No, it’s not a song by The Clash, but it is a dilemma facing homeowners who are trying to decide what to do with a scruffily sad, miserable, irredeemable lawn.
First let’s look at the difference. Sodding is transplanting a mature turf, while seeing is … seeding a new lawn from scratch.
- A greater variety of grass types and varieties
- Less expensive
- The root system development is stronger
- It takes longer to establish
- Planting is limited to late summer/early fall
- Moisture is critical for young seedlings
- Establishes quickly and relatively weed-free at the beginning.
- Good for slopes or areas prone to erosion
- Can be laid any time during the growing season
- Less selection of grasses and shade tolerance
For both seeding and sodding, preparing the soil is critical. Doing it right will ease maintenance for years to come, and will ensure a healthier lawn. Start by taking a soil test to determine the characteristics of the soil you are working with. Consult the nearest county extension office for sampling materials and procedures.
The best type of soil for growing turf is a sandy loam. This soil is mostly sand with some silt and clay. Amending heavy clay soil with organic matter such as peat will open up the soil, and allow for better air and water movement. Any topsoil or soil ingredient should be incorporated into the native soil carefully. Fine grade the area with the addition of phosphorus and potassium fertilizer, as prescribed by the soil test. Additional nitrogen can be added after the lawn is mowed the first time. A roller or cultipacker (a segmented roller that also breaks up soil lumps) can be used to firm the soil. The site is now ready for seed or sod.
The best time to seed is late summer to October, which allows ample time for the plants to be well established before winter. Seeding can be done in the spring; however, weeds and high-summer temperatures often reduce the chance of success.
Seed should be spread in two steps, each at a half rate, in perpendicular directions across the site. This technique ensures the most uniform coverage. Follow up with a light raking and use a roller or cultipacker over the area to ensure good seed-soil contact.
Watering the new site is very important. For the best germination, be sure that there is moist soil to a depth of 4–6 inches. After seeding, water only as needed. Cease watering when puddles appear. Ordinarily, 6–12 weeks are needed for establishment. It takes nearly a full season for the new lawn to be mature and durable.
Selecting the proper grass seed mixture is important. Some mixes are tough and durable, designed for play areas. Other fine-bladed grasses offer a lush, immaculate lawn in the sun, or you may need a variety that thrives in the shade.
- Kentucky bluegrass grows well in full sun to part shade. It does not do well in hot exposures.
- Perennial ryegrasses grow well in full sun to part shade. It does not do well in hot exposures.
- Fine-leaved fescues grow well in full sun to light shade. It is slower growing and more water efficient than tall fescue.
- Tall Fescues grow well in full sun to very-light shade.
- Bermuda grasses are durable, and can be planted in summer in the full sun.
Purchase sod as fresh as possible. It should be cut no more than 24 hours prior to delivery. The sod should be laid as soon as possible, or within one day after delivery. If the sod needs to be stored for a time, it should be kept in a cool, shaded area to avoid drying out of exposed rolls.
Lay the sod on slightly moistened soil, staggering the joints much like brick laying. When laying sod on a slope, lay the rolls across the slope and stake each piece to hold it in place. Fill any cracks with soil to prevent edges from drying. Keep the sod moist but not saturated until it is firmly rooted in the soil (a few days), then gradually reduce watering. In two to three months it can be treated as an established lawn.
Aerification may help to prevent layering caused by peat or soil that came with the sod.