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How to Lay Sod in Your Yard

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Ensuring the success of a lawn created from sod begins before the delivery of the sod. Sod doesn't age well, so you want to install it as quickly as possible. Have all your tools and equipment prepared, have any helpers you’re going to need on hand, and be ready to get to work as soon as the sod arrives. 

When it is delivered, check to see you’ve received all the sod you ordered. Have the sod stacked in a shady area. Inspect the sod closely. Fresh sod will be moist and cool to the touch. If the sod is hot, it means the process of decomposing has begun. You should also check for uneven top growth, yellowing blades, and curling edges—all unwelcome signs that the sod has been sitting around for too long. 

Once you’re satisfied that the sod is in good condition, spray it down well using a hose equipped with a nozzle attachment set to mist. When you start work, it’s a good idea to moisten both the roll of sod you’re preparing to lay, and the strip of soil the sod’s going on top of. 

Although sod is essentially an instant lawn to the eye, newly laid sod is still vulnerable. In addition to the post-installation watering you’ll have to do until the grass is fully established and actively growing, you’ll want to keep all traffic off the lawn for several weeks if possible. It’s especially important to keep pets off the lawn, because animal urine is fairly toxic to new sod. With some basic protection and follow-up care, your sodded lawn will, in month’s time, look like it’s always been there. Note: Soil should be properly graded, amended, and raked out prior to laying sod.

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Laying sod is the quickest and most satisfying (and also the most expensive) way to create an instant lawn.



Instructions

  1. Amending the topsoil and raking the surface out flat is often all the prep work you’ll need to do prior to laying sod. But you can take steps to help the sod root securely. The quicker and more completely it roots, the faster and more robust your new lawn will grow in. Use a leaf rake to scratch shallow furrows in the soil (as seen in the photo at right) in the direction you’ll be laying the soil. Similar to the way raised tire treads help a tire grip the road, these furrows will help the sod bond down to the soil. You can also give your sod a head start by spreading a starter fertilizer over the top of the soil before laying the sod. This will guarantee that the new sod has all the nutrients it needs to begin growing strong. Apply starter fertilizer strictly according the instructions on the bag or box—more is not usually better in the case of sod. And don’t ever be tempted to spread a general synthetic fertilizer because you may prompt a flush of top growth at the expense of strong roots—leading to big problems down the road.


  2. Laying_Sod_03Check all the sod as soon as it’s delivered. Look for damage, disease, or signs of insect infestation. Feel to make sure the sod is not hot, indicating that it has begun decomposing. Store the sod in a cool, shaded area, keeping it moist until you lay it.

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    Lay the first strip of sod along a straight edge such as a front sidewalk. Butt it to the edge as tightly as possible without overlapping the surface. Mist the soil lightly before setting the sod.



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    Alternative: If there is no straight edge to use as a guide, such as along a property line with no sidewalk, create one with stakes and string.

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    Continue the row of sod by butting the next strip up tight against the end of the first. Be sure there is no gap, and that the strips do not overlap.

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    Cut the first strip in the second row as necessary to create a staggered “brick” pattern. Use a large, sharp knife, or sharpened trowel.

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    Fill any low areas as you lay the strips, to ensure there are no voids underneath the sod. Trowel in topsoil or compost to level each individual area.

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    As you work, stop about every 20 to 30 minutes and spray the strips you’ve laid—as well as the stack of sod—with enough water to keep them moist.

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    If you need to butt strips at an angle to one another, overlap them, and cut completely through both strips with your knife or sharpened trowel.

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    At curves in sidewalks or paths, lay the end of the last strip over the path, and cut the sod along the edging of the path surface. Cut the sod snug, because you can cut again if you need to, but you shouldn’t add thin scraps of sod as filler.

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    If the final row of sod will need to be cut to width, lay a full-size row on the outer edge, and cut the next-to-last row to fit. Use a straightedge, such as a large metal carpenter’s square, long metal ruler, or level

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    Roll the lawn with a roller at least half-full with water to ensure there are no air pockets and that the sod is firmly in contact with the soil.

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    One of the advantages of installing sod instead of spreading seed is that it is far better for growing lawns on a slope. But sod strips can still slide out of position. Secure sod strips on a slope by pegging them with metal pegs or with home-made tapered wooden stakes.

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    Check the strips for separation gaps or any areas that you have cut short. Fill these with a combination of sterile soil and grass seed that matches the species in the sod.

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    Water the lawn every day—unless it rains—until you are sure the grass is established and growing (usually a little more than a week).

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