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Sod Or Grass Seed

Sod or grass seed, that's the question. This may sound strange, but when Herbee and I met with clients, we discussed their lawn in terms of being an outdoor feature. Here are some tips to help you make this important decision on enhancing the lawn around your landscape area.

So, why should you think of your lawn as an outdoor feature? You see the lawn all the time, and you spend valuable time maintaining your entire property. It is important to keep these thoughts in mind when you are considering either of these materials.

Grass Seed

For most people, the number one issue is cost. Sod is more expensive and the amount of labor is much higher. The initial step of laying sod is more strenuous than spreading grass seed. That will be either higher cost for a landscaper, or more time if you are doing it yourself.

Once the grass is in and rooted, it will be easier to maintain. Your soil and layout of the land will determine how hard it will be to keep your grass healthy and plush. Do you have existing landscape beds, or are you planning on incorporating some areas of trees and shrubs or other outdoor features around your lawn?

Taking the right steps when installing your lawn will help you down the road in maintaining its health. Here are some very basic tips to follow.

Grass Seed

Let's first talk about grass seed. There are many varieties out on the market today. Here is an important question in determining if grass seed is right for your home. Are there a lot of trees and possible roots above the ground?

If you have an existing lawn that's struggling, it's struggling for a reason. It is possible to get grass to grow from seed, but it can be a lot more challenging and many hours of frustration and work.

Bare Spots

Poor soil could be the problem. In this situation, add two to four inches of good quality top soil. Adding top soil will give the seeds some substance to develop their root systems. Fescue is a popular seed and will do well in sun or shade.

There is warm and cold climate grass seed available. Your decision will depend on the area you live in. Bermuda, Centipede, St.Augustine, and Zoysia are all warm climate grasses. Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye, Buffalo grass, and Bent grass are for cooler or cold climates. Fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass can be used in most regions and are less expensive.

If you plan to seed your lawn, the first step is preparing the ground. First, you will want to spray to kill any weeds and existing grass. You may have to do two applications of spraying. Wait one week before you seed.

We recommend aerating the ground. Power aerators are available at most rental or garden supply stores. The aerator has several spikes on the roller which allows you to loosen the ground. A manual aerator is heavy to push, as water is put inside to add pressure so the spikes can penetrate the ground. If you go manual instead of power, plan on a good breakfast and a big water jug.

The best time to seed is in the spring or fall. Applying the seed should be done in early morning or before dusk. You can use a broadcast spreader or a drop spreader. Make sure you evenly spread the seed through your entire area. Take some bales of wheat straw and spread it on top of the seed to help keep moisture locked in.

Water your seed generously for the first few weeks. Water every day for the first week or so and then every other day for then next couple of weeks. You will see the the little blades of grass appear out of the ground.

If you are using an oscillating sprinkler, make sure you water long enough, as it takes the water a while to seep below the surface. Never seed in winter as grasses are dormant. Summer can be too hot.

If you have any erosion problems, it can be nearly impossible to get grass to grow. Sod may be a better solution for you.

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If you want an instant lawn, and can handle the material cost and time, this is the option for you. Laying sod is not as hard as it sounds. It comes on pallets and is usually sold by the square foot or square yard. Nine square feet equals one square yard (three feet times three feet). Your cost will depend on where you live and what is available.

Many large cities have landscape contractors or retail stores. Smaller cities and local towns may have farms where you can buy direct. Talk with them about what might be best for you, and they can help you with the details on how to measure your area. Feel free to contact me and I would be happy to assist you in any questions you may have about your lawn.


The same first step before you lay the sod, is spray for any weeds or any existing grass. In the southeast and southwestern part of the USA, there is sometimes the problem of wild Bermuda grass. To get rid of this type of grass, at least two rounds of spraying is needed. Again, wait at least a week before you have your material delivered. Use that week for prep time.

After giving your herbicide time to work, you will need to turn over the ground by tilling or using other tools. Work your soil about two to three inches. Rake out any debris or rocks. You may want to consider bringing in two to three inches of top soil to spread over the ground if you have poor soil. This will be a few extra dollars, but can benefit the sod in development of its roots.

This type of grass comes in rolls or squares. Sometimes if you have a large area, the rolls are easier to lay and manage. Before the supplier delivers, water the entire surface. When the sod is delivered, check for freshness. Look at the color and texture and and see if there is any moisture in the squares or rolls. The rolls or squares should not be dried out.

Usually sod farms will cut the sod the morning of the delivery to ensure you a top quality product. Brown squares or rolls usually mean the sod has been sitting around for more then 24 hours. You are spending good hard earned money on this outdoor investment, so look for a nice rich color.

Now it is time to go ahead and lay it down. Whether you are doing squares or rolls, your objective is to make sure every piece is buttoned up as tight as it can be to the next one. There is no set pattern to laying the squares or rolls down. You can go horizontally or vertically in your yard. It will be easier on you if you have one or two other people helping.

Any excess sod, can be removed with a sod knife or a sharp knife. Once the sod is down, fill a lawn roller one third full of water. Don't fill the roller full as you will not be able to push it. Lawn rollers are available at most rental places. Your goal is to gently press the roots into the ground and to flatten any loose seams. Try not to walk on the new lawn as the roots need time to get established.

Now to water. Irrigation systems work best on sod, but oscillators and hose spraying will work, if you are patient. Irrigation systems have timers, which is ideal for working people. We recommend for the first week watering once a day. The second through fourth week, two to three times a week. This will all depend on your rain situation, nature's watering.

After a month, depending on weather, get into a watering pattern that is consistent so your lawn will look green and lush. For a couple of weeks your lawn will look young but it won't it won't last long. You will wake up one morning, and look out the window, to a beautiful green lawn.

These are very basic tips for either spreading seed or installing sod. If you are building a home or doing a total outdoor make over, Herbee has another tip for you. Your landscape and lawn can be done at the same time.

Builders will usually have a landscape contractor putting in beds, and installing the lawn with grass seed or sod. Herbee and I have been a contractor on both new homes and make overs. Time will play a role, but do your landscape beds first, and then lawn.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In.

Spraying For Weeds And Insects --- Decorative Ponds

Turf Grass For Your Sod --- More Outdoor Features

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