If your yard has undesirable vegetation, such as bermudagrass, plan to spray the area multiple times with an herbicide containing glyphosate (e.g. Round-Up) as the active ingredient. Apply while the bermudagrass is actively growing (summer) to kill it. This process can take time and multiple applications. Bermudagrass does not normally die from a single application of glyphosate. After multiple sprayings over several weeks, the dead bermudagrass can be scraped up and removed from the yard.
If you have a shady yard and have difficulty growing a thick, healthy lawn, you may consider thinning the canopy by removing lower tree branches, or by removing the trees altogether.
It is always helpful to know what you are working with. Your local extension agent can provide a soil sample test kit, or you can hire a private service/lab to perform a soil analysis for you. After collecting soil samples, sending them for analysis, and receiving the results, you can amend the soil as recommended in the report. Soil samples can be taken here. An explanation of your soil sample results can be found here.
To get an idea of how much sod you will need, think of the area to be sodded as separate shapes like rectangles and triangles. Break the area into separate shapes and measure the sides of the rectangles/squares/triangles that make up the area and calculate the area of each individual shape (individual squares, rectangles, triangles, etc.).
Some basic formulas:
Area of a Rectangle or Square = Length (ft) x Width (ft)
Area of Triangle = 1 / 2 x Base of the triangle (ft) x Height of the triangle (ft)
Add the areas of the squares, rectangles, and triangles that make up the entire area to be sodded to determine the total amount of sod needed for your project. You can always call us to confirm that you are doing the calculations correctly and we can do our best to help you over the phone.
In our experience, it is always safer to give yourself a little extra, whether you measure "long" and use those measurements in your calculations, or use the exact measurements and add a small percentage of overage to make sure you don't run short.
We also find that steeper slopes absorb more sod than their length by width measurements would dictate. It is always a good idea to add extra square footage when you are installing sod on inclines.
1. Remove Existing Vegetation/Debris:
Bare soil is best for installing new sod. One option for removing existing vegetation is to rent a walk-behind sod cutter from a local rental store and using it to cut the existing lawn off the ground. Another option is to use a garden tiller to till up the yard and then rake the vegetative debris out of the tilled soil. A third option would be to rent a skid-steer or hire a skid-steer operator to remove the existing grass/debris from the area to be sodded.
2. Loosen soil:
Tilling soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches is optimal for sod installations. If you can only loosen a few inches deep, that is preferable to not loosening the soil. The roots of the grass plants can more easily travel and grow into loosened soil than a soil substrate that is tight or compacted.
3. Grade soil:
Rough Grade: Depending on the area to be sodded, some sites may require extensive grading with slopes being worked or changed to provide the best drainage of the site, while other sites may require less rough grading if drainage is not a problem. To create the rough grade, land-moving equipment may be necessary. After this “rough” grading has been completed, a smooth “final grade” is important to promote a successful sod installation.
Final Grade: The final grade is the soil surface upon which the sod will be installed. Raking the loosened soil smooth not only creates a smooth lawn, but also allows the new sod to have good contact with the soil below, which aids the roots in finding water and nutrients. We suggest that rocks or debris larger than a quarter be raked out of the loosened soil to prepare a nice final grade.
1. Similar to tiling a floor, plan your installation so you are working out from one point in the yard or surface to be sodded such that you don’t have to walk on newly installed sod to lay more sod. We suggest picking a long, straight edge to start the installation. If there isn’t a straight line to help you start laying sod, create one by laying a row of sod near the edge of the lawn and filling in the nearby areas (such as along a scalloped flowerbed) with pieces of sod you will “cut-in”.
2. To help “hide” the seams between the sod pieces, we suggest laying sod in a brick-work pattern. When you start the second row of sod, cut one piece in half and lay it next to the first full piece in the first row. This will stagger the seams in the installation so they are not as visible and begin a brick-work pattern to follow throughout the yard.
3. Pull each piece of sod as close to the nearby pieces as possible. If the sod has been rolled up a long time, the edges of the sod may not want to lie flat, so you may need to use force to push the seams down and into each other.
4. Cut-In: At the end of rows and along flowerbeds/walkways/driveways/etc., a sharp implement such as a hatchet or straight shovel can be used to trim the sod pieces to fit and create a crisp edge. We call trimming the sod pieces “cutting in.” The more cut-ins a yard has, the longer the sod installation can take. If you are installing sod in the heat of the year, you may want to start watering the larger areas you have already installed while you are still working on cut-ins along the edges or in other areas of the installation.
5. Curb Appeal: A final suggestion with respect to the placement of the sod pieces with respect to aesthetic value only, we have found that the seams between sod pieces are less visible when you look at a house from the street if you lay the pieces parallel to the street. The most important aspect of installation is that you make sure the pieces are in close contact with each other and with the soil below. The smoother the final grade, the less significant rolling becomes.
Rolling sod insures that the sod is in good contact with the soil below. When Lavery’s installs sod, we roll the sod after a large area is installed and just before the customer starts watering the sod. We use a mechanized roller that an operator walks behind. A manual roller is fine too (early versions are basically a water-drum attached to a handle that you push through the yard). Rolling helps smooth seams between sod pieces and remove air pockets between the sod and soil. If you have created a smooth final grade and do not have access to a roller, the success of your installation should not be compromised because you can’t roll it. If you have a rough final grade and no access to a roller, there is a higher chance that the sod pieces may not be in full contact with the soil and the roots may not take hold in those areas. Sod that has been stapled on inclines/steeper slopes is not normally rolled, largely because the effort that has been involved in installing and stapling the sod to the hillside, and also because it can be unsafe for the roller operator.
All sod installations should be watered immediately upon completion. The only exception to this rule occurs in winter-time installations. Winter installations have more flexibility for two reasons, 1) the sod is not under heat stress in the winter, and 2) winter-time TYPICALLY means precipitation! Winter sod installations should be watered if no precipitation happens within a few days of installation. Winter sod installations will involve less watering as moisture lasts longer in the cool times of year. See Irrigation section for more tips on watering.