Laying sod to start a new lawn

A thriving, green lawn is a source of pride for homeowners. While we do what we can to keep our lawns lush and healthy, sometimes it's necessary to patch or re-do an existing lawn.

You can do this in two different ways: plant sod or seed your lawn. Each method has its advantages, so you can decide which method works best for you.

Plant Sod

If you're planting sod, you'll need to buy rolls of it. These rolls are grown at sod farms before they're dug up with roots and soil intact. This makes it easy to replant sod in your yard. Laying sod creates a lawn much faster than reseeding and requires less maintenance than a lawn started from scratch, but it costs more than seeding a new lawn. You can buy sod rolls from sod farms directly or at lawn supply and garden centers.

Step 1: Clear the Way

Start by removing any grass, vegetation and debris from the area using a spade and a rake. Use a tiller to break up the existing top soil. Then apply fertilizer and compost to the topsoil before tilling again. Next, you'll need to flatten and level the soil with a sod roller. This will help the sod lie flat and take root better.

Step 2: Lay Your Sod

Start by laying sod along any walkways, sidewalks and driveways near your house. This will give you a straight edge and keep you from having to do any patchwork until the end. Apply a strip of sod on one side of the area you're covering, and place another strip on the other side. Keep laying the sod in this pattern until you reach the middle. As with brick-laying, alternate between full and half-pieces of sod at the beginning of each row. By staggering the rolls of sod like this, you'll avoid creating unsightly "seams" across your yard.

Helpful Tip

For best results, lay sod during the proper time during growing season based on your area and climate. Ask your sod supplier when's the best time to get started based on your specific locale.

To join sections of sod, put the ends of the pieces up against each other instead of overlapping. Overlapping can leave gaps or stretched pieces — both of which will later lead to lawn blemishes. On inclines, keep the sod in place with wooden or biodegradable pegs until it takes root.

Step 3: Roll It

After the entire area is covered, use a sod roller on the entire lawn to make sure each roll is in full contact with the topsoil underneath and all wrinkles and air pockets have been removed. This will help the sod take root correctly. When rolling the sod, be sure each piece is tightly placed next to adjacent pieces. If you find places where the lawn is not level, put some topsoil under the sod to even it out.

Step 4: Water It

It's essential to water your new lawn two or three times a day for the first couple of weeks. This is necessary for your new lawn to grow vibrant and healthy and to last for a long time to come.

Plant Seed

A lawn grown from seed is a lot less expensive than laying sod. In the long run, seeding can lead to a healthier lawn because the grass can adapt better to your particular piece of land. The process of seeding your lawn is the same whether you are filling in bare spots, reseeding the backyard or starting a large expanse of lawn from scratch.

Helpful Tips

Have your soil tested for both acidity and fertility. The ideal pH level for soil is 7. If you have a fireplace in your home, consider adding wood ashes to increase pH levels; sulfur or aluminum phosphate can lower them.

Consult local experts to see which seed mixtures grow best under local conditions. Some grasses tolerate heat or moisture better than others, and you'll want a mix that will thrive throughout the year.

Step 1: Choose Your Seed

Grass seed comes in a number of varieties, but don't buy inexpensive grass seed in bulk. You may think quantity is better than quality, but bulk seed often contains unwanted filler material that can lead to weeds and unwanted grasses. Instead, look for quality. Read seed package labels to find seed blends that have disease-resistant properties, high germination rates and low levels of inert matter.

Step 2: Prepare the Area

If you're reseeding a large area, first remove old grass and plant growth with a multi-purpose rake. Using a garden cultivator, loosen the soil about 1" deep. Soil should be loose but not extremely fine—keep the about the consistency of peas or marbles. For large areas, use a power cultivator, available to rent at many True Value stores. Add topsoil only to fill in low areas and, for best results, include a layer of organic compost, peat moss and/or manure. Consider adding sand to increase the soil's moisture absorption.

Step 3: Seed the Area

Seed the area by hand or with a rotary seed spreader according to package instructions. In most cases, you don't need to rake after seeding. However, certain types of seed require some raking, so pay attention to the manufacturer's instructions.

Apply a starter fertilizer to help with germination. Drag the back of a rake over the seeded area with no more than 1/4" of soil. Try to keep people and pets out of your yard until the grass is well established, usually about 10 to 14 days after sprouting.

Helpful Tip

You can add hay or straw mulch to facilitate sprouting, particularly on sloping areas. This helps prevent soil erosion and cuts down on the need for frequent watering. But don't use too much mulch — the more straw or hay you use, the more likely you are to get some weeds.

Step 4: Water the Area

Good watering habits make for a healthy lawn. With a garden hose or sprinkler, lightly water the reseeded area two or three times a day, preferably during the early morning or early evening. Stick with this watering schedule until the new grass is about 1" tall. Once the grass reaches this height, you can cut back to watering to once a week until the grass is ready to be mowed.

Step 5: Reseed if Necessary

Keep an eye on your lawn as it starts to grow. Rain, birds, squirrels and incomplete seeding can cause bare spots, especially along your yard's borders and near paved surfaces. If you see these kinds of bare spots, think about reseeding those areas.

Step 6: Keep a Watchful Eye

Don't start mowing your lawn until your new grass is about 1 1/2" tall. It's also important that you don't mow wet soil as this may damage the new grass. After you've mowed about four times, you can start using herbicides and weed killers on your lawn. Use fertilizer as needed.

Well done. Now you can sit back and be proud of the luxuriously green landscape you've created. Keep watering, especially during dry spells, and your lawn will look great for years to come.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.