Updated: Mar 24
While laying sod is the fastest way to a brand-new lawn, there's a lot of planning and prep work that needs to be done before you start unrolling. So, to help you hit the ground running this Spring, here's our practical, step-by-step guide to laying sod:
1. Determine the Best Time to Lay Sod
Early fall is the best time to lay sod, as this gives the grass at least two months to establish a new root system before winter. Early Spring is also a great time to lay sod, especially if you're planting a cool-season variety, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, bentgrasses, and rough bluegrass, all of which work well in Pennsylvania. Avoid laying sod too close to summer, as the heat will prompt your new grass to go dormant, meaning it won't develop any new roots.
2. Measure Your Yard
Once you've figured out the best time to lay your sod, you'll need to measure your yard to know how much you'll need to buy. First, determine the total square footage of your yard by multiplying its length by its width. Then, because sod is often sold in one-yard rolls, divide your yard's square footage by nine. This should give you an accurate estimate of how much sod you'll need. Not every lawn is a uniform rectangle, however, so you may want to consider purchasing an extra 5-10 percent of sod to trim and customize for any irregularly shaped sections you run into.
3. Test Your Yard's Soil
Testing your yard's soil to determine if it's at the proper pH level will ensure the success of your sod once installed. You can use inexpensive home kits to test your soil yourself, or you can reach out to your county extension office to run the test for you. After you've tested your soil, you can determine what amendments, if any, need to be made to make the soil more acidic or alkaline. Generally speaking, most turf grasses will thrive in a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
4. Prepare the Site For Sodding
Perhaps the most time-consuming of all the steps, it can take up to a few weeks to properly prepare your lawn for sod. With this in mind, make sure your delivery coincides with this schedule. Sod will start to dry up after roughly 24 hours, so you want to make sure your lawn is ready to go as soon as it arrives. Here's how to prepare your soil for sod:
Remove Old Turf and Other Plant Life: Your new rolls of sod won't grow if there's any existing grass or plants in the soil, so you'll have to remove all of it as a first step. You can either cut the old lawn into pieces and remove it manually or use a power sod cutter for a speedier job.
Till and Rake the Site: Next, it's time to break up the soil and level out the site. Use a power tiller for this job, making at least two passes. After you've tilled the site, ensure to rake through the soil and remove any plant matter or debris.
Add Top Soil: If you're adding brand-new lawn to a previously unplanted site, topsoil is essential. For best results, spread out quality topsoil six inches thick and blend in peat moss or compost.
5. Add Amendments To the Soil
Based on the results from your soil test, you'll know what to add to your soil to achieve the proper pH, such as agricultural lime or sulfur. Your soil might also need additional nutrients, which you can fix by adding a starter fertilizer. Phosphorus is an especially important nutrient to add to your soil, as it helps plants form new roots. As mentioned above, spreading organic materials will also improve the quality of your soil and help your new lawn thrive.
6. Lay Your Sod
A cool and cloudy day is ideal for laying sod, as this ensures the soil isn't too hot or dry. In addition to these temperature considerations, here are a few other tips to keep in mind when laying your sod:
Add Moisture to the Soil: Before unrolling your sod, loosen the soil's surface with a rake and mist the topsoil with some water.
Lay the First Roll of Sod: The best place to start laying your sod is the longest straight edge in your yard, likely along a fence. You can leave the smaller spots to fill in later with trimmed pieces of sod.
Stagger the Rows of Sod: Instead of lining up the seams, install your rows of sod in a staggered brick pattern to help with stability. While you want the sod's edges to be tightly nestled against one another, ensure they don't overlap.
Fill in Curved Edges: For any curved edges in your lawn, trim the rolls of sod with a sharp spade or garden knife. Make sure the trimmed pieces aren't too short or narrow, as they'll dry out much quicker.
Anchor in Sod on Slopes: For sodding on a slope, you'll want to anchor in the rolls with wooden stakes to aid in root development. Sod anchored on slopes will also need more water than sod laid on flatter parts of your lawn.
Finish Up With a Lawn Roller: The last thing to do is compress your newly-installed sod into the lawn. A lawn roller helps secure new sod into the topsoil and presses out any air pockets, further aiding in root development and preventing displacement.
7. Caring For Your New Sod
Immediately after installing your new sod, water it thoroughly and make sure the water penetrates beyond the blades of grass, deep into the soil. While ample water is needed, ensure you don't overwater the new grass. A good guideline to follow is that it should be moist but not muddy. Finally, keep off the sod for the next two weeks, until the new grass takes root.
Ordering Sod from Lehigh Valley Garden Center:
We purchase 2’ x 5’ rolls of blue grass sod during the planting season (Spring-Fall). Orders are placed on a weekly basis, with each order being placed on a Wednesday and delivery received Friday morning. We recommend that our customers call our store to place orders by end of business Wednesday to reserve the desired amount. Sod is sold on a first come, first serve basis unless previously reserved.
If you want to make the most of your garden this year and are wondering how to start growing your own food, stop by Lehigh Valley Home and Garden in Allentown, PA, today! Our friendly experts are full of knowledge and advice, and are more than happy to help you kick-start this year's growing season!