Prepare Your Soil for Sod
Written by Chris Mendelssohn, Sales Representative
Are you installing sod for instant curb appeal? There are a few things you need to do in order to prepare your soil for sod. By applying these few steps ahead of time, your sod will grow its roots stronger and last longer.
*Important: Make sure your irrigation system has been installed after this step. This will give you time to test your watering patterns and not cause any damage to already placed sod.
STEP 1: KILL WEEDS
Kill the existing grass and weeds. I like to apply two applications to make sure you got all the grass and weeds. We have a recommended list of herbicides to use.
STEP 2: BREAK IT UP
Using a rototiller, begin loosening up and break any clumps of soil. If it is clay soil, add gypsum to the soil then rototill that in. Do this for at least 6 inches deep into the soil and clear any rocks, sticks or tree roots to allow your sod roots to grow.
STEP 3: AMEND IT
Get a soil test done. Once we have an idea of the soil’s pH level, we can recommend the right amendments to get your soil in balance. Add soil amendments like compost or some pre-packaged organic mixes (we recommend Kellogg Organics, Family Tree or Agrowinn Organics). This will change the soil’s pH level to be suitable for sod. It is also good to use Gypsum or Soil Buster. Gypsum helps loosen heavy clay soils and raise the calcium content of your soil without changing the pH level. It also improves the structure of alkaline soils by removing excess sodium.
STEP 4: REMOVE SOIL
Remove about 1 inch of soil below sidewalks, curbs or sprinklers to leave room for sod.
STEP 5: LEVEL IT
It is important to level your soil using a professional grade Corona rake to ensure proper watering and root growth for the sod. Make sure all rocks are clear from soil.
STEP 6: FEED IT
You’ll also need to feed the soil by using a fertilizer, like Best Simplot 6-24-24XB. Spread the fertilizer at the application rate shown on the product label.
As a side note: After sod installation, make sure to water this fertilizer. Don’t know which one to use? Here is a simple guide to choosing the right fertilizer for your lawn.
STEP 7: WATER IT
Water the fertilizer prior to installing the sod.
STEP 8: INSTALLING YOUR SOD
Before you install sod, make sure the soil is dry. You don’t want the soil to compact into mud as it is not a good environment for the roots of the sod to take hold. Now is the time when you want to inspect your irrigation system. Then you are ready to lay your sod. Install your sod quickly because it could dry out and die. The maximum time out would be two days on the pallet – any longer and you will need to water it to keep it moist.
Plan to install the sod within 30 minutes after it arrives. Remember, this is a live plant and is subject to damage from the elements. Lay the sod in an overlaying pattern, staggering the joints in each row in a brick-like fashion. Use the roller again to create even contact with the sod and the soil.
STEP 9: KEEP A TIGHT WATERING SCHEDULE
Once this is done, water the sod at least three to four times a day for about 10 days. Seasonal watering adjustments need to be based on temperature. Keep foot/pet traffic to a minimum, for a least a week. For its first mowing, wait a few weeks after installation, or set your mower high. This will prevent pulling the sod and roots up from the soil. After the second mowing, fertilize and enjoy your new sod.
To make sure the sod is sufficiently watered, lift a corner of any piece of sod and insert a screw driver into the underlying soil. If it’s hard to push in or soil is not moist, keep watering. Maintain a consistently moist, but not soaking wet, sod for seven to ten days–until its roots are established. At three weeks, decrease watering a bit. At three months, when the lawn is mature, you can adjust your sprinkler timer to what the type of sod needs based on climate and sod type.