How to lay sod like a pro
Laying sod the right way will give you a great lawn
Laying down sod can be a great alternative to just throwing grass seeds around in the dirt. Sod has the grass already developed into a mature state, so all you have to do is keep it alive. I'm going to give you some basic tips to make sure your sod is laid down perfectly and kept in a healthy condition.
Preparing the soil
You don't want to lay down sod on top of already growing grass. You need to till up that soil and remove as many non-soil particles as possible, including sticks and stones and possibly broken bones if you're working in a cemetery. You'll probably want to rent a power tiller for this from your local gardening store, if you don't already own one. Once you're done tilling use a lawn spreading to put fertilizer on the soil. The roots from the sod will need this because they are in a bit of a dormant state when you first lay down the sod. You've gotta wake up those roots as soon as possible!
If your soil needs any nutrients, now is the time to find out. Buy a do-it-yourself soil test kit from your garden center and add whatever nutrients the soil requires.
Time to lay sod
Alright, now the fun part. Start laying down the sod along a straight edge of your lawn. I prefer to start at the sidewalk, but if you don't have one you can start at the edge of the driveway. Use a knife and cut away the areas that don't fit evenly and at the ends of a row.
Stagger the sod like bricks. This way you don't get a long seam running down the width of the lawn. When laying down one row next to another, make sure to tuck them as closely together as possible. Don't overlap, but don't leave any gap either. If you leave a gap you'll get dead grass along the edges because the roots are exposed and they'll die. The picture at the top of this page shows some of this happening because the sod wasn't laid down particularly well.
Mating your sod to your soil
Now that you've laid down sod across your entire lawn, you've got to make sure it actually combines with your soil instead of just floating on top. You'll need to water your lawn for 5 to 10 minutes every single day for the next few weeks. You'll also want to rent a roller and roll it over your lawn several times a week. This should help merge the sod layer with the top soil. I see way to many sod lawns where these steps weren't taken, and the sod just dries up and shrinks and sits on top of the soil, usually causing it to die fairly quickly.
When is the right time to mow new sod?
You should let your sod grass grow high before mowing it. I suggest about 5 or 6 inches. You need to do this because taller grass absorbs more sunlight and feeds more nutrients into the grass plant, which is critical because when you lay sod grass it's essentially in a comatose state. You've got to help pull it off life support before cutting it down.