An excellent alternative to seeding your lawn is to lay sod for an instant turf. Even though a permanent turf has instantly replaced the bare soil, care must be taken to develop a strong root structure to ensure a long life for the new grass plants.
Sod is living turfgrass that has been professionally grown on farms devoted to this crop. Sod farmers around the country sow various lawn grasses or combinations of grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial rye grass, in large fields and raise sturdy, weed free acres of lawn. The sod is harvested by slicing down into the soil an inch or so into the blanket of living grass plants, and cutting underneath lengths of this turf to separate it from the soil in the field. The strips of grass and their roots with the moist soil still on them are carefully rolled or stacked for transportation to nurseries, home centers and garden centers for sale.
A sod carpet of densely growing grass plants is ready to be immediately replanted as a permanent lawn. Carefully cut and fitted onto areas of prepared soil it creates an instant lawn that needs only regular watering to encourage grass roots to penetrate the soilbed and become well established. While it is somewhat more expensive than grass seed, there are times when sod is a better choice for the homeowner than grass seed.
Advantages of Sod
Installing a lawn of sod has several advantages over sowing grass seed:
sod produces a finished lawn immediately. It is instantly attractive.
Sod can be laid almost any time of year. Because its roots are developed, sod grass is able to establish itself in prepared soil in almost any season except when the ground is frozen.
Sod grass plants are healthier because they are professionally grown. They have enjoyed the best soil, regular fertilizing and generous watering for strong root development.
Sod makes a denser lawn. Grass plants are sown close together so there are no bare spots and reseeding is not necessary.
Sod has no weeds. New sod turf has no weeds; its density discourages weed seed germination, minimizing the future need to use herbicides.
Using Sod to Solve Landscape Problems
There are certain situations where turf sod is especially useful:
Renovating the Lawn: Sod is the best way to replace existing lawns that are mostly tired, thin grass and lots of weeds. While sod is initially more expensive than grass seed, it saves money usually spent on weed control, extra fertilizing and overseeding new seeded lawns their second season.
Controlling Soil Erosion: Sod prevents the erosion of precious topsoil in lawn areas that are sloped or hilly. It is an immediate solution to rain runoff and other drainage problems in bare soil.
Eliminating Mud on New Properties: Builders and homeowners alike appreciate an instant lawn that eliminates the prospect of mud during the many weeks that grass seed takes to become established.
Patching Bare Spots in the Lawn: Sod can be cut into pieces to quickly repair browned, damaged areas in the lawn and hard to reach spots. Because its grass plants are mature, it will establish and grow well during the summer months when seedlings from seed whither and die.
Choosing Quality Sod
Quality sod is available from better garden centers or directly from sod growers, many of whom will deliver. Better garden centers offer sod of several different types of grasses and grass mixtures that are suitable for your local climate and conditions. Their staff will be able to recommend certain ones from among these choices that are suitable for your particular needs.
As is true with premium grass seed, the most expensive sod will likely have the newest grass varieties that incorporate the latest breeding technology for improved insect, disease, and drought tolerance.
Recognizing Healthy Sod
Choose healthy sod by looking for:
Lush, dense grass foliage 2 or more inches long.
Uniform green color.
Moist soil around the roots.
Virtually no thatch present.
A thick matrix of grass roots visible in the soil.
Soil no thicker than 1 inch.
Roots knit together well to survive handling without tearing.
Questions to Ask
To be sure that you are buying high quality sod, ask the staff at the garden center or the grower with whom you are dealing:
Ö Are the grass varieties in the sod like mine? A “yes” assures that the sod is appropriate for use in your region.
Ö Are the varieties in the turf from certified seed or certified sprigs? A “yes” assures the genetic purity in the grass--you get what is promised.
Ö If it is a mixture of grasses, what is the ratio of the various components? It is important to know the dominant grass in the mixture so you can care for it properly.
Ö How old is the turfgrass sod? Look for recently harvested sod. While older sod is not necessarily inferior, with some grass varieties it develops a layer of thatch. This may cause drought stress and retard rooting into the soilbed.
Ö What type of soil was the sod grass grown on? Try to match the soil type and texture as closely to your own as possible to facilitate rapid rooting in the soilbed.
Ö When was the sod harvested? It’s best to install sod within 8 hours of harvest so the grass plants are not stressed by moisture loss and become vulnerable to disease and pest problems.
Sod is usually sold in strips two to ten feet long and from one to two feet wide. Rolled strips are somewhat easier to manage, but if it is mature and strong, folded sod withstands installation handling equally well.
Do not actually buy sod until the soilbed on your property is all prepared so it can be laid immediately. If you must store it for a day or so, locate pallets of sod in the shade and keep them covered to protect them from heat and light. Keep sod moist.