Instant Lawn ...Simple as 1 - 2 - 3

Mud in the morning can be a mature home lawn by evening, with the use of turfgrass sod. The process is simple, straight forward and practical enough for homeowners to do themselves.

The Turf Resource Center (TRC), a non-profit organization recommends new lawns be established with sod because of its ease of use, predictable results and immediate environmental improvement. the TRC outlines these steps to an instant lawn:

Step 1 - Measure and Order
Roughly sketch the outline of your proposed lawn area and measure the outer borders, noting any irregular shapes, walks, patios, play areas, etc. A member of Turfgrass Producer International (a world-wide association of professional sod producers) can be located through telephone directories or at a major garden center to calculate the total amount of sod needed and schedule its delivery. Because sod is a living, perishable plant, be certain that your soil preparation will be completed before the sod is delivered. Sod should be installed within 24-72 hours after harvest, shortening the time as the temperatures rise.

Step 2 - Soil Preparation
One of the two absolutely essential steps to a successful new lawn is proper soil preparation. This involves soil testing and incorporating recommended amendments through deep rototilling or spading. Rake the area smooth and remove all debris, roots, large clods, etc., filling low areas and ensuring that the lawn slopes away from the house or other structures for proper drainage. Moistening the soil to a depth of six inches several days before the sod is installed will reveal any low spots that need to be filled, settle the soil and provide a good basis for the new sod’s roots.

A helpful hint offered by the TRC is to keep the final grade about one inch below sidewalks, patios and driveways so that when the sod is installed, it will be level with the hard surface. If the sod is installed too high, it will be scalped when mowed. If it’s too low, there’s an increased chance of tripping when walking between the two surfaces.

Step 3 - Turf Installation
Most sod will be delivered on wooden pallets by truck and set off with a very maneuverable forklift. Ask the driver to drop the pallets across the yard at intervals that will approximate the surface covered by each pallet. Drivers are quite efficient at knowing how far apart to space the pallets, and this will save you a lot of extra carrying and walking across the prepared soil. You may have to rake-out a few of the forklift tire tracks, raking is an easy trade-off to carrying rolls of sod that may weigh 30-45 pounds each!

Begin installing the sod as soon as possible after it’s delivered, laying the first strip along the longest straight line available, such as a sidewalk, driveway or even a string stretched across the yard. In a brick-like pattern, each piece of sod should be fit snugly against the next (but not over-lapping), with the end joints staggered.

Professional turf installers, after laying out of the first row of sod, usually cut the next full roll in half so the joints are staggered and then proceed to layout the next full row. When they get to the end of the strip or the last full roll and find that there will be small areas to fill, they push the last full piece to the end (or outer edge) and insert the filler piece between full-size strips. This protects the edges of the smaller pieces from drying out and dying. Another trick of the pros is to trim sod pieces by cutting through the soil side first, to maintain a square edge. trying to cut sod through the green grass side usually results in a jagged edge.

On sloped areas, start at the bottom of the slope and work upward, laying the strips of sod across the slope. On severe slopes, small wooden pegs driven through the sod and into the soil will hold the strips in place until roots develop.

Step 4 - Watering
The second absolutely essential step to successfully establishing a new sodded lawn is proper watering. This includes almost immediate application and sufficient quantities.

Within 30 minutes (or less) after the sod has been laid, begin applying at least one inch of water so the soil beneath the sod is very wet...to a depth of three to four inches. Lift up a corner of the sod to see that water is soaking through and into the soil. If a screwdriver cannot be easily pushed into the soil, keep watering.

Also, be certain that water is reaching all areas uniformly. Edges and corners of the lawn can be missed or given less water by many types of sprinklers, even in-ground systems. Lastly, recognize that some types of soil absorb water very slowly, and standing water in an area may require that the sprinkler be turned off and the water allowed to soak-in slowly before water is again applied.

Daily for at least the next two weeks, apply at least one-quarter inch of water every morning. Morning is the best time to water because the wind and heat...two major causes of evaporation...are at their lowest. After the first two weeks, begin a weekly watering regime, applying approximately one inch of water a week, reducing this amount by rain totals.

Caring For The New Lawn
(Easy As A - B - C)

Once the new sodded lawn is installed and routine watering begins, it’s time to begin enjoying the results, and taking a few simple steps to help ensure that the uniform density and beauty of the new sod is maintained.

Step A - Use And Enjoy
The visual beauty of the new lawn will make a remarkable improvement to the home’s landscape and while you may be tempted to use the area right away, don’t. Avoid heavy or concentrated traffic on new sod for at least the first three weeks. This will allow the roots a chance to knit in, settle the soil and ensure that the surface remains level.

Because the soil beneath new sod is being kept wet, traffic on the lawn will not only compact the soil (a real detriment to growth), but it can also create low spots and even holes or tears.

After three weeks, the lawn should be fully established and capable of handling whatever use you want to give it, but be aware of soft spots or tender areas and give them more time to fully establish.

Step B - 1st And Subsequent Mowing
"The first mowing should take place only after the sod is well knitted...about two to three weeks after installation.

The TRC recommends raising the mowing height for the first cutting as high as possible and running the mower diagonally across the sod strips to avoid pulling up edges or running a mower wheel down between two strips of sod. Lower the mowing height gradually with each subsequent cutting until the recommended height for the particular grass variety achieved.

Clippings can be left on the lawn if the mower blade is sharp and no more than one-third of the grass height is removed in a single cutting. Clippings are 80% water and contain nutrients that are valuable to the grass, so they should be left on the lawn every mowing, unless they clump or look unattractive. Clippings do not create thatch.

Step C - Fertilizer and Pesticides
While fertilizer and pesticide applications will depend on climate, soil type, insects, weeds, and disease, an additional advantage of sodding is that fewer applications will be required than if seed were used.

Dense, vigorous growing turf is the best means to combat weeds, insects and even disease. This can be accomplished by proper mowing and watering and judicious use of fertilizer based on the grass plant’s needs. Most cool season lawns will benefit by an application of a balanced fertilizer in the spring and fall (but not the season of initial sod installation); while warm season grasses need small amounts of fertilizer throughout the warmest months of the growing season. Local recommendations should be sought from sod supplier, extension agent or quality garden center.

Sodded lawns not only provide an immediate visual improvement to the landscape, they also create safe and clean play areas and help improve the environment. Sod eliminates mud being tracked into the house and it cools the area, traps air-borne pollutants and cleans rainwater or snow melt with its leaves, thatch and roots.

The beauty of sod is not just the clean green and relaxing surface we see, it’s a benefit to our environment, right under our feet!

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Last Revised: Thursday, February 18, 1999

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