Proper ground preparation is crucial to laying sod evenly. If the site is not properly prepared, your sod will be lumpy and may not even root into the ground. This can have severe financial implications, especially if the sod has to be ripped up with new sod laid in its place. Properly prepared ground should be smooth and firm but not compacted. It should be free of rocks and debris, with the soil having a loose consistency in the first several inches.
Till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches with a rototiller or plow. Rake smooth with a garden rake. Remove rocks, sticks and other debris from the soil.
Roll the soil with a water-filled lawn roller. The soil should be firm and you should not sink in more than 1/2 inch when walking across it.
Unroll the sod on your lawn. Start along a fixed, straight surface like a driveway, sidewalk or garden bed. Stagger the seams of the sod like a brick wall.
Cut the sod around any obstacles and other edges with your utility knife.
Roll the sod with your lawn roller to press it into the soil.
Set up lawn sprinklers and water your sod every two to three days and apply 1 inch of water during each watering. Use a pan or coffee cans spaced throughout the yard to measure the water. Adjust the sprinklers as necessary. Cut back on watering to 1 inch every four to seven days after one to three weeks or when your sod no longer lifts off the ground easily.
Mow your lawn every four to seven days at 2 inches. Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at one time.
Fertilize your lawn with a high-quality lawn fertilizer that has a ratio of 2-1-1 or 4-1-3 (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium). Apply at a rate of 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet four to six weeks after laying your sod lawn. Lightly water the fertilizer in after applying.