All About Lay Sod

Sod offers a fast and easy way for you to create a new lawn or rehabilitate a scraggly one. While growing grass from seed takes months of time and ongoing care, a newly sodded lawn typically takes a little longer than an hour to install (depending on the square footage of your yard) and about three weeks to become established enough to use. One of the biggest benefits is the nearly instant greenery that transforms the landscape of your home, which can give the home’s value a boost of 15% to 20%, while making your house a more attractive option for buyers with kids or pets.

In addition to the fast installation, sod also uses less water and it can be installed at almost any time of the year as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Laying sod also controls erosion from day one because the grass is already fully mature. Although many homeowners may mistakenly believe that laying sod is a complicated project, it can be completed as a DIY job, which saves a significant amount of money. The key to success is careful preparation of the soil in the area; after much of the prep work is done, letting your sod establish itself is a relatively hands-off process that reaps beautiful rewards.

On This Page:

  1. Soil Preparation
  2. Soil Testing Kits
  3. Scheduling Delivery
  4. How to Lay Sod
    • Common Mistakes
  5. Sod Types
  6. Hiring a Pro For Some or Part of the Job
  7. FAQs

Soil Preparation

Good soil is key to your sod-laying success. Taking the time to assess your soil and create an optimal growing environment has numerous benefits, including:

  • Denser sod
  • More uniform sod
  • A more forgiving lawn that can withstand wear and tear from pets and kids
  • Less reliance on water and chemicals
  • Less necessary maintenance

This type of turf likes well-aerated soil that’s rich in nutrients and has a pH that measures between 6.0 and 6.5. It also prefers prefers sandy loam, loamy sand and loam soil, and it doesn’t grow as well on clay soils. If your soil does have a higher percentage of clay, you can add sand when aerating to create a mixture that’s loose enough for the sod to establish its root structure.

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Soil Testing Kits

Buy a soil testing kit from your local nursery, garden center or online to test your soil’s pH. If it’s alkaline, meaning soils that read 7.5 or higher, add gypsum or sulfur to acidify the soil. If the soil is very acidic, with a pH lower than 6.0, adding lime can raise the pH to optimal levels. Before adding anything to the soil, consult a garden center to get detailed instructions on the best product for your soil and the ideal application methods. Local stores may be more familiar with the common types of soil in your area and the necessary remedies to make it more sod-friendly.

Area Prep Steps

Approximately two months before you plan to lay the sod, begin preparing the site. Clear the area of any rocks, stumps, debris or building materials such as cement or bricks. If possible, grade the area so that it slopes away from buildings to prevent flooding near the foundations. Top the area with 2 to 4 inches of topsoil before working 4 to 6 inches of composted organic matter into the soil and leveling it off with a rake.

Apply a high-phosphorus starter fertilizer and work it into the top 4 inches of soil. Finish by walking over the prepared ground on your heels, first in one direction and then again working right angles in the opposite direction. Alternatively, use a lawn roller that’s filled one-third of the way full with water to settle the area’s surface and to make it easy to see any low areas that need to be filled in to create a completely level patch of land. Water the planting area thoroughly to add moisture and help the soil settle.

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Scheduling Delivery

Grab a measuring tape to measure the area you plan to sod. Before you start measuring the area, sketch your future lawn dimensions on a piece of paper and include any unusual features. Measure the length and width and note the measurements on your sketch so you can refer to it when you order the sod. Add approximately 5% to the actual measurement of your yard to provide enough leeway for cutting around any curved areas.

Where you buy the sod depends mostly on where you live. If you live near a sod farm, that’s an ideal spot. Alternatively, you can order through your local garden center. If you have the option, inspect the sod before you buy it to make sure it’s free of disease and weeds, and let the company you order through know about the sun exposure levels of your yard. For best results, you want your sod to be very fresh. Ideally, you should have your delivery within 24 hours of the sod being cut, and you should lay it on the same day if possible. Because of the time-sensitive nature of this project, you need to have the area fully prepped and ready to go when you receive delivery.

A Step by Step Guide to Laying Sod

  1. Moisten the soil in the prepared area right before you begin laying the sod. Start by finding the straightest edge and unrolling the sod to create the first row. Press the ends and edges of the pieces together as you lay the rows so that you eliminate gaps and overlaps without stretching. Cut and trim corners as necessary.

