Laying Down Sod

Laying down sod transforms a dead, brown patch into a luscious green lawn in no time at all. Unlike planting grass, which needs careful attention and pristine conditions to grow properly, sod already has healthy roots and needs little more than water to thrive. Even better, fresh sod is already lush and green, so homeowners can get on with their lives instead of watching the grass grow.

Sod should be laid as close to harvest as possible, ideally within 24 hours. When the sod is delivered, it comes in rolls with the soil side exposed. Keep it moist and cool, out of direct sunlight to prevent it from drying out and dying. If possible, have the area prepared to lay the sod as soon as it arrives.

Prepare the area by clearing away rocks and weeds, including the roots of dead plants and pressure washing sidewalk areas. If there is an irrigation system in place, plant the sod around it. If the logistics of planting around a sprinkler system don't work, you may have to replace it after the sod is laid. Apply the organic matter and starter fertilizer to the soil.

Make sure the space is level. Rake the soil so there are no mounds or holes. The surface should be about 1 inch lower than walkways, since sod comes with its own layer of soil. This ensures the new lawn is not raised above the surrounding area. Roll over the level dirt with a water-filled roller to compact the soil and weigh it down. This is critical to laying down sod.

Begin laying the sod in rows. Rolls of sod are usually 1 to 2 feet wide and 4 to 10 feet long. They can be trimmed with a heavy-duty knife to fit irregular spaces. Start at a straight edge like a sidewalk or plant bed, and gently unroll the first sheet. Lay each piece in a staggered pattern, the way bricks are laid.

If you are working on a slope, make sure the sheets of sod are perpendicular to the hill. This prevents sheets of sod from sliding with runoff. The staggered pattern also helps prevent sliding as the water from the irrigation system runs down the seams of the newly laid sod. Make sure all the sheets are laid the same way so the blades of grass face the same direction for a lush, uniform lawn.

Once the sod is laid down and the edges are trimmed to perfectly fit all corners of the lawn, water it slightly. Use a roller filled only half-way to weigh down the sod slightly and make root contact with the soil. Too much weight will damage the sod, so don't stand in one spot for too long and don't overfill the roller. If necessary, stand on a plank to evenly distribute the weight. Roll over the lawn perpendicular to the direction the sheets were laid.

Water the lawn every day for the first three weeks, paying careful attention to the seams, which can dry out or turn up. If the daytime temperature exceeds 90 degrees, you may need to water twice a day. Water every other day for the next three weeks. The sod should flourish and become uniform in these six weeks.

After laying down sod, protect your investment with regular watering, fertilizing and pest control. You will not need to cut new sod for several weeks after it is planted. For the first few months, cut it a bit tall to prevent damaging it and pulling up vulnerable roots. Once the sod is securely rooted, resume a regular watering and mowing regimen.

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