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Installing New Sod: What You Need to Know About Laying and Maintaining It

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful garden plants. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

Most sod farms sell it by the pallet, and rolled up in long strips.

Most sod farms sell it by the pallet, and rolled up in long strips.

Installing sod in your yard is a great way to instantly add life to a bleak area and quickly bring in color to a barren landscape.

Since sod is a lot of work before, during, and after the actual installation, you’ll want to make sure you get the best return on your investment of both time and money. Adequately preparing the soil at the installation helps to ensure that your sod will have a great starting point. After installation, you'll need to care for your sod the right way. Read on for tips and tricks on how to get that grass to root right.

Things You'll Need

  • hose
  • oscillating sprinkler
  • rake
  • tiller
  • trowel
  • soil
  • soil test
  • soil enhancers
  • sod
  • cardboard or plywood

How to Prepare Your Site for Sod Installation

Prepare the site by removing all vegetation, such as grass, from the area completely. Sod grows best when it has direct contact with the soil beneath it, so don’t just plop the sod over your existing lawn or it may take root or not grow at all.

Strip the area down to the soil, then till it up to loosen it. If necessary, bring in some new soil, preferably at least two inches, and incorporate it into your existing soil so it blends nicely—you'll know it is blended well when you can't distinguish between the old and new.

Before installing sod, consider testing your soil to see if the nutrients are balanced, and add amendments as necessary. Then re-till the soil to spread soil amendments around. Finish the prep work by grading the soil and raking it smooth. Avoid packing it down, as the roots in the sod grow easier in loosened soil.

Lay sod in a brick-like pattern where the seams won't meet up.

Lay sod in a brick-like pattern where the seams won't meet up.

How to Install the Sod

Slightly moisten the soil before you place the sod pieces on the soil. While moistened soil helps the sod stay in place, soggy soil could make the sod pieces slide around, so make sure you don’t overly wet the area.

Start laying the sod pieces near straight lines, such as near your sidewalk, and stagger the placement like a mason staggers bricks. Not only is the staggered appearance easier on the eyes—you won’t see the lines as well—it helps the pieces grow together better since the edges lose moisture quicker than the center of the sod pieces. Position the sod pieces together as close as possible without overlapping them. Cut pieces as necessary to get a good fit, and remove any dead or dried areas of the sod as necessary; use the sharp edge of a trowel or a utility knife to make the cuts. End your installation in the least viewed area, such as the back corner of the yard.

Avoid walking directly on the newly laid sod. Instead, lay a piece of cardboard or plywood on the sod when laying new pieces or adjusting the sod.

Video on Installing Sod

How to Care for Freshly Laid Sod

Deeply water the new sod on the day of installation. Ensure the water goes about 6 to 8 inches deep, or until the soil can’t handle any more water. Some sod selling companies suggest that you water the sod until the water runs into the street. After the first day, decrease the amount of water your grass gets on a daily basis—about 1 inch a day, or as suggested by your sod provider.

Continue watering your sod deeply over the next few weeks to encourage roots to grow from the sod soil layer and into your existing soil. Check for rooting by tugging on a corner of a sod piece; if it comes up easily, the roots haven’t grown into the soil, if you feel resistance when pulling on a piece of sod the roots are growing. Rooting typically takes between 2 to 6 weeks, depending upon your care and the type of sod you purchased.

Don't tax your lawn by playing on it, or mowing your lawn until the roots have firmly established. But don't remove more than 1/3 of the height of the blades, or you may stress the grass. Cutting off too much height allows in excess heat and light and may kill the new grass. If the sod has grown extremely high, adjust the blades on your mower and plan to re-mow the yard again in a few days. It is better to do more work mowing the yard than laying sod again the next growing season.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How big are rolls of sod?

Answer: Although the most popular size of sod pieces are 16"x24", you may also find them in 2'x5' pieces as well. Contact your local nursery or sod provider for the exact sizes of pieces they sell.


Diane Lockridge (author) from Atlanta, GA on July 13, 2018:

Sod sizes vary by selling location, but a 16"x24" piece is fairly typical. If you get it in a roll (instead of by the piece) expect something closer to 2'x5'. Contact a local supplier or nursery for standard sizes in your area.

Bobby Terrell on July 13, 2018:

What siZes do the pieces come in?