Planting New Lawns

The differences between seeding and sodding

When a real estate agent talks about a house having "curb appeal," few things contribute to great curb appeal as much as a beautiful front lawn!

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WORKING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
You can't always control the amount or type of topsoil you have to work with, but you can choose top quality grass seed (or sod) and make adjustments to the chemistry of the soil for the best possible growing conditions with the hand you have been dealt.

  GOOD TIMING!    Grass is growing fast on this lawn renovated in early Autumn. See more at:      September is lawn month

GOOD TIMING!
Grass is growing fast on this lawn renovated in early Autumn. See more at: September is lawn month

New house, new lawn

With a new home it's usually necessary to plant the lawn as soon as construction is completed, even if the growing season isn't conducive to growing grass. 

When there is a choice, fall (September in the northeastern US) is the best time to seed and spring (April) is second best opportunity. Some housing developments may require a sod lawn for the front lawn, while the rest of the lawn can be seeded.


Bob prefers seeding a lawn over sodding a lawn for several reasons:

  • Seeded lawns allow for a better selection of grass types to fine-tune your specific needs and micro-climates of your lawn area.

  • Kentucky bluegrass sod often comes with a thick thatch layer and is a high maintenance grass requiring sunny conditions.


Fall is the best time to plant a lawn in the midwestern and northeastern United States. Why?

Most people are surprised to hear that fall planting is better than spring planting. For one thing, spring plantings face much more weed competition. But more importantly, as soon as spring-planted grass is up and growing, it usually has to face the rigors of summer heat and dry weather.  Fall planted grasses have both the fall season and spring season to grow and mature before facing summer challenges.


Here are a few lawn establishment basics:

  • Start lawn planning early by sending a soil sample to a lab for analysis or test your own soil. Lab test results will outline your specific lime and fertilizer needs in a written report. SEE VIDEO BELOW.

  • Locate utility lines, and especially any shallow wires (TV cable), before digging. Call 811 at least one week before digging to get utility lines marked, this service is usually free to homeowners.

  • Never work soil when it's wet. Tilling or cultivating wet soil can ruin soil structure. It also makes work much more difficult.

  • Pay close attention to grading. Final soil grades should have run-off away from foundations and also be graded to prevent low spots that puddle. Consider adding a french drains at the base of steep slopes where water gets trapped and other areas with poor surface runoff.


Final lawn installation steps:

  • Finish grade the lawn with good topsoil if possible. Remove rocks and other debris that will impede growth.

  • Apply lime and fertilizer according to your soil test results. In lieu of a soil test on Pennsylvania lawns, apply per 1,000 square feet: 50 pounds of agricultural lime, 10 pounds of 10-30-10 starter fertilizer (or equivalent).

  • Your choice of grass seed at the recommended rate. There are different types of grass seed varieties for specific regions: cool season (northern US) or warm season (southern US) grasses, and specific lawn areas: sunny or shady. Varied lawn conditions may call for using a shade mix in some areas and a sunny mix in others.

  • Mulch the lawn surface with one of the following:
    1. Mushroom compost - Great for lawns, use a thin coat.
    2. Straw - Use the "cleanest" weed-free straw you can find and spread it at a "3-straw thickness" (straw is the least expensive mulch).
    3. Professionals also use hydroseeding or spread a pelletized product like 'PennMulch' -- both methods use green-colored paper to hold moisture.

Watering your lawn now becomes the most important part of the job, so if in doubt, water!


  STRAW MULCH    Straw is preferred over hay since it has less weed seeds. However, the rye straw (above) had seedheads causing some rye (the coarser blades) to grow along with the new grass seedlings. Mowing will eventually eliminate this weedy rye. Try to buy clean straw free of any seeds.

STRAW MULCH
Straw is preferred over hay since it has less weed seeds. However, the rye straw (above) had seedheads causing some rye (the coarser blades) to grow along with the new grass seedlings. Mowing will eventually eliminate this weedy rye. Try to buy clean straw free of any seeds.


Sodded lawns

Sod is sometimes referred to as an "instant lawn" which can definitely have its advantages, even though Bob always preferred using seed.

  NEWLY SODDED FRONT LAWN    Similar to a newly seeded lawn, sod requires frequent watering to aid successful establishment.

NEWLY SODDED FRONT LAWN
Similar to a newly seeded lawn, sod requires frequent watering to aid successful establishment.

If you are sodding a lawn instead of seeding, follow the steps listed above with these exceptions:

  • When finish grading the soil, leave the grade one-inch lower along walks, driveways and similar areas to allow for the thickness of the sod.

  • Buy the best grade (#1) of sod available. If sod arrives stacked on a pallet, try to lay it out as soon as possible. Cover palletized sod with a cloth or mesh tarp (to help prevent drying from the sun and wind).

  • Green side up! (-;

MORE OF BOB'S TIPS ON INSTALLING SOD

  1. Try not to stretch the sod while laying it, in fact, bunch it up and keep the seams butted together as tightly as possible. Fill any gaps on the edges with topsoil to help hold moisture. Exposed edges will dry out the fastest.

  2. Make your cuts with a sharp bowie knife, hatchet or sharpened square-nosed digging spade.

  3. Water sod thoroughly and often (every day or two, mornings are best) to aid establishment. Street curb edges dry out the fastest.

  FOLDED PIECES OF SOD    Sod strips folded and stacked on pallets. Most retailers sell sod in 1-yard strips that are 6 feet long x 1.5 feet wide (9 square feet).

FOLDED PIECES OF SOD
Sod strips folded and stacked on pallets. Most retailers sell sod in 1-yard strips that are 6 feet long x 1.5 feet wide (9 square feet).


How much sod do you need?
Here are the sod calculations:

LAWN SOD IS SOLD BY “THE YARD”:
3 feet x 3 feet = 9 square feet = 1 square yard

CALCULATIONS FOR PURCHASING SOD:
Measure the size of the area you wish to sod.

For example let's say the area is 12 feet x 11 feet:

  • 12 ft x 11 ft = 132 square feet

  • 132 sq ft divided by 9 sq ft = 14.6 square yards

ANSWER: You would need to buy 15 yards of sod to cover the 12 ft x 11 ft area.