Planning and how to install

Before You Lay Sod
Sod laying is not rocket science, but unless you do it fairly often, you are likely to miss some important points that really affect the outcome of the job. If you consider the following points before you start laying sod, you will find the process easier and end up with a nicer, more professional lawn.

The site
Sod is ideal for full sun and light amounts of shade. As a rule, bluegrass needs a minimum of 4 hours of sun per day. Air movement also has a big effect. Trees that have high branches that let the air move are better sites for bluegrass, than a maple tree surrounded by a solid board privacy fence.

Adding topsoil is not essential for sod but it will provide some benefits. What topsoil does is increases a soil’s water and nutrient holding capacity, so if you do add it, the intervals between watering and fertilizing will be longer. If you do want to add topsoil, 2 inches will provide good benefits if you mix it into the existing soil. If you cannot have the topsoil mixed into the existing soil, then do not apply it! A thin layer of topsoil prevents grass plants from rooting deeply.

Sod is sold by the square foot, so calculating how much you need is as simple or hard as measuring your site. Be sure and order enough to account for trimming because we cannot deliver you another 500 sq feet for the same price we just delivered you 5000 sq feet. However, if you do under measure, you can pick sod up at our farm for the same price as we just delivered.

A Landscaper, Your Friend
Most builders provide homeowners with a rough grade that is done with a bulldozer that leaves the soil fairly level but usually compacted. Having a landscaper tractor rake a lawn to remove compaction and level the soil more is money very well spent. Many landscapers work with builders and are happy to perform this service even if you will lay the sod yourself. A rototiller also does a good job of loosening the soil but you still need to level it. If you are adding topsoil, while it may cost a bit more, it is worth it to have the landscaper loosen the soil first, then apply the topsoil, and then have the landscaper return to mix the 2 soils together.

How Long Can The Sod Stay Rolled Up?
Sod is a living thing, and the shorter the time it stays rolled up, the better. It can last 3 or 4 days in the spring rolled up, but needs to be unrolled the same day you get it in summer. Weather can be unpredictable, and once you confirm your order and we harvest your sod, it is yours. Rain delays can stress both you and your sod, something else to take into account as you decide to lay sod yourself or have it done.

Tools Needed
You need shovels and rakes to prepare the soil. Sod can be cut with a variety of tools, such as an old steak knife. Have plenty of hoses and sprinklers present if you don’t have a sprinkler system.

Installing Sod

  1. After tractor raking, final grade the lawn with hand rakes to level the soil. Pick up sticks and rocks bigger than 2 inches. Press the smaller rocks into the soil. You do not need to remove bits of old grass or weeds smaller than a tennis ball. If you have a lot of dirt clods, spread them out evenly because they will melt when you water.

  2. Make the soil 1 ½ inch lower next to driveways and side walks so water will drain into the lawn. Make the soil ½ inch lower than the neighbors existing grass so the sod will be about the same height. Sprinkler heads should stick up about ½ inch.

  3. Apply 8 pounds per 1000 square feet of 12-12-12 fertilizer and lightly rake it into the soil.

  4. Pick the best place to start unrolling the sod that minimizes the amount you might have to carry. For example, if you will be sodding your entire lawn, start in the back and work to the front. If you are sodding part of your lawn, start in the front and work to the back until you run out of sod.

  5. Start by unrolling the sod to make a straight line. For the next row, place a roll so it will unroll in the right direction a couple of inches away from the previous roll. Unroll it and slide the sod together. Do not overlap or leave gaps. Stagger the ends to avoid long seams.  On steep hills lay the sod sideways across the hill rather than up and down.

  6. Do not roll the sod because rolling will compact the soil and make new root growth difficult. Outside edges of sod that do not butt up to anything should have a little soil raked up to the exposed edge to keep the edge from drying out.

  7. Begin watering when you can do so without making a muddy mess in the areas to be sodded. Water each section long enough to apply ½ inch of water. It generally takes 30 minutes or longer to accomplish this. After a few hours, check the bottom of the sod to see if it is moist. If not, water more. If you make deep footprints, the sod is wet enough.

Helpful Tips

  • If you have final raked the soil, and it rains, you do not have re-rake it again, except to repair a washout.

  • If the temperature is above 85 and the soil is dry, wet the soil about 24 hours ahead of time enough so that when you lay the sod, the soil is still slightly damp. Dampened soil is cooler and the turf will root faster.

  • If you get rained out and have to quit for a while, do not cover the sod, let it breathe.

  • As a rule, a person can lay about 500 square feet of sod per hour. The rolls weigh about 35 pounds each, and there is no such thing as too much help. In round numbers, laying sod with the help of friends will save you about $1.50 per roll. Or, looking at it another way, you can hire sod laid for about $1.50 a roll, not including preparation.


Red Hen Sod is guaranteed to be in good growing condition at the time of sale; after that, it is your responsibility. If the sod is not watered properly, it will not grow. Call us immediately at the time of sale if the sod is anything but healthy, and we will give the matter our prompt attention. Don’t call us 2or 3 days later and tell us our sod looked bad when we delivered it.

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