Laying Sod

Sod Installation: How to Lay Sod

This process of establishing a lawn is called sodding, which is installed with steps like soil preparationleveling your lawnlaying the sodneatening the edges of sodwatering sod and fertilizing sod. Sodding is a quicker way to get a new lawn than growing one from seeds. Sodding gives a lush green new lawn immediately. Sod refers to already established grass that is harvested in long strips with some soil attached to it, held together by the turf’s root system. 

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How do you lay sod, what do you need to consider or keep in mind during the process and how to maintain the sod once it is laid down – these are some of the most common questions regarding establishing a lawn through sod. In this article, Eden will answer all these questions in detail. Let’s start with the step-by-step process of laying sod.

Prepare Your Soil for Sod

To lay a new layer of sod, the soil has to be prepared first by removing any old grass or other plants from the area. You need to start with a clean slate. To remove weeds, or stray plants, spray a herbicide over the entire area. Note that you need to wait for a few weeks after the herbicide is sprayed to lay sod so that all the unwanted vegetation dies and the effect of the herbicide becomes null, thus not affecting the new grass.

If you have existing grass on your lawn, then you need to cut it out like you would harvest sod. You will need a sod cutter which is a tool that has a sharp blade attached to a frame to cut under the grass roots. The process is the same as cutting long strips of sod. You can add this old sod to your backyard compost pile or ask your local garden center if they can use it in their compost. The sod cutter can also be rented from your local garden center.

Once all the existing vegetation has been removed, you need to loosen the soil up to 6 to 8 inches so that the new sod can have a deep root system. For small areas, you can use a garden rake or a bow rake to rake the soil and loosen it, and for larger areas, you will need to use a rototiller to dig into the soil. You can add organic fertilizer at this point so that the fertilizer is also tilled into the ground and mixes well with the soil.

Leveling Your Lawn for Laying sod

Once the soil has been prepared by clearing it of debris and adding nutrients to it as required, you need to level it before laying the sod. You can use an iron rake for this purpose and rake it so that the level of the bare soil is one inch below the grade of any protruding sprinkler heads and any paved surfaces like sidewalks and patios. This will give some vertical room for the new sod and protect the sod at the edges from getting trampled down constantly, keeping its quality intact.

While leveling your soil, if you find any soil clumps that you missed in the previous step, break them down into pea-sized particles. The soil should be loose enough that the new sod bonds quickly with the native soil, but at the same time, you need to be careful about breaking it down too finely as this will make it compact again very quickly.

This is also a good time to grade your soil so that it slopes away from the foundation of the soil. If you are unsure about the grading and level of the soil, you can irrigate the area so that it is drenched completely and then check if there are any low spots where water is puddling or if the water is flowing towards the house. If you find any low spots, you can fill them with some topsoil to ensure proper drainage.

Laying the Sod

Start sod installation by dampening the area with a hose or a sprinkler. Then unroll the first roll of sod against the longest straight edge of your lawn; this could be the edge of a patio, driveway, fence, or sidewalk. This will ensure your edges are straight and even and provide a good reference for the following sod rolls. Rake the soil as you are laying down the rolls to clear your footprints and keep the soil level.

After laying the first roll, pat it down lightly with a shovel to remove any air pockets and make sure the sod is free of any wrinkles and that it is fully in contact with the native soil below. Also, make sure you don’t step on the sod at any time during installation. 

When laying the second roll of sod, cut it in half with a sharp knife so that the rolls of sod are staggered at the shorter seam as you would do while laying bricks. The edges of each roll of sod should be flush with the adjacent roll of sod; they should fit snugly without overlapping so that the gaps between the rolls of sod are not visible, and they look like one single stretch of grass.

Neatening the Edges of Sod

Once all the rolls have been unrolled and laid, the edges of your lawn will probably have some grass sticking out, but this should not cause you to worry. Use the same knife you used to cut the sod pieces to trim the edges. You will need to fold back the excess sod and then trim it from the soil side to the grass side. Pat this edge down to ensure there are no gaps and the edge fits snugly and neatly.

