Sodding and seeding home lawns
When establishing a new lawn, a common question asked is, “Should I seed or sod?” Both have advantages and disadvantages. There are three important decisions when considering establishment methods: 1) turfgrass selection, 2) site preparation, and 3) care of the new lawn. These considerations will be discussed for each establishment method.
The pros and cons
The most important difference between seeding and sodding is the time necessary for developing a mature or durable turf. Sodding is essentially transplanting a mature turf that has been cared for by a professional. Seeding involves the same process used in the establishment of sod and can be accomplished by a professional or the homeowner. The number of variables involved in seeding make it difficult and many times unsuccessful for the homeowner.
- More grass types and varieties to choose from
- Less expensive than sodding
- Stronger root system development initially
- Initial establishment is longer
- For best results, time of seeding is limited mainly to late summer and early fall
- Moisture is critical for the young seedlings
- Rapid establishment and relatively weed-free in the beginning
- Good for slopes or areas prone to erosion
- Can be laid any time during the growing season
- Less selection or control over kinds of grasses, especially shade tolerance
Before a seed mix is chosen, evaluate the location: Is there shade, excessive use or wear, etc.? Is the lawn desired to be a showcase and green throughout the season (high maintenance), or is a healthy turf desired with a minimum of fuss (low maintenance)? T
The availability of specific varieties will vary from year to year; however, within a particular kind of grass (e.g., fine fescue or improved Kentucky bluegrass), most varieties will perform equally well.
Your local seed distributor, garden center, or county extension educator can help you evaluate the best varieties for your lawn. Some varieties may be special ordered as seed, but at a higher cost.
When sodding a lawn, the consumer is limited in the varieties available.
A retailer or installer should know what varieties are in their sod; if not, they can get this information from the sod grower.
Seed should be spread in two steps, each at a half rate, in perpendicular directions across the site. This technique ensures the most uniform coverage. Follow up with a light raking allowing about 10–15% of the seed to show. Use a roller or cultipacker over the area to ensure good seed-soil contact.
Watering the new site is very important. For the best germination, be sure that there is moist soil to a depth of 4–6 inches. After seeding, water only as needed. Some drying during the day will not harm the seeds, and may actually enhance germination. Cease watering when free water (puddles) begin to appear. When the seed has germinated, begin regular watering while the seedlings are very small. Gradually taper off the watering as the plants grow larger and the temperature (in fall) cools off. Ordinarily, 6–12 weeks are needed for establishment. It takes nearly a full season for the new lawn to be a mature and durable turf able to withstand considerable traffic.
Purchase sod as fresh as possible. Ideally, it should have been cut no more than 24 hours prior to delivery. Sodding should be laid as soon as possible, or within one day after delivery. If the sodding needs to be stored for a time, it should be kept in a cool, shaded area to avoid drying out of exposed rolls.
Lay the sodding on slightly moistened soil, staggering the joints much like brick laying. When laying sod on a slope, lay the rolls across the slope and stake each piece to hold it in place. Fill any cracks with soil to prevent edges from drying. Use a roller about one third full of water to smooth the site and ensure the roots of the sod have good contact with the soil.
Keep the sodding moist but not saturated until it is firmly rooted in the soil (a few days), then gradually reduce watering. In two to three months it can be treated as an established lawn.
Aerification may help to prevent layering caused by peat or soil that came with the sodding. Aerify after establishment in spring or fall, to at least a depth that goes through the sod and penetrates the existing soil layer.
Once the lawn is established, it will provide its many benefits such as cooling effects, erosion, runoff control, and allergen reductions.