February 9, 2021
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how to lay sod in 5 easy steps

If you want the lively and lush lawn, but don't have the patience or enough spare time to nurture it from the grounds up, then the sod may be the perfect shortcut you're looking for.

Laying sod can instantly make your barren yard the envy of the neighborhood. 

Even though it costs more than the traditional method of establishing your lawn, sod doesn't require all that attention and provides much more predictable results. It can also help you fix your existing lawn and cover bare patches with fresh and thick grass. Furthermore, new varieties of sod are more resistant to diseases, weeds, and pests.

How to Lay Sod in 5 Easy Steps

As we mentioned, laying sod is not the cheapest route to the new lawn, and hiring specialists to do the job will probably double the price.

So, you may want to try doing it yourself. Sod installation is not an easy job and can be time-consuming. But, if you follow the steps we laid out below, you should be able to handle it.

This guide will help you to properly install the sod and avoid the common mistakes people usually make when laying it down on their own.

Step 1: Test the Soil

MySoil-Soil Test Kit | Grow The Best Lawn and Garden | Know Exactly What Your Soil and Plants Need | Provides Complete Nutrient Analysis and Recommendations Tailored to Your Soil

Before installing the sod, you should test the soil where you plan to place it. This way you will make sure that you can provide the best growing environment for your new lawn.

Her'es why:

  • Grass, especially sod turf, thrives in soil with a certain pH level and requires a lot of nutrition to thrive.
  • Getting the right pH level will help sod grow and reduce the stress it goes through while laying the roots in your yard.

To perform a test you'll need to collect soil samples from several spots in the area where you plan to sod and mix them together while removing any plant parts that may be present.

You can purchase the test kit from Amazon and do the test yourself...

...BUT, for more precise data, we recommend that you send the sample to a local county extension service or a state university if you have a competent one nearby. 

It will set you back around 15 bucks, but it will give you helpful information to use when choosing the right sod.

Upon receiving the test results consult the local provider on which sod would best suit you and what steps to take to prepare the soil and rectify any potential deficiencies.

Bear in mind, you may have to wait up to two weeks to get the results back, and preparing the soil also takes time, so plan accordingly.  If you're in a hurry, the test kits from Amazon do a good job, and get better every year. 

Step 2: Measure the Sodding Area

sod measurement

Precise measuring the area where you plan to install the sod in necessary so you can have an idea you much of it you'll need to order.

The most practical way to measure your yard is to make a sketch drawing with the layout of the area and input all the measurements. Don't forget to include the dimensions of various objects such as buildings, sidewalks, pathways, or flower beds to get a more accurate picture of your requirements.

When you have the whole area measured up, calculate the total square footage.

Remember that you'll need to cut and fit around the curves so there will be some waste. For this reason, increase the total amount of sod you're ordering by at least 5 percent.

This will ensure that you don't run out of sod before you finish.

Here's a great video (not mine) that explains the process if you're more of a visual learner, like me! 😊

If you're not sure that you can calculate the correct assessment, bring your drawing and measurement with you to the sod supplier and they will help you determine the correct amount of sod you'll need.

Step 3: Soil Preparation

Soil Preperation

Prior to the sod's delivery, you should take steps to prepare the soil you'll install it on.

This will help the grass to start growing properly from the get-go. This is the key phase on the road to a thick and healthy lawn.

Here's what you should be doing:

  • If you're planning to install the sod in the area with the preexisting lawn, or if there is grass or weed present, you'll first need to get rid of them. 
  • Use a systematic weed killer to make sure that there are no plants left once you start laying down the sod. If necessary, repeat the process a few times.
  • Once you're done with the plants, clean the site of any rocks, stones, large soil clods, roots, and other various debris. 
  • Then, remove the surface soil layer of about 6 to 8 inches. You can use a mini tiller for this. 
  • Now, lay down the layer of organic compost, about 2 inches thick. It can contain peat moss, manure, and other composting material. It will improve grass nutrition and aeration. Organic matter, well-rotten, will prevent issues with diseases and other factors that can suppress plant growth.
  • Over the compost bed, lay a layer of sand. It should be no more than 3 inches thick. Having a sand layer will significantly improve drainage and provide better air and water flow to the roots.

The next step is spreading the topsoil layer. 

