Sod or seed...which is better to use? Here is some helpful information to help you decide...
Benefits of Sod
On a hot summer day, a lawn will be 30 degrees cooler than asphalt or rock, and 15 degrees cooler than bare soil. In the heat of the summer, the front lawn of 8 houses has the same cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning. 2,500 square feet of grass absorbs carbon dioxide and releases enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe.
- Reduces greenhouse gases, absorbs carbon dioxide
- Much cooler that rock, concrete, asphalt and artificial turf
- Releases oxygen and cools the air
Sodding is the fastest and easiest way to establish a lawn. We spend a year growing seed into sod so when it comes to your home, it has reached maturity. With proper care, your newly sodded yard will be ready for use in 3 weeks. The average size yard can be installed in a few hours at a modest cost. Although seeding initially costs less, many costs recur due to erosion, reseeding, over-seeding, and watering. Seed can take 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. Newly seeded lawns take a great deal of time and nurturing to establish into mature, healthy lawn and cannot be used for months.
- Sod is easy to work with and can be used in two to four weeks
- Sod can be installed anytime the ground is not frozen
- Sod uses less water to established than seed
- Seed can take 2 to 3 weeks to germinate
Adds Value to Your Home
A well landscaped yard will add 15% to 20% to the value of your home. Clean & soft, grass is the safest playing surface for children, kids and pets. Relax or romp, nothing beats grass for an outdoor surface.
Erosion & Filtration
Because sod is fully mature the day it is installed, it immediately controls erosion. Sod can be installed on steep hills and is used on slopes for stabilization. Turf-grass lawns filter dirt and dust from your environment and eliminate mud. A lawn absorbs carbon dioxide & releases oxygen keeping the air clean & fresh around your home. A lawn also filters & muffles noise.
- Filters dirt & dust from your home
- Muffles noise from your home
New Sod Care
First 2 Weeks
The key to establishing new sod is to keep it properly watered for the first month. Immediately after installing sod, water thoroughly making it spongy to the step. The new sod should be kept thoroughly wet to a depth of 4" to 6" and watered 3 to 5 times a day during the first 7 to 14 days depending on the season. Lift a corner of the sod to determine the depth of moisture. In the first week, it is very important to keep the new sod damp. During this time stay off the sod so it can take root and you do not sink in and leave depressions from your foot steps. During hot weather, sprinklers should run several times a day so the new sod never dries out. If allowed to dry out, the sod will shrink, brown, and can die. The roots of your new sod will penetrate the soil faster and root down sooner if properly watered. At the end of week 2, dry up the yard enough so you can mow.
Weeks 3 & 4
The following 2 weeks are used to transition from frequent daily watering to fewer cycles per day and increase the number of days between watering. During week 3, reduce watering to 1-3 times per day and skip a day between watering if the new sod is not drying out. By week 4, water 1 to 2 times every other day. After week 4, your new yard should be ready to go 2 to 3 days between watering. Water your lawn in the evening or early morning when less evaporation occurs. To reduce run-off on hills and promote deep root growth, reduce watering times in half. One hour later, run the irrigation cycle again and apply the rest of the water. This allows the water to soak into heavy soils.
Rest of the Season
Your new lawn will need more water the first growing season and especially the first 6 months. As roots grow deeper over the course of a year, it will need less water. If your lawn looks dry, it probably needs watering. The key to new sod care during this time is deep watering less frequently. This will help the roots grow down and develop a deep root system that uses less water. It is ok after the first two months to stress your lawn a little. This means let your yard dry out a bit and when you see signs of stress starting to appear, make sure to water. This will also allow you to fine tune the sprinkler system and adjust heads for proper coverage and change nozzles for more or less water in certain spots.
Mow if Grass exceeds 3.5"
Your new lawn should be mowed at the end of week 2 or if you lawn exceeds 3 1/2" tall. Back off on the watering so the turf is dry to the touch and firm enough to walk on without sinking in. If your new lawn reaches over 3 1/2", mow off a third of the length even if it has not been two weeks. Do not cut shorter than 2" for the first few times you mow. Exercise caution the first time you mow so you do not damage or pull up the sod. If some of the sod does move around, don’t worry. Just put it back in place and it will grow in.
If you had to pick between establishing your new lawn with sod or grass seed,which would you choose? Sod has the obvious advantage of being “instant,” but seed has some advantages you may not know about. Here are the three biggest advantages to plant grass seed instead of using sod to establish a new lawn:
- Less expensive.
- More choices.
- Less labor intensive.
What’s involved in seeding a lawn? You buy the appropriate amount of seed from a professional supplier. You prepare the soil appropriately, and you spread half the seed on the lawn width-wise, and half of the seed lengthwise. There’s more to it than that, of course, but with some background research it can certainly be done by one person in the space of an afternoon. And with all the money you saved by buying grass seed, you could choose to have professional do the seeding for you.
New Seed Care
How Often Should You Water New Grass Seed?
Correct watering will give you a lush new lawn.
Growing a new lawn from seed isn't rocket science, but it does require extra care and attention to result in lush grass. As they grow and their roots burrow into the soil, new grass seeds require lots of water to become established and dehydration may result in a sickly, unsightly lawn. You will also need to protect the seeds from hungry birds and foot traffic.
Proper watering should begin just before you seed a lawn, creating moist, inviting growing conditions. A few days before spreading the seeds, water the area to be planted to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, recommends University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. When you do this, add a little a compost to the soil to make it richer and more hospitable. Allow the area to dry completely before adding seeds.
Just After Seeding
After sowing the grass seeds, they will need frequent watering on an as-needed basis. Keep the top 2 inches of soil moist, but not sopping wet. Water whenever the soil is becoming dry. Feel the soil to see if it's moist or dry. If the soil gets too dry, the germination process will stop. When watering, do not water so much that it pools on the soil's surface.