Tip: If the weather is hot on the day of your project, stack the unlaid sod in a shady area and cover it with moist burlap to prevent it from drying out while you work or until it’s cool enough in the day to begin the installation process.

  1. Continue laying the whole pieces one at a time, positioning them end to end against the edge of the previous row and staggering the joints similarly to how a brick wall is arranged. Avoid walking on the turf while you work, and smooth any wrinkles as you go. As you lay each piece, pat it gently into place to get rid of any air pockets.
  2. Avoid arranging small pieces of sod at the edges of the new lawn, where there’s a greater chance that they’ll dry out. Lay them in the middle of the area before scattering sandy loam into the joints to fill in any gaps.
  3. Begin watering your new lawn within 30 minutes of laying it. Water it well by saturating at least an inch of soil below the sod.
  4. Water every day for the first week to keep it moist while it becomes established. Starting in the second week, water every other day to encourage deep rooting. By the third week, water twice a week. Beginning in the fourth week, make sure the sod receives one inch of water every week by rainfall or supplemental irrigation.
  5. Once the sod grows 3 inches high and at least 10 days have passed, you can begin mowing the grass. Use a walk-behind mower with a bag to catch the clippings.
  6. Fertilize the grass with a starter fertilizer after it’s been growing for four weeks.

Common Mistakes

Failing to choose sod that grows well in their area is one of the many mistakes that homeowners make when they DIY. For example, if you have a sun-loving sod that you plant in a shady yard, you’re setting your lawn up for failure from the beginning. Other common mistakes include the following:

  • Not preparing the soil properly. Without the right pH balance, nutrient levels and cultivation processes, you risk failure. Once the grass starts growing, there’s not much you can do to improve the soil.
  • Overlapping the pieces. Many homeowners overlap sod pieces without realizing that this creates an uneven lawn.
  • Failing to pat the sod down. All areas of your sod should have direct contact with the soil so that the sod grows deep enough roots.
  • Failing to maintain the sod properly. Water immediately, and then regularly thereafter to give it the moisture it needs to grow strong and healthy.

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Sod Types

Sod typically contains a mix to two to three turf grasses that growers choose based on their texture, vigor and color. Some of the most common grasses used include the following. The cost figures are based on 450 square feet of sod and the recommended extra 20%.

  • Zoysia grows deep, vigorous roots, which makes it a hardy addition to the mix. It requires minimal watering and mowing compared to other grasses, and it provides a thick, lush feel. Costs range from $169 for economy grade to $370 for high grade.
  • Bermuda grass is rugged, with a dense, low-growth pattern. Costs range from $170 for economy-grade to $375 for high grade.
  • St. Augustine grass is prized for its heat tolerance and plush feel. Costs range from $146 to $320.
  • Fescue grass has a coarse texture, durable nature and fine blades. It performs well for erosion control and typically costs between $132 and $300.

Should You Hire a Pro?

Landscapers often charge by the square foot for this job, with prices that range from $2,200 to $4,000 on average, depending on the size of the area and cost of the sod. Professionals have experience in laying sod and preparing the area. This might be the best option if you have a steep slope or numerous curves that make laying more challenging. Professionals also know how to grade the ground in the planting area for optimal drainage and lay the sod to hide the seams between pieces. In general, a complete installation job done by a pro can include preparing the area by removing old lawn or garden beds, expanding or redesigning the new lawn shape, prepping the soil with an appropriate mixture for your area, grading the ground for drainage and finally installing the sod.

Full DIY Option

To do this as a full DIY, you need to take the time to prepare the area, research the right types of sod to choose and the most reputable company or grower to buy it from. For example, some grasses, such as St. Augustine, thrive in hot climates while others, such as fescue, thrive in cooler climates. It also takes a significant amount of time to properly prepare the soil. It could take even longer if you need to adjust the soil’s pH.

