How To Lay Sod

How to lay sod

Also called turf grass, sod is grass that has been pre-planted into healthy soil. It's held together by either its own roots or some other type of thin material. Using sod to grow grass is the only reliable method for the Central Florida climate, but in order for the process to work, the sod has to be laid correctly. As an Orlando based business, we know the local climate and planting recommendations well.

Here are some basic steps on how to lay sod:

1.) Clear the Area

Get rid of any building materials, tree stumps, rocks and other obstructions that might be in the way.

2.) Rough Grade

Rough grading will help prevent drainage problems. Sloping the grade away from the house or building's foundation prevents pooling that may occur in low-lying areas, due to steep slopes. If it's a small area, rough grading can be done with hand tools. However, a tractor with a box blade is necessary for larger areas. 

3.) Till and Add Topsoil, if required.

In some cases, you may want to use a rototiller to loosen at least 6 inches of the subsoil to alleviate compaction. Then spread 2 inches of compost over the area, followed by 2 to 3 inches of sand to assist with drainage.

Normally this step is not needed in the Central Florida area.

4.) Test the pH

A chemical soil test can determine if you'll need to correct the pH level of the soil with additional materials. If the soil has a pH of 6 or below (excessively acidic), it can be corrected by adding lime. Consult a turf professional to determine how much lime to add and what type, based on the specific acidity of your soil. If it has a pH or over 7.5 (excessively alkaline), adding sulfur or gypsum can help lower the number. As with acidic soil, consult a professional to determine how much to add. 

5.) Add Fertilizer

Starter fertilizer should be high in phosphate and worked into the top 3 inches of the lawn.  Do not apply fertilizer to your new sod itself for 30-60 days after installation.

6.) Level the Surface

Make sure there are no high or low spots by leveling the area with either an iron rake or tractor-mounted box blade, depending on the size of the yard. The final result should be a surface area that lies 1 inch below any nearby paved areas, such as driveways and sidewalks. Irrigating the soil will allow it to settle further. 

7.) Lay the Rows

Start placing the first row along the longest straight edge in the yard. In many cases, this is one side of the fence line. Avoid stepping on it and rake out any footprints if you do. Smooth out any wrinkles and pat each piece down into the soil to eliminate air pockets. A popular technique is to lay out the pieces in a staggered fashion, similarly to the way bricks are laid out.  Make sure the pieces are tightly packed together - don't be afraid to kick each piece into position, it can handle it! Your sod will shrink as it dries, so packing them together tightly, while avoiding overlapping, is very important.

8.) Water Frequently

When you're done laying the sod, water the entire lawn and avoid stepping on it for at least a week. During that week, water each morning to avoid losing water to evaporation in the heat of the afternoon. For the 2 weeks that follow, cut down to watering every other day, then twice a week (always in the mornings). After that, water 1 inch each week and increase as necessary during summer months. 

Once the sod is laid, maintain it by watering and cutting it regularly. After 3 or 4 weeks, apply more fertilizer to replace nutrients that were lost during the initial heavy watering. Avoid using a ride-on mower during the first trim, as the grass will still be quite fragile.