How To Lay New Sod Easily

I know that most people hate it, but it’s a lot of fun taking a bare, dead area, and transforming it into a lush thriving lawn. Laying sod is actually enjoyable!


Every homeowner who’s pushed a lawnmower knows that grass needs periodic care. Even so, the best-kept yards develop problems. Fortunately, the solution can be as simple as an application of the right lawn-care product. Or perhaps it’s time to dethatch, spread lime or just pour on more water. In most cases, it’s a foolproof process that your garden center is happy to help with. And if the problem is really severe, you can usually aerate and add more seed, and be back to normal in a month or two.

But that’s when the soil is workable. It’s not always. In new housing developments, the topsoil is often scraped away to create a fresh landscape. Ideally, developers will finish a job with 5 to 6 in. of topsoil to anchor the new lawn, but that’s the best case. In the chaotic, final stages of construction, the quality of the dirt in the yard is often ignored–especially if the new homeowner is less than willing to pay for extras. Worse yet, rushed landscaping can lead to poor drainage, and building scraps get plowed under, creating fungus problems for years to come. Even the choice of sod can spell trouble if it’s not grown with your particular climate in mind.

While it may be possible to manage bad soil, bad grass or poor drainage, it’s tough when you face all three. That was the case here. Our grass had little heat tolerance and needed regular doses of pricey fungicide. But the biggest problem was the clay soil. In this dense earth, grass roots penetrated an inch or two, then spread out, to create the thick layer of dead plant matter called thatch. Even our tree roots preferred thatch to the heavy clay. These problems, while rather serious, are fairly common, especially in new neighborhoods.

Crafting A Solution
The ideal solution here is to remove 5 to 6 in. of clay soil, replace it with topsoil and replant with a hardy seed or sod. But ours is a landscaped yard, with terraces, flowerbeds, fences and underground sprinklers. It allows little room for earthmoving equipment that might damage our concrete sidewalk and drive. And finally, this method is expensive.

We preferred a more manageable alternative–one that allowed us to do most of the work ourselves, using familiar lawn and garden rental equipment. We knew from gardening in this soil that it could be made workable with enough clay-busting mulch tilled in. And with 2 in. of thatch underfoot, we knew where to …

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