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Importance of Ground Preparation
Grass obtains three of the four essential factors (air, water, and nutrients) from the soil, but many soils are less than ideal for growing grass.
Most of our housing developments have very little top soil. When basements are dug, this dirt is placed on top of whatever good dirt was there. This is commonly referred to as "basement topsoil." To further compound the problem, a lot of equipment runs over the ground compacting the basement topsoil. As the soil particles are pushed together, air spaces are removed. This reduces the water holding ability and makes it harder for the roots to penetrate.
The value of proper site preparation and soil improvements, before any planting takes place, is that it will be easier for the grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly. Deep roots will make the lawn more drought resistant and will allow for more efficient water and nutrient use from sub soil.
To give the plant an opportunity to grow and be healthy, follow these simple steps:
Remove the weeds and debris
Establish a rough grade to eliminate any drainage problems on the property
Spread a minimum of 4 cubic yards of organics for every 1,000 sq. ft. of sod area
Rototill 4 inches or deeper (if possible)
Rake smooth and establish final grade
Sub-grade 1 1/2 - 2" around curbs and sidewalks
By working up the soil, some of the compaction is relieved, creating more air spaces. Organics help in the water holding ability and provides some nutrients.
The site is now ready for sod. The extra efforts to prepare the soil will pay off in dividends. Excellent sod placed on poor site preparation doesn't look good. However, when excellent sod is placed on excellent site preparation, it results in an excellent job.
Sod really is as good as the base upon which it is installed.
Can I install my own sod?
Many homeowners install their own sod.
What is the best way to install sod?
Lay the sod in a manner similar to laying bricks, only horizontally. Start with the longest and straightest edge, making sure to stagger each row and pull all edges tight together so there are no gaps.
How do I prevent gaps from appearing between the rolls in newly installed sod?
Gaps can appear if the sod loses moisture after installation causing the rolls to shrink. Gaps can be avoided if the new sod is kept constantly moist during the first couple of days.
If the sod turns yellow before I get it installed will it survive?
If you get it installed quickly and water promptly. It will need to produce new blade growth to appear green again.
Can I install sod on a slope?
Yes. Start from the bottom of the slope and work your way up and if necessary use sod staples to stake the sod into the ground to prevent sliding.
Can I install sod during July and August?
Sod can be installed any time during the summer.
What is the best way to trim sod to fit borders and curved areas?
Cut the dirt side using a utility knife to match the border edges.
Can I grow sod in shady areas?
Yes, but all sod needs a certain amount of sun each day. Thinning out tree limbs maybe necessary to allow enough sun to filter through.
Can I use sod to patch dead or worn out areas of my lawn?
Cut out the old grass and patch in with new sod. Patched in areas will need extra water.
What if it rains the night before and everything is muddy?
It is best to postpone installation until the area has dried out.
Is it okay to overlap the edges of the rolls?
No. All of the edges should be pulled tight but not overlapping.
Is it beneficial to roll the sod after installation?
Rolling the sod after installation can help to level out high spots and help ensure proper contact with the soil.
How To Install Your Sod
Certainly there are differences of opinion on the degree of soil preparation prior to the installation of sod. Although these steps may cost you more initially, they will pay dividends in the future.
Most authorities do advise:
Remove all weeds and debris.
Establish a rough grade eliminating low spots.
Add soil amendments and rototill 4-6 inches in depth.
Smooth, level, and establish the final grade.
Sub-grade areas surrounding sidewalks, drives, etc. approximately 1 1/2 inches.
The actual laying of the sod is the easiest portion of establishing your lawn. Just follow these basic suggestions:
When the sod is delivered, arrange the rolls so that there is a minimum of traffic on the prepared soil and the newly installed grass.
Lay the sod in a manner to laying bricks, only horizontally.
Butt tightly the ends and sides of the sod strips making certain there is no overlapping.
To fit the soil around obstacles or in smaller places, merely cut with a linoleum knife (preferably on the underneath side).
