely high, adjust the blades on your mower and plan to re-mow the yard again in a few days. It is better to do more work mowing the yard than laying sod again the next growing season.