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How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod

By Edited Apr 11, 2016 1 0
How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

Several years ago when I built my deck, I had to do some extensive landscaping in the area surrounding the deck to make it look finished. This included transporting some soil from other parts of the yard, laying sod and planting some shrubs around the base of the deck.

I decided that I would lay Bermuda sod in my background to match the front and side. At that point, I had patchy fescue grass that was having trouble growing in certain areas mainly because of erosion issues and a large tree just off to the side of my deck. By the way, I removed that tree several years later and the Bermuda I planted took off like a weed.

This is the process I undertook before laying out the sod.

Clearing the Site

Before I could do anything, I had to clear the existing area of all grass and rocks. I manually removed the existing Fescue grass with a shovel. That was a lot of fun. It took a couple of weeks to do this on my own because I had to do an area about 25 x 25 square feet for this particular area. I set all of the clumps of grass to the side because I planned on using them later.

Once I got the fescue dug up, I looked for any rocks or hard soil that would impede the growth of the new Bermuda grass. I found one that I started digging out and it kept going deeper and deeper. Before I knew it, I had a 75 lb rock over a foot thick. I managed to finally dig it out and rolled it over to another area of the yard where it still sits as a rock border. Then I had to fill the hole the rock came out of, packing it as tight as I could so that it would not settle into a low spot in the future.

Leveling the Area

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

The next step was to level out the low spots to create a smooth surface to lay the Bermuda sod. Rather than having a truckload of dirt delivered for upwards of $300, I decided to find my own dirt. I scoped out an area in the back of the property and started digging and hauling.

Keep in mind that when I say leveling the yard, I really mean smoothing it out so that it is easier to mow. I kept the drainage grade away from the house in place.

I used the dirt to level out some of the areas that had experience drainage and soil erosion in the past. Then I wet the ground, smoothed it out, wet it again, and continued that process several times.

This whole process of digging, hauling, and level out dirt went on for about two weeks. I dumped the fescue grass clippings and dirt clumps in the giant hole I had dug in the back yard. 

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

I eventually turned that hole into a fire pit.

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

How to Order Sod

Sod is more expensive than simply seeding your lawn, so you only want to buy what you need.

Measure the area of your yard that you want to cover with sod. You can use one of the rolling measuring wheels to make this job go faster.

Draw out the yard and include the measurements.  Determine the square footage based on the length and width measurements.  The sod company can help determine the amount of sod  you need for the area you need to cover.

How to Lay Sod

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

I had 3 palettes of sod delivered once I had the landscape prepared.  Actually, I was not quite finished removing the fescue in another small area off to the side, and truth be told, I had too much Bermuda sod delivered.

Some sod is delivered in rolls, and you have to roll it out on the ground. Mine was simply cut in rectangles and laid on top of each other.

I scrambled to get as much of it out on the afternoon that it was delivered. I failed miserably, only getting through 1 1/3 pallets. I had to leave the rest sitting on the pallets overnight even though the sod company said it needed to be laid the same day as delivery. It was impossible for 1 person to do though. Let's just say, I have a new appreciation for the sod layers of the world.

I got up early the next morning and got the rest of it laid out in a little over two hours, then collapsed. I was forced to lay some of the sod over existing Fescue grass simply because I had so much sod. It was either that, or let it go to waste.

Over the next several weeks, I watered the area in the morning for about half an hour. It is best to water in the early morning hours rather than later in the evening because diseases on plants can thrive when watered at night.

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro

How to Install Sod

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General Tips for Preparing a Yard and Laying Sod

How to Prepare Your Yard for Sod
Credit: mjpyro
  • Clear the site any stumps and rocks that are larger than 3 inches in diameter.
  • Fill in any small low spots with bags of soil purchased at a home improvement store. For larger issues with the soil, have a truck load of soil delivered.
  • Grade the soil away from your home. For minor issues, this can be done by hand with shovel and rakes. For more involved grading issues, you can rent a skid steer for a couple hundred dollars a day, or have a professional landscaper come in and grade it.
  • Apply fertilizer that is high in phosphate worked into the top 3-4 inches of soil.
  • Roll the entire area with a lawn roller which will help to settle the soil and reveal additional low spots.
  • Water the area with a sprayer which will help the soil settle further before planting.
  • Have helpers if you are going to lay sod, especially if you have more than one pallet delivered.
  • Place sod length to length and unroll it outward. If it is delivered in squares, simply lay side-by-side.
  • Water it generously for the next two weeks.
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