If you find any gaps between the sod rolls, you can fill those in using smaller strips of sod with some topsoil. Pat all the sod rolls down with a shovel to remove air pockets. For larger lawns, you will need a lawn roller to press down the soil to ensure full contact with the soil underneath it and remove any air pockets that might have been missed while patting down the sod during installation. You can rent a lawn roller from your local garden center.

The right way to roll the sod is to roll the lawn in one direction and then make the next pass perpendicular to the first one. This means rolling the sod in a grid pattern. A point to consider here is that if there is heavy rainfall on the day of installation, right after the process is complete then you don’t need to roll the soil as the soil will become soft enough to easily bond with the new sod. 

Watering Sod

As mentioned previously, you should water the newly installed sod as you go (within thirty minutes of installation) to ensure it does not dry out. After the entire lawn has been sodded, you need to establish an irrigation routine. 

Water newly installed sod daily in the mornings as doing so in the afternoon will cause most of the water to be lost due to evaporation. If you water during the evening, the sod will go to sleep with its roots wet which can encourage fungal infections. Neither of those situations is desirable; therefore, the best time to irrigate the lawn is in the mornings.

On the first day, check the effectiveness of your watering by slightly lifting up a roll of sod to check the native soil underneath. If you have provided enough water, the native soil will also be moist as the water would have penetrated the sod layer to reach below, but at the same time, the native soil underneath should not look muddy. If it does, it means that you are overwatering the sod. 

Once you have determined the right amount of water, continue to water the same way daily for the first week. If the weather conditions in your region are hot and dry, then you might need to water twice or more daily for the first week.

From the second week, you can start watering once every other day and follow this up by watering twice a week during the third week. Reducing the frequency of water slowly but watering deeply will encourage the sod to develop a deep root system. This is the secret to a healthy lawn. Once the sod has taken root, you can provide it with the recommended one inch of water per week if it is a warm-season grass, and if it is a cool-season grass, 

Fertilizing Sod

To fertilize your newly laid sod, you need to wait a month or four to six weeks after the installation to allow the new grass to take root and acclimatize to your soil before you begin fertilizing. When you fertilize, Eden recommends using a more balanced fertilizer with something like a 15-5-10 composition instead of something too imbalanced with only nitrogen like 30-0-0, especially if you have already used starter fertilizer before laying the sod.

A good indication of when to fertilize your newly installed lawn is fertilizing it after the first time you mow your lawn. This way, you can add back all the nutrients that got washed away during the heavy irrigation routine of the first couple of weeks.

After the first fertilization, Eden recommends following a fertilization routine three to four times a year for established lawns. Also, if you installed the sod during the dormant months of winter, then Eden recommends waiting until the growing season begins in spring to fertilize your lawn so that all the nutrients can be properly taken up by the grass once it is awake from its winter slumber. 

When is the Best Time for Laying Sod?

Sod can be established any time between mid-spring and mid-fall. But the best time to lay sod within this period would be late summer to early fall as at this time, daytime temperatures are still warm while the temperatures at night start to become cooler. These conditions are ideal for keeping the soil warm while also retaining the moisture due to the cool weather and preventing the sod from drying out. 

The ideal time for installing soil is when the soil temperatures are constantly in the mid-50 degree Fahrenheit range. Note that this is the soil temperature and not the temperature of the surroundings and, therefore, can be measured using a cheap soil thermometer.

Installing sod during this time also provides it with enough time to develop a strong and deep root system before the colder weather arrives in winter. For this reason, you need to ensure that you don’t lay the sod too late in fall, or the grass won’t have enough time to establish roots before the ground starts to freeze.

Warm-season grasses that go dormant in winter can also be established during spring, and they will still produce good results.

If you are looking to establish a new lawn through sodding, you should consult the landscaping experts of Eden. The Eden contractors will also maintain the newly installed sod so that it takes root healthily and stays for a long time. You can also contact Eden for any other landscaping query as we provide full-spectrum landscaping services, covering various aspects.

From selecting the right seasonal plants to installing an outdoor kitchen, our landscaping services can do it all for you. Contact us today for a stunning landscape!

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