A sod cutter is a piece of gardening equipment that separates sod or grass from the soil. It is a viable alternative to manually removing sections of sod from the ground with a shovel or hoe, which can be messy and time-consuming and can strain the back. A simple sod cutter resembles a shovel with a beveled back and serrated edge, allowing you to easily remove sections of grass along with roots to clear the ground. There are also mechanized sod cutters available and ones with curved blade edges to suit individual preferences.
Water the area for a day or two prior to using the sod cutter so the grass is dry but the soil is soft and easy to insert a blade into. Rent a sod cutter from your local rental company. Use a manual one if you want to clear a small area, but rent a gas-powered sod cutter for large-scale projects.
Select one side of the lawn you want to start from and position the sod cutter over the grass. Slide the blade into the grass, as you would with a standard shovel. The beveled back of the sod cutter will prevent it from digging too deep in the ground.
Push the sod cutter down with your foot until you hear the roots tear, signaling they have come loose. Visually outline a square in the area to demarcate where to remove the sod. Slide the shovel part of the sod cutter under the grass to loosen any stubborn roots and carefully lift the grass along with the roots. Collect the sod in a wheelbarrow and repeat the process until you clear the entire area.
Use a mechanized sod cutter for larger areas. Position it over the area you want to clear, make sure the shift lever is in neutral and pull the cord quickly to start the engine. Press the handlebar and pull the blade engagement lever back simultaneously, positioning the shift lever so it is at the lowest gear.
Hold the throttle and push the handlebar slightly, monitoring the sod cutter as it works. Stop the engine after 10 minutes and place the gear in neutral. Lift the cut piece of sod to determine its thickness. You will need to adjust blade depth for different soil conditions, such as hard, moist or soft soils. To do this, push the blade engagement lever and turn the depth lock button. A clockwise turn will deliver a shallow cut, while an anticlockwise turn will make a deep cut.
Hold the throttle and push the blade engagement lever forward so the machine continues cutting the sod. The blade will come up as the end of the strip is cut.