Water: Immediately after the sod is laid, begin watering all sodded areas. Schedule watering to assure the sod is constantly wet and water penetrates the soil 4 to 6 inches. This should continue for 10 - 12 days until the roots knit the sod to the soil.
Mowing: Your first mowing should be after the sod has had time to knit with the soil. During rapid growing times, it may be necessary to let the sod dry enough to permit mowing during the 10 to 12 day period. The first few mowings should be done with a rotary mower diagonal to the way the sod is laid.
Watering Frequently Asked Questions
How long do I need to stay off the new sod?
It is best to wait a few weeks until the new sod has firmly rooted into the ground.
Do I need to water it right away?
Immediately after the sod is installed begin watering all sodded areas.
How do I water my new sod?
Immediately after the sod is laid, begin watering all sodded areas. Schedule watering to assure the sod is constantly wet and water penetrates the soil 4 to 6 inches. This should continue for 10 to 12 days until the roots knit to the soil. The sod layer can easily dehydrate before roots are formed and severe damage can occurs to your new lawn. Foot printing and/or the grass blades turning a blue-gray color indicate you sod is under dehydration stress and should be watered.
When should I first mow?
We recommend you mow your grass at about 2¼ inches high. If your grass needs mowing stop watering long enough to allow the ground to be firm enough to mow and then begin watering again after mowing. The first mowing of a newly laid sod should be after the sod has had time to knit with the soil. During the rapid growing times it may be necessary to let the sod dry enough to permit mowing during the 10 to 12 days after installation. The first few mowings should be done with a rotary mower diagonal to the way the sod is laid. Since the length of the grass clippings maybe 1” to 1½” long, it is best to pick these up.
Can I over water my new sod?
Yes. It is just as harmful as under watering.
Watering a Newly Installed Lawn
Before you order your sod to be installed, make sure your sprinkler is working properly. In addition, you will need hoses and sprinklers to water the newly laid sod after it is installed.
The first watering of newly installed turf grass is important. Begin watering immediately as soon as an area of 15' by 15' has been installed. This is the approximate area covered by a "frog eye" sprinkler head.
As soon as a sprinkler zone has been installed, turn it on and begin soaking the newly installed sod. As other zones are installed, turn them on one at a time. By following these suggestions, water has probably penetrated the sod into the dirt.
Continue watering each zone until the water has soaked up the 4-6 inches of soil under the sod. Pull back a corner of the sod and push a screwdriver into the soil. It should push in easily.
Now that the sub-soil is wet, the subsequent watering times will probably be less. Your focus is to keep the new sod wet for the next 2 weeks. This may require you to apply 2-3 applications each day.
Make certain that the water is getting to all areas of your new lawn. Corners and edges are easily missed. They are vulnerable to drying out faster than the center portion of your lawn. Also, areas near the building dry out faster because of reflected heat and may require additional water.
Become a keen observer. The grass will show signs of dehydration by various color changes in the turf blades.
1st Stage - Grass has a purplish tint.
2nd Stage - Grass blades turn steel grey and footprints are left when walked upon.
3rd Stage - Grass blades turn straw color.
Grass is a wonderful plant. Even if it turns straw color, given additional water and reasonable time, it will grow new leaves and can be restored to the lush green color at the time of installation.
During the 3rd week, begin transitioning to the procedures given for an established lawn.
Become a keen observer of the landscape. Adjust grass needs to the condition of the day. Use water wisely. Plants won't waste water, but people do!
Soil Frequently Asked Questions
How important is soil preparation?
Soil preparation is one of the most important factors in establishing a lawn. How well the soil holds water and allows the grass to develop its root systems is determined by the condition of the soil.
Is it necessary to rototill the soil?
Breaking up the soil will aid in air flow and allow nutrients to reach the roots. Grass grown on hard packed ground will use more water and be less drought resistant.
How deep should I rototill?
We recommend rototilling at least 4 inches deep.
Are soil amendments necessary?
Soil amendments, such as organics, are vital to improving the water holding capacities of the soil.