Lawn Care Tips: Sod Laying Instructions And Help: Lay Your Own Sod

Follow these steps and avoid the hassles of planting, watering, and nursing your new lawn from seed to maturity.

For an instant lawn, mature, green, and virtually weed-free, you must start by doing your homework. Determine first if using sod to create your new lawn is within your budget. Sod can be expensive, so it is important to find a realistic estimate of the cost of the project before moving ahead. Calculate the area to be sodded, then call a sod dealer or a garden supply center that sells sod and get a price. Discuss the type and quality of the sod that's available. If you are satisfied you have found quality sod from a reputable dealer at a good price, you are ready to go.

Preparing the Lawn Bed

Start your new lawn in early spring for best root development. You must prepare the seedbed exactly as you would for a seeded lawn. Loosen all compacted soil and remove all rocks, trash, and foreign debris. Then grade the lawn bed to slope away from the house to ensure good water drainage. Terrace any steep slopes, so that mowing will not be too difficult. Eliminate any bumps or high spots, and fill in any depressions that may collect water. When preparing a sod bed, the graded area must be four to eight inches below the desired lawn level, depending upon whether a topsoil layer will be added.

Adding Top Spoil

For less than perfect soil (for example, too sandy or too much clay) topsoil must be added. Before topsoil is added, the subsoil must amended with organic matter such as compost, peat moss, chopped hay, or rotted leaves, manure or sawdust. Mix into the soil with a rotary power tiller if necessary. If no topsoil is to be added, mix in a complete fertilizer, such as 12-12-12, containing at least 10 to 15 percent phosphorus. If adding topsoil, it should be tested using a soil-testing kit. Add lime and fertilizer if needed, and till into the topsoil layer. This layer should three to five inches deep. Use a steel garden rake or a landscaping rake to spread the topsoil evenly.


Cultivating at this point will break up large clods, work in fertilizer, destroy remaining weeds, loosen soil, and create a rough, pebbled surface that will allow water to penetrate. This can be accomplished by hand or with a tiller. Beware of over-cultivation, which can cause soil structure deterioration and "soft" spots. Rolling is usually not necessary when using sod, but may be beneficial for sandy soil after cultivation.


The sod should not be delivered until the bed has been prepared. Cut sod should never be stored long than a day or two and should never be allowed to dry out. Check the delivery prior to acceptance for sod that is cut too thin or for yellowing sod, indicating that it may be drying out. The shipment should be fresh and somewhat damp.

To lay the sod, unroll each square or strip and lay end to end, pressing edges together without overlapping. Press each square firmly into position. When the first row is completed, place a plank on it to stand on while laying the second row. Avoid stepping on the prepared bed. Stagger each row as though laying bricks, rolling the plank over onto each successive row to begin work on the next. If a square appears too low, lift and fill with topsoil to bring it up to level. To sod a slope, lay the sod across the slope (not up and down), pressing down firmly. Drive small wooden stakes along edges of sod strips to hold them in place if necessary. Use a knife for edging, or a sod cutter to trim corners and around curves, or along sidewalks and driveways.

Rolling and Sprinkling

Once the sod is laid, lightly roll the lawn twice with an empty roller, the second time at right angles to the first. Sweep the lawn with leaf rake to lift the grass and remove any debris. Sprinkle lightly, being careful not to over-soak any sloping areas, which could cause erosion and slippage of sod strips. Continue to water the new lawn daily, keeping it moist for at least two weeks, or until root systems reach down into the topsoil layer. Keep children and pets off the lawn during this time. After two weeks, your new lawn can be treated as an established lawn, and may be in need of mowing.

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