In recent years, establishing lawns by sodding has become popular. Sodding is desirable where complete cover is needed immediately and on steep slopes. Specialized turf farms produce sod of several turfgrass species.
Sodding costs more than seeding but results in an “instant” lawn. The real advantage is that you needn’t face the problems and time involved in turf establishment – the sod producer and landscape installer do that for you. The grass in the sod field should be freshly mowed and weed-free.
Careful soil preparation is the key to a quality, long lived, healthy lawn. A sodded lawn requires the same soil preparation as a seeded lawn. Areas to be sodded or seeded should have phosphorous and potash tilled into the soil. Special attention should be made to avoid the common interface when topsoil is placed on top of the existing soil and sod or seed is then planted.
The area to be seeded or sodded should be thoroughly rototilled as deep as possible. Clean up any rocks uncovered and other debris. If topsoil is needed, spread one half over the site and rototill in with 2 to 3 inches of organic material. If no topsoil is needed just till the 2 to 3 inches of compost into the existing previously tilled soil.
Establish your final grade after removing rocks turned up by rototilling a second time. Use a steel rake for this final grading. In a large area a piece of chain link fence or wooden drag can be helpful in leveling. Take your time to get proper drainage away from the house, smooth out high and low spots. Once lawn is in, grade is difficult to change. Add the last one half of topsoil (if needed) and spread evenly without changing the grade just established. This process of rototilling, adding compost, adding topsoil, rototilling and finishing with this final topsoil will provide a nice transition between the original soil and topsoil additions. Simply placing 2 to 3 inches of topsoil over the existing topsoil will create two distinct layers (old soil/new soil) which affects water infiltration and deep rooting.
Sod can be applied any time the ground isn’t frozen; however, sufficient water is critical. For sodding during hot, dry periods, you’ll need irrigation equipment capable of keeping the sod continually moist. The best times to seed are spring or fall.