To seed or to sod? There's no competition

Posted March 20, 2018 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2018 3:18 p.m. EDT

When deciding between starting your lawn from seed or covering your lawn with sod, you needn't stress. There's no contest. Sod wins.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Sod Producers Association.

When deciding between establishing your lawn from seed or covering your lawn with sod, you need not stress. There's no contest: sod wins.

Let's add up the score of sod vs. seed

Grass Selection: Sod

Some of the most popular grasses, especially certain varieties of warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine) either lack uniformity when seeded or do not produce viable seed. They can only be vegetatively planted either as sod. sprigs or plugs.

The North Carolina Sod Producers Association is a great resource for helping you decide which grass is best for your situation.

Time until it looks good: Sod

Sod -- the lush carpet of grass -- looks good from the moment it is installed on a lawn, usually within a day. If you start with seed, however, you start with bare ground perhaps covered by a little mulch, and the seed may actually end up feeding the birds before it ever has a chance to mature into a lawn.

Seed could take months to produce a viable lawn. Walking barefoot on a newly installed sod lawn is one of the great pleasures of life. Children often like to roll and play on it and you don’t have to worry about weeds in a sod lawn. Let them play, but not too long. You’ll want your new sod lawn to adjust to its new location.

Time until market value of the property goes up: Sod

Landscaping with sod can instantly increase the market value of a property by as much as 15 percent, according the NCSPA. Using sod can enhance "curb appeal," thus resulting in a quicker sale by attracting prospective buyers sooner.

A home for sale with a newly seeded lawn has the look of desperation about it. Prospective buyers may wonder what else has been neglected.

Time to install: Even

Both sod and seed can be completed in a day so the score is even here. Both require the same amount of soil preparation and the success of both depends on the expertise of the installer.

"You can tell if your sodded lawn is establishing correctly by pulling up on it. Any resistance means that it is rooting into the soil," said Dr. Art Bruneau, professor emeritus at North Carolina State University. "Once established you should not be able to lift the sod. This may only take several weeks under ideal conditions."

Time of year to install: Sod

Sod, unlike seed, can be planted anytime of the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Cool season grasses are best seeded in early fall but constant care is required for several months. Spring seeding of tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass in the Piedmont region of North Carolina often fails because of increasing high temperatures and competition from annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass.

The seeding season may not fit into your busy schedule. Wouldn't you rather be having fun rather than planting seed, maintaining for several months then hoping for it to fill in and mature?

Money: Even

"Sod may cost more in the short term for the installation, but in the long term the time savings make it worth the initial costs," Bruneau said. "The work involved in creating a lawn from seed can take weeks or months. And time is money."

A lawn created from seed can take more than six or 12 months to become established. In that time, it will need the special care of watering, extra fertilizer for growth and may need herbicides to keep the weeds away. Yes, seed is cheaper than sod that first week, the difference will be minimal in the long run. And with sod, a beautiful and useful lawn was present from the start.

Maintenance: Sod

Sod provides instant soil stabilization in erosion-prone areas. Because sod is a fully mature, cultivated product, it can be installed on slopes where seeding is difficult if not impossible.

Sod also arrives weed-free thus requiring less herbicides. Starting from seed requires hoping that the grass seedling will fill in before any weeds establish.

Final Score: Sod wins

Professional Resources

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Sod Producers Association.