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Tips for preparing your yard for turfgrass sod

Posted March 2
Updated March 3

Gardener applying turf rolls in the backyard

Everyone and everything starts somewhere. For example, homes that stand for generations start with a strong foundation. Installing turfgrass sod is no different -- start properly and start strong, and your lawn will last.

Site Prep

Healthy sod starts with a healthy site. Prepare the site by removing weeds and debris and then plan for drainage and grading of the site.

So, with weeds and debris removed, next be sure to plan for easy maintenance and healthy appearance of the lawn. Try to avoid steep grades and overly shaded spots. Aim for a 1- to 2-percent slope away from building foundations as a sweet spot for proper drainage and ease of care.

Next up, remove the topsoil (4 to 8 inches) from the site and then reshape the site to your liking. Then redistribute the topsoil and water the site (yes, you are watering dirt) to ensure proper settling and density of the soil.

Tilling of the soil is crucial, because it allows the topsoil and subsoil to bond. This helps your turfgrass sod because it improves root penetration and water movement. Why is that such a big deal? 80 percent of a grass plant's weight is in its roots, and the roots are what hold the soil and plant together, forming the sod. Take care of your roots, and they will take care of you.

Soil Prep and Fertilization

Take a soil sample from your front and back yard to determine pH levels of the soil and learn the nutrient requirements you will need to meet. With that information, choose the proper fertilizer for your soil and the turfgrass you will be installing.

Apply the correct amount of lime and fertilizer recommended for your soil. Then, finish grading the entire site, maintaining rough grading contours and slopes using a tractor-mounted box blade (large sites) or a heavy-duty rake (smaller sites).

If possible, roll the area with a lawn roller in order to help settle the surface and reveal any low spots that should be filled to match the surrounding grade level. If time permits, allow the area to settle further with rainfall or by applying irrigation water.

Install the sod. Upon installation, apply fertilizer uniformly with a rotary or drop-type spreader.

You may have noticed how many steps took place before the sod was actually installed. When it comes to turfgrass sod, preparation is the key to unlocking a long-lasting and lovely lawn that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

This story was written for the North Carolina Sod Producers Association.

This promotion is supported in part by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.


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