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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

New Lawn 101: Common Questions Answered

(guest post by Valerie Smith of Sod University)



For homeowners, there are few projects that make more of an impact than fresh, new sod. After all, who doesn’t want to highlight their home with a gorgeous, lush lawn? Choosing, installing and caring for new sod isn’t foolproof though, and comes with many questions. Today, we are addressing some of the most asked questions that homeowners have about new lawns. 


1. How do I install a new lawn?

At Sod University, we like to lay out seven steps when it comes to a successful new lawn installation: 

1. Testing the soil,

2. Choosing the grass,

3. Measuring the area you want to install new sod in,

4. Removing old grass,

5. Preparing the soil for installation and leveling, 

6. Laying the new sod,

7. Watering and fertilizing the new sod. 

 

Though some choose to let a professional handle most of these steps, it’s a good idea for homeowners to have an idea of the installation process themselves to ensure everything is done correctly and in order.



2. How much does a new lawn cost?

There are a couple of different factors that play into pricing for a new lawn. Costs depend on who you’re buying from, the type of grass you’re installing, the size of the pallet and where you live.


Like any other product, grass varieties are not created equal. More expensive varieties often have elevated features while cheaper options may not (think drought and shade tolerance, wear resistance, green-up ability, etc.). You get what you pay for. 


Location also plays a role. Sod needs to be trucked to your home, so your proximity to a farm provider also impacts the cost. 


Grass is often quoted to homeowners by the pallet, so understanding pallet sizing is the key to the ordering process. 


3. What is the best sod to use on a new lawn?

Believe it or not, there’s actually A LOT that goes into selecting the perfect grass for your landscape. First and foremost, you should understand the difference between warm and cool season sod and which varieties grow near you. Certain grass types only perform so well in specific locations. 


For example, Kentucky bluegrass, a cool season grass type, won’t perform well in Florida. It’s also probably not sold anywhere near you for this exact reason.

 

Here are some other things to consider when selecting a grass type for your lawn:

  • Your lawn’s current condition – this includes shade, the type of soil you have or if you have children or pets. Thinking about a grass type that tolerates your lawn’s conditions can play a huge factor in the overall success of your lawn.

  • The type of “look” you prefer – do you want grass with really wide blades or finer blades? What shade of green are you looking for when the lawn is in its healthiest state?

  • Maintenance – as previously mentioned, the amount of maintenance your grass requires is a huge deal. If you’re looking for something that requires less mowing, consider looking for a grass that grows slowly or spreads laterally, like CitraBlue® St. Augustine. If you want to spend less money on your irrigation bill, select a drought-tolerant lawn. 

 

 4. What is the best grass seed to use on a new lawn?

There are a few items to consider when choosing a grass seed for your lawn, but the two most important are probably your home’s location and the features you desire in a lawn. 

There are warm season and cool season grasses, so depending on where your home falls on the map, it’s important to pick a variety appropriate for your home’s climate. 


Secondly, you’ll want to prioritize the features you desire the most in a grass. For example, is a low-maintenance yard more important than the look and feel of the grass? Centipede lawns are called “the lazy man’s grass” for a reason—you don’t have to do much to keep it alive. 

 

Overall, there are many varieties to choose from.


5. Should I install sod myself or use a professional?

Installing sod yourself is the less expensive way to go, but a professional will ensure the sod is installed correctly. With that being said, this decision largely depends on personal preference. 


If you have the help of friends and family, installing sod yourself can be painless. If you’re installing the sod alone and you’re covering a large area, a professional might be a better option. 


Regardless, we think it’s best to always know how to install sod properly, even if you’ve hired a professional company. That way, you’ll at least be able to recognize if the process is being done correctly. 


6. How do I plant a new over older grass?

In short—you don’t! If there is old grass in the way of your fresh sod, it is essential to the health of the new sod that you properly remove it before laying the new sod. Otherwise, the new sod won’t have a place to establish roots and it’ll eventually die.


To remove sod the right way, you’ll need to kill it chemically with glyphosate or some other non-selective herbicide and then cut away the remains with either sod cutters or a shovel. It’s important to take this step at least 10–14 days before installation takes place. This gives the grass enough time to die so you can remove it beforehand.


