Does seeding a new lawn sound like just too much work? Not only do you have to tear up your old lawn and properly prepare the soil (which means doing a soil pH test, adding starter fertilizer and, if needed, mixing in soil amendments), you have to grade the area and sow the seed and water, water, water – and don’t forget wait, wait, wait. If all goes well, you’ll be rewarded with a sea of green in about a month. Can you spell p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e?

Sod strips

Sod is highly perishable, so install it the day you buy it.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Sod roller

Use a roller to remove any air pockets and provide good root-to-soil contact.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Sod farm

You think you need a lot of water for your lawn…? Sod farms are big business!

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Well, if waiting that long for your soft, lush, green reward is simply too much, you’re the perfect candidate for the instant green gratification of a sod lawn. Yes, you still have to do the work to prepare your yard for that healthy, green grass, but you don’t have to wait a month afterward. And sod sure makes some areas of your yard easier to get green. (It’s not simple to seed and water a sloped area, for example.) What’s more is you can sod just about anytime of the year – as long as the soil’s not frozen.

If sod’s so great, why doesn’t everyone use it? Well, these strips of grass do have their downside. First, sod’s more expensive than seeding a lawn. Sod farms are big business, and it costs a lot of money to grow and water the grass on large swaths of land. Those extra costs are passed along to you, the consumer.

Another downside to sod is that you won’t have the variety of grasses to choose from. Most cool-season sod contains high percentages of Kentucky bluegrasses, which need a lot of sun. So if you’re looking for shade-loving sod, you’d be much wiser to seed with a shady mixture. If you even think about putting sun-loving sod in shade, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

Finally, sod still requires work – you can’t just lay sod down on hard, compacted soil. If you don’t properly prepare the ground, your sod won’t thrive.

If you’re still singing the praises of sod despite its downsides, there are a number of things to remember to make sure your lawn looks great from the get-go. First and foremost, remember that sod is a perishable crop! So be sure to buy sod the same day you plan to install it. You can purchase sod at many garden centers and big box stores throughout the growing season. Just call ahead to check availability, and know how much you’ll need.

After you get your sod home, keep it in a shady spot and take just a few strips at a time. Remember that the grass roots have been cut, so sod dries out very quickly. Be sure to keep your hose handy – and don’t be afraid to use it. For bigger jobs that extend for an extra day, consider covering your unused sod with a tarp, or unfold the strips and lay them out in a shady area.

Before installing your sod, it’s important to lightly moisten the soil just before laying it out. This helps the sod to “knit in” faster and survive better. To start, lay a sod strip along a straight line, like a driveway or sidewalk. Make sure that the end of each strip is closely butted up to the other. You want to avoid any space between the ends and the sides of the strip of sod. Stagger each row so that the joints are at different locations than the adjoining row. To finish a row, use a sharp spade for straight cuts or an inexpensive carpet knife.

Once you’ve got your sod installed, stay off it until you’ve had a chance to use a lawn roller. This heavy piece of equipment eliminates any air pockets, providing better root-to-soil contact. The quicker the sod’s roots establish into the new soil, the better. After you’ve rolled the sod, you’re ready to water.

Don’t delay on this vital step, because as I’ve said: Sod dries out quickly. Check daily to see if your lawn needs watering – especially when the weather is hot and dry. New sod along walkways and driveways tends to dry out more quickly than the interior portions, so look for these potential stress points and water immediately when needed.

About four to seven days after installing your sod, go ahead and sharpen those lawn mower blades and rev up the motor. After that, a weekly mowing should do the trick. Be sure to set the blades at 3 inches.

How do you know when your sod’s established? You can check by lightly tugging on the grass – but do give it at least a few weeks to take hold. If you feel some resistance, new roots are setting up house in the soil, and that’s key to your success!

While sod lawns still take a bit of effort and are more expensive than seeding, they allow you to go from brown to green in an instant – not bad for a day’s work!