The Grass Really Can Be Greener: Installing Your Own Sod

Dirt yards were all the rage 100 years ago, but not so much today. If you’re tired of a sparse, patchy lawn, where it seems like the grass just won’t grow the way you want it to — no matter how much work you put into it — then perhaps it’s time to give sod a shot.

Sod is also ideal when you’re ready for a lush, full lawn of green grass right after moving into a brand-new home where grass hasn’t had time to grow yet. Seed lawns are a great option for those who are unbelievably patient, but often these lawns can take one to two years before they fully grow in, and it’s hard to wait that long when you’re ready to spend time outside as a family or share your lawn with neighbors at a backyard barbecue.

When you desire a healthy lawn, sod is the way to go. Here’s what you should know about installing your own sod.

Measure Your Lawn and Order Sod

The last thing you want is to be nearly done with installing your sod and then realize you’ve run out of it! Well, probably the actual last thing you want is for your sod to suddenly animate and start attacking you and your neighbors. But that’s unlikely to happen.

To determine how much sod to order for your project, multiply the length times the width of your lawn for each area you plan to sod, then add 5% overage to allow for any irregular shapes or other issues. Some homeowners choose to sketch out pictures of the different areas in their yard that require sod. For curved areas, measure out to the farthest point of the curve. Add all areas together to figure out just how much sod you’ll need to order.

But which kind of sod is right for you?

It’s a good idea to select a turf species that is well-suited to the Georgia climate and soil. The best grasses for clay soil have a robust root system and include:

  • Zoysia
  • Tall fescue
  • Bermudagrass
  • Buffalo grass

When you order sod, you should plan to install it within two hours or at least within 24 hours of delivery. You should request sod that comes with a ¾-inch to 1-inch soil base. 

Conduct a Soil Test

Whether you’re laying sod or planting seed, it’s always a good idea to understand exactly what’s going on with your soil because healthy soil is essential for healthy grass. When you conduct a soil test, you’ll learn whether your soil is deficient or ready for sod installation. 

Even if you prefer natural fertilizer options, you should still always consider the pH of your lawn before planting because if the soil is too acidic or too basic, your lawn might suffer. This is especially true here in the Southeast, where poor soil conditions can impact the healthy growth of your new sod. 

You can test the pH of your soil yourself or send it off to be professionally tested, but either way, be sure to allow yourself the time to test your soil and get the results back. 

Prepare Your Soil

Before you can lay your sod, you need to do some foundational work for it to grow well. First, you’ll want to clear the entire side of rocks, stones, and other debris that might be larger than 2 to 3 inches. If there is any existing grass in the area, use a sod cutter to remove it. Sod needs to come in direct contact with soil to establish a strong root system and grow.

Next, you can use a tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. You may find more debris that comes up after tilling, which should also be removed. To till your lawn, you can use tools such as:

Tilling helps loosen up thick, hard clay soil and makes it easier for roots to penetrate the soil and grow deep into the earth. Which tool you use depends on the size of your lawn. 

After tilling, you can add organic matter like fertilizer or lime (but never lemons) if the results of your pH test indicate that you should. This will improve soil aeration and water retention, making your soil healthier. Then, rake your soil so it is level and flat, which will help avoid drainage issues. 

For healthy sod growth, your lawn should have 4 to 6 inches of topsoil. Depending on the depth of your topsoil, you may also decide to spread additional inches of topsoil. 

Lay Your Sod

Finally, it’s time to unroll your new turf. Sod typically comes in rolls, and it’s wise to start unrolling yours along a straight edge like a patio, driveway, foundational wall, or deck.

The proper way to lay sod is to lay the rolls of sod in whole pieces, end to end, one at a time. Never lay them all at once, one on top of the other. That definitely won’t work. It’s a good idea to avoid walking on sod as you lay it to avoid creating “wrinkles” or footprints, but you can rake out footprints if they do happen.

As you go, pieces of sod should be staggered like bricks, with alternating seams or joints. Sod should be laid tightly together, without overlap. When you end up with smaller pieces, they should be tucked into the center of the lawn, where they are less likely to dry out.

Roll Over Your Sod

Sod needs to come in close contact with topsoil to foster strong root growth. After laying your sod, use a manual lawn roller or a self-propelled lawn roller to ensure your sod has a good connection with the soil and that roots knit quickly with your soil.

Once you’ve rolled over your sod, you should come up with a regular watering schedule. For the first two months, each area of your new lawn should be watered for 20 minutes, twice per day. Since roots are still shallow, sod can’t handle overwatering, so be careful to allow proper moisture without drowning your new sod!

Also, it’s wise to avoid walking on your brand-new turf for the first three weeks — including children and pets. You shouldn’t walk on them either.

When you need the right tools to create the lawn you’ve been looking for, Northside Tool Rental has it all. Contact us today for more information about renting tools to install your brand-new turf.