In all, most homeowners spend between $421 and $670 to do this as a DIY project. Unless you have the necessary equipment, you also need to rent or buy the tools needed to prepare the area and lay the sod correctly. Examples include:

  • Rototiller: $80 per day rental
  • Sod cutter: $80 per day rental
  • A shovel for $10 to $20
  • Soil test kit for $14 to $15
  • Hand tamper for $35

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Hiring a Pro for Some Parts of the Job

Get the best of options, try a mix of doing part of it as a DIY, and hiring a pro for the rest. For example, you could get a pro to prep the planting area so it’s ready to go when you have time to install the sod strips yourself. Alternatively, you could prep the area and let a pro install. Both partial DIY options save considerable money and time on part of the job, while providing the peace of mind of having a professional oversee a portion of the work. Partial DIY options typically cost an average of $500 for the professional work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I have a 500 square-foot area. How long will it take to install sod?
Answer: For this amount of space, you can expect to work for between 60 and 90 minutes to lay out and arrange all the sod strips on your own.

Question: I can’t install all of the sod on the day it’s delivered. What should I do?
Answer: Unroll the sod and give it a good drink of water. Place it in the shade to prevent it from drying out. Keep it moist until you’re able to attend to the installation up to a day or two later.

Question: Is it hard to install sod?
Answer: The preparation process is more challenging than the actual installation. Simply unroll it, arrange the pieces with the ends and edges nestled together and water thoroughly. From there, the sod takes over its own growing process with a bit of routine maintenance every day and then every week on your part.

Question: When is the best time to lay sod?
Answer: Sod can be installed nearly year-round, with spring and fall being optimal because the seasons’ temperatures and general weather patterns protect the sod from scorching summer heat. Summer installation, while possible, requires more frequent watering to help the sod become established. During winter, the ground may be too hard for the sod to establish a deep enough root structure.

Question: What are signs of quality, fresh sod?
Answer: When you receive your sod, start by looking at the soil on the bottom, which should be moist. The blades of grass should feel cool to the touch and have a dark green color. Look for uniform texture and height. Check for strength by holding a piece up by the narrow end and raise it up. It shouldn’t fall apart or tear.

Question: Where can I find sod?
Answer: Sod farms are the best places to check first, so start by looking in the yellow pages for any local growers. Alternatively, local garden centers or nurseries often carry sod or have connections with nearby growers.

Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you’re lounging around the pool or telling stories around the fire pit, you love entertaining outdoors. So why wait? Now is the time to design and build that outdoor room you’ve dreamed about. But where do you start to make sure you have the best entertaining space? These tips will help you with project planning to ensure everything works together to make you “the host with the most.”

Picking the Spot

Ask a business owner or a real estate agent, and they’ll tell you that the saying, “location is everything” became a cliché for a reason: it’s true! And it’s no less important when placing your outdoor kitchen. The wrong spot can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, and it might even be dangerous.

Start by locating any utility lines, underground and overhead. A professional designer and builder knows how important this is, but it’s never a bad idea to reinforce it. You don’t want to cut into buried lines during the building process, nor do you want to build directly under an overhead power line that poses a risk every time you raise an umbrella. Find those lines and design with them in mind.

Next, consider the weather. You’ll have more fun in your outdoor kitchen if you locate it away from windy or overly sunny areas. Plan to build your space within natural windscreens and shade from your landscaping. Then install overhead covering and room sides to protect the rest of your kitchen from the elements that pose a challenge for comfort and cooking.

Another consideration is the orientation of your home and the view from inside. If you enjoy your view, don’t lose it by plopping an outdoor kitchen in front of it. Site the entertainment space where you and your guests can see the vista.

Traffic flow and the proximity to your indoor kitchen are also worth considering when planning where to place your outdoor kitchen. You’ll probably be carrying heavy platters of food and need to make several trips to get all items outdoors. Plan a spot that places the two kitchens conveniently close. But be sure that the proximity and placement of the outdoor appliances are oriented to prevent smoke from drifting indoors.

Siting the kitchen away from play areas is also a good idea if you don’t want a ball landing in the middle of your table.

Choose Function Over Form

Grill, rotisserie, oven, stovetop, brick oven, blender, wine cooler – there are so many choices, but, if you aren’t using them regularly, they’re needlessly taking up counter and cabinet space. Before going overboard on the appliances, ask yourself what you’re going to be cooking and what you’ll actually use. Go with the basics and add the extras as you go, when you’re ready to use them.

Generally, you’ll need a refrigerator, a grill or other cooking source, a sink, and a stovetop, along with storage space. Use the “golden triangle” for laying out the appliances: the stove/grill, refrigerator, and sink make the points on the triangle. Aim for each leg to be between 4 feet and 9 feet long, with the space around the whole triangle between 13 feet and 26 feet; this makes it more efficient for food prep and clean-up.