7. How do I remove old sod?

To remove old sod, you have two choices: use a sod cutter for efficiency or a shovel for smaller areas. Before starting, apply a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate to ease removal by killing the grass, but be mindful of its potential to harm other plants. Sod cutters, while initially daunting, are user-friendly and rentable from hardware stores. Shovels are an option for less extensive work, but for larger projects, sod cutters are recommended for their ease and speed.

 

8. When is the best time to lay sod?

Sod can be successfully installed any time of the year but the best time to lay sod is actually early to mid-fall. This varies slightly depending on where you live. Early fall allows for time for the sod to establish before the hot and often dry summer. You can also install sod in the spring, summer and winter seasons.


9. When is the best time to plant grass seed?

The best time to plant grass seed depends on if you’re planting cool season or warm season grass seed. You can plant grass seed any time of the year, but fall is the best time to seed a lawn with a cool season turfgrass variety. Spring is the best time to plant warm season turfgrass seed. 


10. When is the best time to plant grass plugs?

Like grass seed, the best time to plant grass plugs largely depends on where you live and the climate you live in. Spring is the best time to install grass plugs because temperatures aren’t exceedingly high yet. 


Summer is the worst time because of the amount of water you’ll need to use to help the plugs establish during the hottest time of the year. Overwatering can also lead to disease outbreaks, which is the last thing your newly establishing plugs need to endure as they grow.


11. What fertilizer should I use on new sod?

Your best bet for nourishing your lawn with everything it needs doesn’t have to be difficult. Any fertilizer heavy in nitrogen is usually the wrong answer. Your lawn needs phosphorus more than anything as this nutrient promotes root growth while the new sod establishes in its permanent location. If you know how to read a fertilizer label, you’ll have an easier time selecting a fertilizer with a good amount of phosphorus. 


I recommend Lawnifi’s®  New Lawn Starter Box to give your fresh sod a head start. The kit contains two liquid bottles of Grow and one liquid bottle of Maintain, in easy-to-use, proprietary formulas. Follow the simple instructions and watch your sod thrive. 

 

12. When do I apply fertilizer on new sod?

The Starter fertilizer should be applied immediately after installation, again at the two-week mark and then again at the four-week mark. After these applications, continue with monthly fertilization during growing seasons with our Spring, Summer and Fall Fertilizer Boxes. 

 

13. When do I mow new sod?

About two weeks after installation, lightly tug on the sod to see whether roots have begun to establish. If little white roots have begun to take, it’s time for the first mow! If not, wait a few more days and check again. 

 

14. What height should my new lawn be mowed at?

it’s best to mow at the highest setting your mower offers during the first mow. Once the first 30 days after installation have passed, begin mowing at your grass type’s ideal height. Find your grass type’s ideal height in our Homeowner Maintenance Guides located here.


15. When do I water newly laid sod?

Most lawn care experts recommend that you water your new sod on the first day of installation as this will keep your sod from drying out around the edges. There are a lot of exposed edges along the pieces of your sod that dry out fairly easily, so watering more frequently and thoroughly during establishment is suggested.


16. When can I apply control products on my new lawn?

For new sod, avoid chemical treatments at first; hand-pull weeds until after 3-4 mows, starting two weeks post-installation. Then, spot-treat weeds with a compatible selective post-emergent herbicide. For lawns previously damaged by insects, pre-treat old sod and soil with insect control products, waiting 3-4 weeks post-installation before treating new sod. If new sod arrives with pests, treat immediately. For disease, verify it's not drought damage, reduce watering, and apply a contact fungicide every two weeks, and treat the entire lawn with a systemic fungicide for long-term protection.

 

17. How do I care for new sod planted in shade?

It’s important to select a shade tolerant turfgrass variety if you’re installing sod in shady locations. Some of the top shade tolerant turfgrasses include red fescue, tall fescue, St. Augustine and fine-bladed zoysia grasses. Breeders are constantly improving new turfgrass varieties, so there may be exceptions to the above list of shade tolerant grasses. 

Generally speaking, though, we suggest the following:

 

With any shade tolerant variety, be sure to budget for several applications of systemic fungicide per year. Additionally, note that to avoid disease it is best to water less in shaded areas compared to areas that receive full sun. 


Learn more about achieving a great lawn with Sod University tips here or subscribe to the weekly newsletter.

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