As the grass seeds germinate and develop roots, continue regular watering to help them become well established. Over the next month, check the seed bed regularly and water it lightly whenever it is dry, much like in the period right after seeding. During dry spells, check the new lawn more often, as it will need more water. Pay particular attention to shady patches of the lawn, as they need watering less often than sun-soaked areas.
When the grass seeds are established, their water needs lessen. Generally, give the lawn about 1 inch of water a week, delivered in one or two sessions. Doing so helps the roots of the grass grow deep into the ground and makes the lawn more tolerant of drought. Try to water in the early morning to avoid excessive evaporation, but avoid watering at night, as it will sit too long, increasing the risk of fungal disease.
Encap Lawn Starter Pro
ENCAP's Lawn Starter™ Pro is a granular mulch that can be applied with any spreader. The granules are made from recycled paper and contain ENCAP's proprietary blend of soil stabilizing polymers. The polymers are designed to improve soil conditions and keep seed, soil and fertilizer right where you put them, even after it rains. The polymers also help to condition the soil by creating micro channels that help to get water and nutrients into the root zone. This improves germination and overall seed establishment. All of this in a product that is clean and easy to use. ENCAP's Lawn Starter™ Pro is fast and easy to apply with no cleanup saving you time, money and labor. Lawn Starter™ Pro is the earth -friendly choice of landscape professionals.
Overseeding a lawn can help improve its overall health and appearance. Simply explained, lawn over-seeding is a process of spreading grass seed over the already existing turf. Generally, over seeding is best for larger areas where the turf is thin, but not bare. Smaller areas that are thin or infested with weeds can be spot seeded.
The benefits of over-seeding a lawn include:
- Filling in areas of turf damaged by summer stress, diseases or insects
- Thickening and increasing the density of thin lawns
- Improving the lawn’s appearance
- Enhancing the lawn’s ability to fight insects and diseases
Lawn over-seeding is good for lawns that suffer from drought stress, insect or disease damage, or that show other evidences of decline, such as bare patches. Over-seeding a lawn with newer, improved types of turf-grass is often the best way to thicken the lawn and improve its health and appearance. The new turf-grass is better able to resist damage from drought, turf-grass diseases and lawn damaging insects.
Lawn over-seeding can be effective by itself, but it is often combined with lawn aeration. After a lawn aerator pulls cores of soil from the lawn, the seed is then applied using a rotary or drop seeder. For even coverage, the seed is divided into equal lots and each lot is spread in different directions.
There’s a good reason for combining over-seeding with aeration. The holes created by the aeration process allow good seed-to-soil contact. This adds seed germination. Once the seed germinates, the seedlings must be kept moist with light frequent watering until they are established.
In general, lawn over-seeding is most beneficial to cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. But certain types of warm-season grasses can benefit from over-seeding, too, especially in the winter when they go dormant.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Larger selection of species available. Different mixes of species and blends of different cultivars are available for specific management practices, sun or shade, disease resistance, and soil type.
- Turf develops in the environment in which it will live.
- Lower initial cost than sodding.
- Timing of establishment critical. Best time is September. April - May is also a good time, but weed seeds germinate in greater numbers in spring.
- Longer time period to get a dense lawn.
- May require reseeding due to poor germination in some areas or wash outs from heavy rain or irrigation.
- Weeds can be a problem until lawn is fully established.
- Initial watering is critical.
- "Instant lawn".
- May be walked on soon after planting.
- Dust, mud and erosion are quickly reduced.
- May be planted anytime during the growing season as long as adequate water is available.
- Basically weed-free.
- Higher initial cost.
- Choice of species is very limited.
- Not produced in shaded environment.
- Large volume of water needed initially.
- Sod may shrink and weeds may invade especially if the sod is not properly installed. Do not stretch sod. Stagger seams similar to brick-laying.
- Speed of rooting varies with season. Spring and fall are optimal.
Whether seeding or sodding, initial soil preparation is crucial. If possible get a soil test first so any amendments can be added. Add compost especially to clay soils. Large quantities of compost are available at the Landscape Recycling Center on east University in Urbana. Rough grading and fine grading is crucial for both seeding and sodding. Control perennial weeds first. Don't assume tilling or covering with sod will kill perennial weeds such as creeping Charlie, bindweed or quackgrass. An initial application of a non-selective herbicide of glyphosate sold as Round up™ may be helpful. Wait until weeds are brown before seeding or sodding. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
Tips for successful lawn seeding
- Purchase quality seed.
- Rake, roll lightly, then mulch lightly.
- Top ½ inch of soil should be kept moist until seeds germinate. First watering will be lightly and frequently. Keep in mind germination rates: Kentucky bluegrass 10-30 days and perennial ryegrass 3-10 days. Once the seedlings have emerged, watering should be deeply and less frequently.
Once the seedlings are growing:
- At 2-inch height, fertilize at ½ rate.
- Mow when 3-4.5 inch height down to 2-3 inch height.
- Limit heavy traffic for first year.
- Wait until after 3 mowings for postemergent herbicide application if needed.
Tips for successful sodding
- Choose fresh, healthy sod with a thin soil layer.
- Choose sod grown on soils similar to that of planting site if possible.
- Lightly roll after installation.
- Water thoroughly.
Post-Planting Care of Sod
- Sod should root in about 14 days.
- Fertilize using the regular recommended fertilization schedule.
- Mow using the "1/3 rule". Do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at one time. Gradually mow down to 2-2.5 inch height.
- After proper rooting, core aeration can encourage deeper rooting.