An affordable "instant gratification" landscaping item, freshly cut and laid sod creates an instant lawn that can be used within weeks of installing. Lawns started from grass seed take longer to become established but cost considerably less than sod. Seeds sown and sod laid on a site that has been properly prepared have a much greater chance of succeeding than on a site that is not prepared. Prior to planting, sod requires the same amount and type of site and soil preparation that seeding does.
Determine the level of sun and shade of the planting side. Most sod is grown from varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, which requires full sun. If you have areas of deep shade, ask for sod or seeds of Kentucky bluegrass varieties that tolerate shade or another variety of grass more suited to shady conditions.
Two weeks to 10 days prior to laying sod or sowing seed, spray the area with herbicide to kill all annual and perennial weeds. Once the weeds have died, remove their remains by raking or hand pulling. This is necessary to reduce competition for water and nutrients and to create a smooth, homogeneous surface on which to lay the sod and on which seeds will germinate and grow.
Address Drainage Problems
Grass will not grow well in areas of poor drainage where water stands after a rain. If your yard is plagued with this problem, it may be necessary to install drainage tiles prior to installing the new lawn.
Sandy loam is the ideal soil type on which to grow thick, lush lawns. Improve the soil prior to planting by adding organic matter to the planting site. Put down a 2 to 3 inch layer of a combination of compost, peat moss and sand. Incorporate these amendments into the soil by turning it over with a garden shovel or rototilling it. Use a garden rake to level the site after digging or tilling. Do the soil improvement one to two days prior to the day of installation, to allow the soil to settle a little.
Final Site Preparation
On the day of installation, rake the soil smooth using a lawn rake. Moisten soil lightly with a sprinkler or hose-end sprayer. Moist soil is more attractive to the grass roots than dry soil and the sod will get off to a faster start if it is laid atop pre-moistened soil. Seeds need a moist bed to germinate and will need to be misted daily until germination occurs, in about 7 to 10 days.
Sod should be installed no later than 24 to 72 hours after it is cut from the field. Complete all necessary site preparation prior to scheduling delivery of the sod, so that it will not sit uninstalled after it is delivered. Freshly cut sod has moist soil that is not hard or dry and the blades of grass are dark green and feel cool to the touch. Sod that has dried out has a greater chance of failing to take than sod that is installed soon after harvesting.