Know The Facts When You Buy Turfgrass Sod

More people than ever are buying turfgrass sod for their new lawns, according to a Gallup Organization survey, and for good reason.  Sodding eliminates the questionable and time-consuming results of seeding as it almost magically turns bare ground into a beautiful lawn in just hours.

In a world of increasing demands for our time and attention, turfgrass sod reduces the time we have to commit to achieving a reasonable goal and it satisfies our need for immediate and cost-effective results.

Because sod is so easy to install, either on an entire lawn or just a small patch area, do-it-yourselfers (or even those using a landscape professional) who want sod for their home should know what to look for when buying sod.  The Lawn Institute, an international not-for-profit group headquartered in suburban Chicago, recommends the following:

•  Know what fresh, high-quality sod looks like.  Uniformity is an absolute requirement for high-quality sod.  Viewed from the grass side, every piece of sod should be the same width and length with square edges on all sides.  It should all have been mowed to the same height and there should not be any noticeable weeds or dissimilar grasses.  When you look at the soil side, the bottom should be damp to moist and easy to roll and unroll.  Every piece of sod should be strong enough that it can be lifted overhead from one end and not fall apart.

•  Know the types of grass in the sod.  At the one extreme, all grass looks alike…it's green; however, at the other extreme (to the scientist, for example), there are hundreds of different species and cultivars of grass, each with their own unique characteristics.  Ask your sod supplier (a sod farm, nursery center, etc. ) what species and cultivars are contained in the turf you are considering.  In addition to the appearance of your lawn, different types of grass also have different maintenance requirements such as water needs, mowing heights, shade tolerances, etc.  If it's a fescue lawn you want, a bluegrass sod won't work for you.

 •  Know the type of soil in your yard and what soil the sod was grown on.  For the best results and the lease maintenance, the soil in your yard and the soil the sod was grown in should be very similar.  If your yard has poor soil (heavy clay, for example), it should be improved.  But even if your soil is acceptable, trying to transplant sod that was produced on a high-organic soil (peat or muck) onto your mineral soil yard may create problems.  Matching the soils between farm and yard does not have to be exacting, but avoid extreme differences.

 •  Know that the sod is fresh.  Because a high percentage of the sod's roots were severed and left in the field when the grass was harvested, the pieces are highly perishable.  Most turf experts agree that sod should be transplanted within 24-72 hours after it's been harvested.  Knowing when the sod was cut from the field and how long it's been stacked on a pallet are essential to learning the freshness and viability of the sod.  Grass that's been on a pallet for a couple of days and stored in the blazing summer sun will not be vigorous enough to transplant well and should be avoided.

 •  Know how to install the sod.  Just as it's important to purchase only fresh sod, it's equally important to know how to properly install your new lawn.  Consideration to preparation of the site's soil, properly laying each piece, minimizing traffic on the new sod and providing adequate water throughout the establishment period are all important.

 •  Know what care is required for the sod.  Without proper maintenance, the benefits of all of the other efforts to create a beautiful new lawn can be lost. 

Every type of sod has unique requirements for watering, fertilization and mowing that should be understood and implemented to keep the new lawn beautiful for years to come.  By knowing what to do and when to do it, you don't have to become a slave to your lawn.

For additional information about purchasing, installing and caring for turfgrass sod, The Lawn Institute offers a variety of complimentary brochures.  Send requests to The Lawn Institute, 2 East Main Street, East Dundee, IL  60118.