Beautifully embellished wood cabinetry make a bold statement in an indoor kitchen, but exposure to the elements make them impractical for outdoors. Instead, opt for stone, concrete, or steel countertops and cabinets. Not only to they give your kitchen a modern appearance, but they are durable and easy to clean. Floors are also an important consideration. Marble and slate are attractive, but they are also slick when wet. Choose flooring that are neither too smooth nor too rough – think “bare feet” – as well as those that will resist staining and absorbing grease from spilled foods. Investing in practical kitchen elements from the start of the build will render savings in upkeep down the road.

Keep It Social

It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home; when you’re entertaining, guests often congregate in or near the kitchen to visit with the cook and with each other. Arrange your outdoor kitchen to allow for that, as well. Site your dining and lounging areas near enough that you can chat with guests while preparing the meal. That also makes it easier to get food to the table, as an extra benefit. Think about adding some stand-and-talk counters, about 42 inches tall, with a few bar stools, on one side of the cooking area.

Set the ambiance with good lighting. Add brighter lights to pathways, cooking areas, and activity areas, then go for adjustable lighting in the dining or lounging areas. Colored bulbs as accent lights also help to set the mood, but save them for areas where you don’t need more illumination to keep everyone safe and sound.

A large television designed for outdoor use is a great addition for some gatherings; turn your kitchen and lounge into an outdoor movie theater or mini sports arena. Add a sound system for background music or for amplifying the television’s sound. Add a large table that you can use for dining or for setting out a buffet, a fireplace or fire pit, an overhead fan or two, and some comfortable seating, and you’re ready to entertain.

Geological Exploration in Your Backyard

The world is a big place, and while many of us hope to explore it far and wide someday, most of us don’t have the luxury of traveling whenever and wherever we like. But what if you could study the planet we call home with a hands-on, close-up, fascinating hobby — and all from the comfort of your very own backyard?

Geological exploration can start right at home, no expertise required! This guide has everything you need to begin your backyard geology endeavor, from tools to resources for researching what’s native to your area. Whether you choose to take on this hobby yourself, with a partner, or with your child, it’s a unique, interesting opportunity to learn more about your surroundings and a terrific way to bond with another person. Best of all, you don’t even have to leave home to do it!

Why Geology “Rocks”

Knowing about local earth conditions can help you better plan improvements to your property.

  • If you want to add a pond to your backyard, knowing the kind of dirt you’ll be digging and building into is key.
  • Maybe you’ve always wanted to plant a large tree in your front yard, but aren’t sure which spots would be ideal or whether fertilization would be necessary.
  • Perhaps you’re interested in using rocks or boulders for natural landscaping, and want to use something native to your region.
  • Even making considerations for your children can call upon some geological knowledge.

Understanding the land you live on can also help you identify better ways to live. Learning about local geology will teach you the kinds of crops your area grows and when they’re in season, helping you shop smarter and fresher year-round. If you plan to start your own garden someday, you’ll know exactly the kinds of foods and flowers you can grow, and have valuable insight on helping them thrive. It could even help you shop smarter for clothes and footwear if you understand the kinds of terrain you’re up against!

Finally, picking up “rockhounding” is a great way to get your kids excited about science. It helps them understand basic concepts (like observation, examination, and cause and effect) in a more tangible way. They get to become scientists anytime they step into the backyard, and will likely become more observant of their surroundings in general. It encourages children to be more curious, ask questions, and seek out their own answers. Backyard geology also gives children an actual excuse to dig around in the dirt while still learning, which can encourage even the most skeptical of kids to at least give it a try.

 

Finding the Tools You’ll Need and Exploring (Without Destroying the Yard)

Yet another perk of becoming a rockhound is that most of the tools you need can be found right in your shed. To cover the basics, you’ll need:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Iron nail or paper clip
  • S. penny
  • Kitchen magnet
  • Vinegar
  • Small glass bottle or old drinking glass you won’t mind damaging
  • Small piece of unglazed ceramic or porcelain tile, or a coffee mug you won’t mind damaging
  • Sifting pan
  • Gardening shovel
  • Small notepad and pen
  • Table lighting or desk lamp
  • Microscope
  • Desk or worktable

If anyone has limited mobility in their hands, you can attach a wrist strap to magnifying glasses to make them easier to hold onto, and the penny can be swapped out for an old copper mug. For those with physical disabilities, make sure you to grab some old blankets, towels, or other cushioning to sit on while working. A beach or outdoor umbrella can also be a major aid in blocking out intense sun rays and keeping your work area cool during the hot summer months.

