How-To Guide

Ten Tips for a Beautiful New Sodded Lawn

Mark Leonard

If installing a new lawn seems a bit overwhelming at first, that's only natural. Here are 10 tips that will take you from start to finish.

1. Proper soil preparation

The soil is the foundation for any new lawn. If the soil is poor, the grass will struggle to develop a deep root system and will continue to need more water. Existing soil needs to be rototilled 4 to 6 inches deep. Installing new sod on hard packed ground is like trying to grow grass on your driveway. Although possible, it is not entirely practical.

2. Add organic matter

Add 3 to 4 cu/yds of organic matter per 1,000 sq ft of area to be sodded and rototill into the soil. Incorporating organic matter into the soil will improve its water holding capacity and add vital nutrients. Proper soil prep is the most important factor in establishing a new lawn.

3. Final soil prep

Remove all rocks and debris from the area to be sodded and rake smooth eliminating all high and low spots. A nice smooth surface, free of large clumps of dirt and rock, will prevent having a lumpy lawn.

4. Sub-grade areas along sidewalks and driveways

Cut down the soil approximately 1 1/2 inches deep in all areas along walks and drives. New sod can then be installed flush with the concrete.

5. Test the sprinkler system

It's too late to test the sprinkler system after the new sod has already been installed. Once the area is all prepped and ready for sod, turn on the sprinklers and test for leaks and coverage. Make all repairs and adjustments.

6. Water the prepared soil

Water the soil area until it is wet 2 to 3 inches deep.  Laying new sod on hot, dry ground is asking for trouble. The hot ground can suck out whatever moisture is left in the fresh cut sod very quickly. This is best done 48 hours prior to sod installation leaving the soil firm enough to walk on yet still retaining some moisture.

7. Don’t make the sod wait

Install the new sod the same day it is delivered. Leaving new sod to sit on the pallet overnight is inviting disaster. Sod is a highly perishable product and can dry out very quickly. If it becomes dehydrated it is difficult to bring it back and could be lost.  If not ready to install, it is always best to wait and have it delivered the next day.

8. Actual laying of new sod

Begin laying new sod in a manner similar to bricks, horizontally staggering the rows. Pull all seams tight, and be careful to not leave any gaps between the rolls with no overlapping. Trim and cut rolls along walks and edging.

9. Watering

Begin watering immediately after the sod is laid. Initial watering should continue until the soil is wet 4 to 6 inches deep. Schedule watering to keep the sod constantly wet. This should continue for approximately 10 to 12 days or until the roots knit into the soil. New sod can easily dehydrate before roots are formed causing severe damage to your new lawn. If grass blades turn blue/ gray in color or foot printing occurs, the grass is dehydrated and needs to be watered immediately. Once the roots have knitted to the soil, water every 2 to 4 days watching for signs of the grass being under stress. After the grass is established, actual frequency and amount of watering will depend on soil type, climatic conditions, and type of sprinkler system.

10. Mowing

Initial mowing can begin after the roots have attached to the soil.  The first mowing should be in a diagonal direction to how the sod was laid.  Never cut off more than 1/3 of the blade height.  Scalping or cutting too severely may result in plant shock, making it difficult to bring the plant back and more susceptible to disease.  Future mowing's should be done with the mower set to a minimum of 2 1/2 inches in height.

It's now time to sit in that lawn chair and look proudly over your newly installed lawn. With proper care and maintenance it will continue to be enjoyed for many years.