How to Plant Sod 101: All You Need to Know

green grass close up

You probably know already how beautiful sod is in a garden or a yard, but the truth is it can be quite costly if you want to purchase it. However, a good alternative is to grow sod on your own from seeds. Even though it might sound complicated, it’s as simple as planting other flowers or herbs. Today we are going to learn how to plant sod, together with everything you need to know about this process.

Before Planting

1. Prepare the Soil

One of the first things you need to do if you want to learn how to plant sod is to test the soil. Get a soil tester from any home improvement store and follow the instructions on it. Ideally, you should have a soil pH somewhere between 6 and 7.5.

2. Get the Right Nutrients

Depending on the state of your soil, you may need to buy some extra nutrients. Look at the pH level and see if you need any. You may need to balance the nutrient levels in the soil, and thus you should buy lime, fertilizer, or elemental sulfur. Luckily, you can find all these in the local stores.

Green lawn with mowing trails, with trees in the background and a sunny sky with few clouds
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3. Till the Soil

First, take out any debris, rocks, or thick weeds that are in the area you want to plant sod in. Next, till all the surface in a shallow manner. Start tilling deeper, in a perpendicular direction to the first pass. Add nutrients if your soil needs it, and repeat the process. What’s important to check:

  • The temperature should be minimum 60 °F (16 °C);
  • There are no pipes, sprinklers, or utility lines in the soil;
  • Follow the tilling instructions correctly.

4. Use Starter Fertilizer

This is a good idea if you want to offer some more nutrients and to help with growth. Make it a priority to use starter fertilizer, especially if you decide to plant in a soil that is cold and wet. This also works if you want to plant in the beginning of spring or the end of fall.

5. Use Your Rake

Get your rake out of the shed and start leveling your yard. However, if you already have a level yard, you shouldn’t worry about it. Any deep recessions should be filled with soil. In case you notice there are some deep holes on the lawn, fill them with soil and loam.

How to Plant Sod

6. Plant at the Right Time

When deciding on how to plant sod, you should know that the right time differs according to the area where you live and, of course, what type of sod you want to grow. If it’s cooler outside, you should plant special grasses in fall or spring, such as:

  • Perennial ryegrass;
  • Tall fescue;
  • Kentucky bluegrass.

On the other hand, if you live in a region with warmer areas, you should consider learning how to grow Bermuda grass, for instance. Other options for early summer or spring would be:

  • Zoysia grass;
  • Centipede grass;
  • Bahiagrass.
Woman's hand putting seeds into a holw in the soil
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7. Choose Quality Seeds

If you go to the store, you will see that every seed has a tag with information about its purity, variety, date, etc. Compare the ideal conditions for the seeds with those you will offer them. If it’s the first time you’re doing this, you should probably ask for specialized help from the shop assistant.

8. Spread Out the Seeds

Use your hand to spread out the seeds. If you’re not sure, check the seed instructions to find out how much you need to spread around. When you’re done, rake all the area lightly.

9. Cover the Seeds

Now is the time to cover the seeds with soil. Place a thin layer of ¼ inch (0.64 cm) of soil over them. This will protect them from the wind. If you want to encourage the nutrients, you can also spread a thin layer of mulch over the soil.

Red and black sprinkler placed on the lawn, turned on
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10. Water the Soil

The final step when learning how to plant sod is to keep the top part of the soil moist. Around ½ inch (1.3 cm) should be kept moist, or at least until the seeds start to germinate. Then, you will need to offer light, frequent waterings between 3 and 30 days. The period depends on the type of grass you chose to plant. Once you see that the grass emerged, you should water less frequently and less deeply.

Taking Care of Your Sod

11. Water the Grass

Ideally, you should do this once a week after a week since it started growing. However, if you live in an area that is dry and hot, you should water more often. Every week, offer the sod 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. To assess how much water you should give it, set a rain gauge placed in the grass. If you water it rarely and deeply, the grass will grow more roots and will fight better the weeds. Remember that if it rains enough in one day, you shouldn’t water the sod anymore.

Some people don’t like getting out in the yard with their sprinklers or hoses, so they prefer an irrigation system instead. There are some systems that are very evolved, such as the ones that rely on satellite technology to offer the lawn enough water depending on the weather forecast. In case you would like to have an irrigation system that is set to start at fixed hours, it’s better to adjust it depending on the rain levels.

Focus on a person's hand watering the green lawn with a hose
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12. Fertilizing

According to various experts, you should ideally fertilize your lawn 3-4 times a year. When considering how to plant sod, you should think about using a slow release fertilizer. This is ideal because the nitrogen is slowly released into the ground, thus offering a constant feeding to your lawn. However, pay attention not to use it in hot weather since it burns the grass. Some say that it’s important to look at the numbers on the fertilizer bags: all three of them should be the same. They represent:

  • The amount of nitrogen;
  • The amount of phosphorus;
  • The amount of potassium.

Use a spreader to apply the fertilizer and pour half of the bag into it. Then, simply walk up and down the yard. Apply the second half of the bag in a perpendicular manner to the first pass.

13. Mow the Lawn

Once the grass grows more than 3.5 inches (8.9 cm), you should mow the lawn. In general, this will happen after three weeks of growth, and you should mow off around an inch of the grass. Make sure you never cut it shorter than 2 inches (5.1 cm), otherwise, you won’t let it grow deep roots.

Green lawn mower on green grass
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14. Keep an Eye on It

Check the grass regularly. If you notice certain areas start turning yellow or wilting, this means you should offer them more water. At the same time, if you notice some cracks appearing between the pallets, water it more. However, instead of increasing the amount of water for each watering, you should increase the number of times you do it each week. In general, if the temperatures go above 80 °F (27 °C), you should water more than once a week.

15. Don’t Allow for Heavy Traffic

In the first year, you shouldn’t allow for heavy traffic on your lawn. This can damage the growing roots and interfere with the sod growth. However, if this is something you can’t avoid, consider planting other sod varieties. One such example would be Kentucky Bluegrass, which is better in recuperating from traffic damage.

16. Ask for Professional Advice

If you changed the watering number and the grass still doesn’t look healthy, you should ask for some professional advice. Go to the local home improvement store and talk to the local gardeners. Ask other people who have a beautiful lawn and see what advice they give you. Moreover, they will know what’s best for the region you live in, so it’s a good idea to do it.

Close up of an irrigation system with three sprinklers turned on
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Pests and Possible Diseases

17. Be Aware of Diseases

Even though there aren’t many issues that might appear with your sod, you should be aware of some diseases. The fungus is such an example. If you see that your grass is getting a gray color or starts discoloring, you might want to try a fungicide on it.

18. Insects

These are yet another potential problem you should know about before deciding on how to plant sod. Grubs usually bring plenty of problems to lawns. If you think you might have them, peel back the sod and check underneath. If you see some white grubs, it’s time you do something about it.


It’s not difficult to learn how to plant sod on your own. However, it might prove to be a little trickier than if you were simply installing turf on your lawn. Over-watering is a real danger with this activity, so pay attention to the watering schedule. At the same time, make sure the area where you want to plant isn’t likely to have a lot of traffic on it. Finally, remember to constantly check the grass color and aspect to identify possible insects or diseases.

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