Before heading out, it’s helpful to do a little research to find out what kinds of rocks and minerals are commonly found in your area, as well as wildlife you may encounter. Your local park and recreational center may offer literature on the subject, but perhaps the easiest route is to do an internet search specific to your city or state. Be sure to also investigate any city laws about digging — especially regarding any native minerals — and remind yourself of the exact location of your home’s pipeline system. You likely won’t ever dig that deeply; nevertheless, it’s important to know exactly where everything is.

Once you have a good idea of what you’ll likely encounter, it’s time to head to the backyard!

  • Keep the weather in mind and prepare accordingly: hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential for sunny days, and rain boots or hiking shoes will help you navigate rainy or wet days.
  • Keep your tools in a light, durable bag somewhere near the back door so it’s easy to access and ready to go. Include any rock and mineral identification guides specific to your area you’ve found
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of having a paper copy — you don’t want your electronic tablet spending too much time in the heat, and the possibility of dropping it on a hard surface is especially high when rockhounding.

 

  • Make sure your partner is aware of where you’ll begin your geological digging and exploration, especially if there is a garden or other accents to consider.
  • You might want to choose somewhere somewhat out of sight to begin; with time, you’ll learn exactly how the ground reacts to being disturbed and how to fix it, but it’s probably best to pick subtle spots in the meantime.
  • Your gardening shovel can help you break up the ground if you want to take soil samples to test, or to dig around specimens stuck in the dirt.
  • You can start by simply gathering loose stones that you see to examine more closely later, or you can use your tools to identify characteristics as you go. First, note the specimen’s color and general appearance. Be specific about the hue when assessing the color, as this can make an important difference. Pay attention to the weight of the stone and how it feels in your hand: is it sandy or smooth to the touch?

A single rock can be made up of any combination of all kinds of minerals, so outward appearance alone can’t definitively identify a stone or mineral. The next step is a streak test, in which case you’ll need your small tile or coffee mug. Swipe the stone across the tile and note the color. If the mineral you’ve discovered is harder than the tile, it will leave a scratch.

Assessing just how tough the stone is comes next. This is done using the Mohs Hardness Scale. First try scratching the stone with your fingernail — if you leave a mark, the rock is approximately 2.5 Mohs. The scale continues in the same manner for each of the following tools:

  • Penny = 3 Mohs
  • Glass = 5.5 Mohs
  • Porcelain (if the stone left a scratch instead of a streak) = 6.5 Mohs

The higher the Mohs, the harder the substance. And the harder a substance is, the more likely it is to be valuable. For your reference, diamonds are the hardest known substance scaling in at about 10 Mohs — just keep in mind you aren’t likely to come across diamonds in your backyard!

 

Photo via Pixabay

Checking for effervescence is another simple way to assess a specimen, and while the quality sounds complicated, all you really need in order to test is vinegar. You can pour a little bit of vinegar directly on the stone, ideally over where you’ve scratched it so lower layers may react. If you think the stone could be valuable and don’t want to risk damaging it with too much vinegar, you can instead scratch some powder off onto your glass surface to test instead.

Using a magnet to test the rock can help identify whether there may be iron mineral present, like magnetite or hematite. It can even help you identify a meteorite, though they’re typically very rare.

If you’re able to find much of a mineral all at once, or even clusters of crystals, the shapes, habits, and features will all be important. You might find it helpful to take photos or detailed notes of what you discover so you can investigate at length later, and some may even find it both helpful and cathartic to sketch their findings.

Keep a journal, sketchbook, or photo album to document your geological endeavors. Take note of weather and recent seasonal changes. You might even record the ways animals take refuge in various mineral formations around your backyard during certain parts of the year, whether as protection from heat, rain, cold, or predators.

Enjoy your hobby as often as you can, and take a travel kit so you can continue your geological exploration even away from home. Don’t hesitate to engage others in joining you. It can be a fun, educational way to spend a Saturday with the family or a unique way to spend time with a friend. You never know when you might stumble across something valuable, and the time spent together will always be priceless!