Successful Sod Installation Starts with the Right Prep

Photo: slgckgc/flickr Even in mid-winter, you can still dream of spring ... and your hopes for a deep green, luxuriant lawn this year. If you'd like to get a head start on the gorgeous grass of your fantasies, why not install sod instead of growing from seed? While it may be a bit of an investment, using sod is an easy shortcut to the good-looking, lush lawn you want. Make sure the installation is a success by preparing your yard in advance. Here are 11 preparation tips.

  1. Choose the right season. If you live in a southerly state, you may be able to lay your sod in late winter. Otherwise, spring and fall are the best times, due to their generally mild weather and occasional rain showers. The heat of summer tends to be too harsh for a freshly sodded lawn to thrive.
  2. Measure the dimensions of the plot where turf is to be installed so you will know how many rolls or squares to order and avoid overbuying.
  3. Prepare the area of your future lawn carefully to get the most out of your sod install. Use an herbicide followed by a sod cutter to remove any scraggly grass on site.
  4. Get rid of any large stones, dirt clods, tree stumps and roots, and other debris. Then rake the site level and grade it, if necessary, to ensure proper drainage.
  5. If the dirt is highly compacted, you'll need to aerate it. Till the earth to a depth of 2 inches.
  6. Almost all soils will need to be improved before you install the new sod, for the best results. You may even need to add soil -- make sure that you have at least a 4-inch layer of earth. Six inches is preferable, to allow plenty of space for the grass roots. Any additional soil should be thoroughly blended with the existing dirt.
  7. Have your soil tested. The report of the test results will indicate which amendments are needed to get that nutrient-rich, mildly acidic soil (with a pH of about 6-7.5) that sod loves. Usually lime is recommended to counteract a high acid content, and sulfur or gypsum is good for overly alkaline soil. If there is a large amount of sand or clay, incorporate mature compost or other organic matter.
  8. Set up a lawn sprinkler system. A programmable automatic timer is a wise investment. Water the soil a day or two before the date you plan to have your new sod laid.
  9. Be ready to install the sod on the day that it is cut and delivered to your home. If there is a delay for any reason, keep your sod moist until it can be installed.
  10. Let all the members of your household know that they will temporarily not be able to walk on the sodded area and do not allow pets on your new lawn for the next three weeks. This will permit the grass time to firmly take root.
  11. Be prepared to pay more for sod installation than you would for grass seed. The cost to install sod per 1000 square feet can range anywhere from approximately one to two thousand dollars, including the price of sod itself, the landscape contractor's labor, materials, and equipment.

Laura Firszt writes for

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