  • Make sure that topsoil thickness is even both on the level and slope surfaces. 
  • For proper drainage, the slope should be away from the buildings, If necessary, add extra soil to provide this.

Before laying the sod, you should fertilize the soil beneath it. 

  1. Apply the recommended fertilizer or lime, according to the soil test results, and rake it into the top 4 inches of prepared soil. 
  2. Be responsible while fertilizing. Potent starter fertilizers can cause serious water pollution. 
  3. Make sure to clean any excess fertilizer from the surrounding areas and put it back into the ground. 
  4. Never wash it down the drain. Many states have already introduced restrictions on fertilizer use for these very reasons.

After you've finished fertilizing, leveling the ground is next in line. 

Skipping this step can leave your lawn uneven and bumpy, complicate the mowing, and prevent the proper rooting. 

  • Check to see if there are any visible holes or high spots and fill them up with soil or even them out. 
  • Important: Make sure to remember that the soil surface should be 1 or 2 inches below the height of sprinklers, driveway, paths, flower beds, and other structures in the surrounding area. This is done with sod thickness in mind because you surely don't want your lawn to be higher than these objects. 
  • When the ground is raked, use a 200 to 300 pounds roller to consolidate the soil and allow it to settle. You can judge if the soil is firm enough by walking over it. If your feet don't sink more than 1/2 of an inch, you're good.
Sod Roller
If you don't own a roller, you can rent one locally, pick it up from Amazon.com, or you can apply the old-fashioned method - gently and slowly walk across the lawn with your feet as close together as possible.

Step 4: Laying the Sod

Stacks of Sod

Once your sod is delivered try to unload the pallets all over the plot according to the place where you plan to install it.

This will save you some time and ease the task of moving them from one place to another. After you're done with unloading, thoroughly inspect the sod.

Check for any damage or traces of disease and infestation.

Preferably, you should install the sod on the same day it's delivered. If this is not possible, then make sure you store it in a cool and dry place.

Laying Out Sod

Here's How You Lay The Sod:

You should start laying strips beside the longest patch on the plot, usually next to the driveway, sidewalk, fence, or the side of the house. 

Then start laying other strips pushing the edges tightly together, but taking care that they don't overlap.

You should stagger the strip in a way that their shorter ends join next to the middle of the strips on each side, similar to the brick wall pattern.

Sod Yard Pattern

Image Credit: https://turpinfarms.squarespace.com/sod-installation/

By doing this, you'll avoid long seams that can channel the water making the seams break apart. And, honestly, longer seams don't look so good.

If you are left with some smaller sod pieces, place them somewhere in the middle, as putting them next to the edges will cause them to dry out and die.

Using a sharp knife or spade, adjust the shape of sod next to the trees, flower beds, sprinklers, and similar features.

Sod Pattern

Image Credit: https://turpinfarms.squarespace.com/sod-installation/

When all of the strips are laid down check for if there are any air pockets. Use the roller to push sod firmly to the ground to secure good contact with the soil.

If you don't own a roller, you can rent one locally, pick it up from Amazon.com, or you can apply the old-fashioned method - gently and slowly walk across the lawn with your feet as close together as possible.

Sod Roller

While doing this, carefully inspect for any visible cracks. If you find any, fill them with soil, similar to what you would do with ceramic tiles.

Step 5: After the Installation

As soon as you have finished laying the sod, you can start watering it.

In the beginning, you should water it frequently but in small amounts to accelerate rooting. During the first two weeks after the installation, you should water the sod daily. 

As the roots begin to gain a foothold in the soil, slowly decrease the watering frequency, but increase the water quantity.

Starting at week three, water the lawn every two days, after 21 days decrease the watering frequency to once a week. 

By this time you should get a sense of how your lawn reacts to watering and adjust it accordingly.

Try to avoid heavy use of the lawn until it has established a fully developed root system.

During the first week avoid even walking over it. the same goes for your pets.

Don't mow the lawn until the grass reaches the height of at least 3 or 4 inches. And then, use only a push mower and make sure that the blade is properly sharpened.

After about a month, you can start fertilizing, again according to soil test recommendations.

Pretty soon your lawn won't require anything more than the regular upkeep and you can start fully enjoying all of its benefits.

Daniel Simmons

About the author

TheLawnMowingKing.com brings my 25 years experience as a professional gardener and landscaper to you!

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