How to Lay Sod - Start with a plan
The first thing you need to ask: “Is sod the best answer?” Maybe a landscaping option is a better fit. Sometimes, expanding a bed, or creating a seating area is a better long term fit than laying sod. Is there too much shade? Is there too much traffic? We often hear, “grass used to grow here”. Just remember, things change. Trees grow and there may be more shade than when you moved in. Or maybe your dog loves to run around in that area.
Another question we often hear: “Should I seed the area instead of installing sod?” The answer in Central Texas is almost certainly: No. It rarely works. You are wasting your money and time. The one exception to this is winter rye grass (but it is an “annual” grass – meaning it needs to be installed in the fall and will die next time it gets hot).
Is this the right time of year to install sod? We confidently install sod year round and get great longterm results. Each time of year has different needs and initial appearances. Sod installed in the summer needs much more water to keep it healthy, but it typically looks great because it is the growing season. Sod in the winter needs less water, but it will be dormant and therefore a little gray. Spring and fall are somewhere in the middle. You can install sod any time of the year, but the actions following installation will differ. We give our customers detailed care and watering instructions post installation and often couple our services with irrigation visits to improve the likelihood of success.
How to choose the right type of sod
First of all, you want it to match your current yard (unless you are redoing an entire section). Then you need to consider different turf requirements. For example, Amerishade or Palmetto St. Augustine need less sun than Raleigh St. Augustine. They are all a variety of St. Augustine, but they have been grown with different solutions in mind. Some other common Central Texas sod options include Bermuda, and Zoysia (each of them have several different varieties). Another great method for choosing – put each type of turf on a separate dog treat in a room and then release your dog into the room. The first treat they find…that is the type you should use.
How to prepare the area for sod
Some people or companies will not properly prepare the area before laying the sod. This is a huge mistake. You may be able to save some money in the short run, but it isn’t worth it. Many of the problems that occur in a yard (uneven, improper nutrients, excessive weeds, etc.) occur because people skip or skimp on this step .
First you will want to remove the old turf. We use a sod cutter, but it can be done with a flat shovel. Next, you should level the area. You want to avoid holes and divots. Think about micro drainage. A low spot in the yard may catch water when it rains and be a hot spot for disease.
Super important! Put down GREAT soil. You want to choose soil rich in nutrients that will help feed the lawn for years to come. This is another step that many companies and individuals skip. When the project is done, you can’t see it. The results come months or years later. But it is so important. We spread about 1 yard of top quality “landscape soil mix” to the area before installing the sod. Visit our top dressing page for more information on “soil types”.
Lay the sod
Where should I get the sod? If you are a DIYer then you are somewhat limited on where you can get the sod. In the spring, Home Depot will sell certain types of turf “by the piece”, but they don’t carry it year round. We have several vendors that we use to source turf including Daniel Stone and King Ranch Turf Grass.
A pallet of sod will cover about 450 square feet, but remember that there is usually waste and some portion of the turf will almost always need to be disregarded. So if you have an area that is exactly 900 square feet, then you shouldn’t plan to just use 2 pallets. Plan to get an extra half pallet. (Most vendors will only sell in full and half pallet quantities.)
When you lay the sod, make sure to place it like bricks (one seam in the middle of the piece directly next to it). And ensure your seams are tight. It is easy after several hours in the sun to let those seams get sloppy. Stay diligent!
We recommend a “friendly” game of touch football that quickly devolves into a “touch” football game.
Other common questions
What does it cost? Generally it costs between $2 and $3 per square foot installed. This will all depend on the specifics of the project (location, sod type, how nice you are, etc).