How-To Guide

Seed or Sod When Establishing a New Lawn?

Mark Leonard

Maybe you are in a new house and have dirt where a lawn should be. Or maybe in an older house where a lawn used to be. What is the best way to establish a new lawn, with seed or with sod? There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

Advantages of Sod

  • Instant lawn. Sod can take traffic and will be ready for activity in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • When installed Sod is already a mature turf with an established root system.
  • Sod can withstand heavy rains providing superb erosion control.
  • Sod acts as a weed barrier, preventing weed seeds from taking hold.
  • Visual appearance is one of immediate enhancement and appeal.
  • Sod can be installed any time of year that the ground is not frozen and can be worked.
  • Uniformity of coverage is 100%.
  • Risk of installation failure is low.

Disadvantages of Sod

  • Initial expense of installation is high.
  • Initial water usage for first two weeks is high.
  • Labor needed to install is greater, requiring more time.

Advantages of Seed

  • Initial cost of seeding is much less than installing sod.
  • Seeding is less labor intensive.
  • There are many seed varieties and mixes available, sod choices are limited.
  • Seeding can be done quickly.
  • Initial watering costs are less.

Disadvantages of Seed

  • Erosion potential is far greater. Heavy rains can do big damage, even washing out a seeded area.
  • Time to establish a seeded lawn can be several months to a year.
  • Seeding times are limited, with only two ideal times available-Spring or Fall.
  • Seed must be kept constantly wet, requiring multiple waterings daily.
  • Seeded areas are prone to weed invasions. Bare soils contain weed seeds just waiting for the right conditions to grow. Frequent watering will bring them to life.
  • Seeded areas can not take much traffic the first year until established.
  • More fertilizer and water will be needed long term.
  • Visual appearance will be unattractive until established.
  • Uniformity of grass coverage will be spotty.
  • Some areas will need to be reseeded.
  • Once the seeds germinate, they will take a long time to grow into a lawn.
  • Possibility of installation failure is much greater.


Cost vs. Value for Sod

  • Higher initial cost is offset by short term delay of 2 to 3 weeks needed before area can be used for activities.
  • Quick establishment of a mature lawn will mean less and less long term water usage.
  • Installation of a mature lawn will need minimum weed control.
  • Uniformity of grass coverage is 100%.
  • A sodded lawn will be instantly visually attractive.

Cost vs. Value for Seed

  • Lower initial cost is offset by the higher maintenance costs of long term watering and weed control that is necessary to establish a mature lawn from seed.
  • The need for more frequent will mean higher long term water use.
  • Delay of several months to a year is needed before area can be used for activities.
  • Increased use of chemicals required for weed control.
  • Uniformity of grass coverage will spotty for some time and visually unattractive.