How NOT to lay Sod

Sod Basics

It's all about the sod today. We're going to talk about what it takes to have a successful, instant green backyard. We are going to go over grading, we're going to go over the depth of black dirt and to dispel a few myths there. We're going to talk about the watering schedule; when to water, and how much. We're also going to go over when you can mow the sod. We're going to teach you how to peel back the sod and determine how healthy your sod is and then the scourge of sod, fighting the Japanese beetles. What to look for, so you can cut them off before they become problematic, so let's get into it. The first thing I want to do is to dispel a myth that you've got to have four inches of pulverized screen black dirt. If you actually put that much black dirt on top of your subgrade, this soil, this black dirt is going to compress and cause uneven waves in your sod. The four inches isn't necessary and sometimes incorporating it can be a little difficult like tilling your entire backyard.


So if you can’t incorporate it, what I want you to do is to layer black dirt an inch, to an inch and a half maximum and sprinkle that over the top and make sure you do not compact that soil, because if you compact that soil, that black dirt you're not going to get the roots to grow into it. So you sprinkle the black dirt on and then you hand rake that now and lay your sod on top of that. You can see in the background what Tim is doing is, he actually hand raked all of the areas before the sod gets laid out. We don't machine grade it, we don't come in with a skid loader and level it all out because that will compact the soil. So he takes that big whole rake over there and just gets everything laid out.

Existing Grass has to Go

Here’s a rule: you never put sod over existing grass, if you have vegetation growing, you've got to strip it and remove it because of the vegetation underneath, when you lay that sod on top of it will decompose. While it's decomposing it will heat up, killing the sod on top of it. So you have to strip the vegetation underneath and lay that sod whether it's on black dirt or whether it's just on sub-base. It's better off than laying it on top of the existing grass, do not do that. To create a clean line like you see in this shot, he's using an Eco Bed Edger, believe it or not. They don't tell you to use this tool for this but it works phenomenally to create that line of separation. It works better than even what a skid loader can do on its own, a skid loader can’t create a nice straight cut. That's why we pulled up the Echo Bed Edger and created all the cuts so that we had a definitive line from the turf that stays, to the turf goes.


The next thing is the watering schedule; this is a critical element to the success of your sod. Do not oversoak the sod, simply peel back your sod, look underneath and you just want the soil beneath the sod to be moist. You don't want it to be mud, moist is good and mud is bad. If you peel back that sod and it's OK to grab a corner of the sod and literally peel it up, that won't hurt. When you're doing that you can also do a quality test to see how your sod is taking it, as you peel that sod up, you should see little white roots starting to grow. That gives you an indicator that the sod is enjoying the benefits of your labor and it’s starting to adhere to the subsoil. You look behind me, what you see is they're staggering the joint spacing. So to be a full roll laid out, then the next roll starts at the halfway point of the other roll next to it and then we will cut in individual pieces to fill these in, in a bricklayer basic fashion. That way we don't get all the joints pieces lined up; the ability for water to channel and knock the sod out that much faster.

When to Mow

When to mow is another question that comes up. You can start to mow the sod, anywhere from three and a half to four inches. You don't want to mow it too soon and you don't want to mow it too short, that's all that matters. If you mow it below three inches, it can burn. If you start to notice that you have brown patches spots throughout your yard, that's a sure sign that you have an infestation of Japanese beetles and you need to go to your local hardware store and pick up materials. All of the big box stores now sell material specifically to fight Japanese beetles, and the first indication which is those brown spots that just make no sense why they're showing up; you have a Japanese beetle problem, you need to cut it off at the pass. Just simply follow the directions on the back of the package and you should be in good shape.


Let’s go out to a site and look at the pattern, we want to use a brick pattern and there are specifically some suggestions of what to do on steep slopes. So let's go there and check it. So the way we're going to be laying this sod is, we're going to be rolling it sideways on this portion of the hill and as we get to the closer, the steeper portion of the hill we're actually going to be stapling it. Now, if you lay it sideways and you get a torrent of rain, you can expect the side to bend in the middle, you may see that occasionally, that's where the staples come in.


If you run it down the hill, what can happen is, you can get channels that form in between the sods and you'll never see those until it is too late. So it’s two different ways to skin a cat, so to speak it's with the lesser of two evils. We prefer to take the steep hills sideways but to really thoroughly staple them, that way when the water rushes down the hill, the sod helps slow it and if there is any bending, you can go out and repair it. Versus laying the sod with the hill straight up and down, where the channels create, you can never see it because they go between the joints basing in the sod and it just disappears until it becomes an issue the first time you go to mow. Follow these simple rules and you should be able to go from dirt and dust to a nice green lawn in one afternoon and make sure that you water immediately, the day of the installation. God bless, go get them! Let me know your experiences with sod and any tips or tricks down below in the comments, I love to hear better ways to improve upon the process.


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