Preparing and Installing Sod
Step #1: Soil Sample
Take a soil sample 4" deep throughout the area you intend to sod and have it tested by a qualified consultant. The Clemson University Extension and many local landscape supply or sod retailers offer this service at around $15 per sample. The sample should contain around 1 quart of soil. This soil report will tell you what your fertility requirements are and how to amend any deficient nutrients. Please allow two weeks for soil test results to return.
Step #2: Remove Existing Grass
If you have existing grass in the areas that you are planning to install your new sod, Roundup (or a generic with the active ingredient of glyphosate)needs to be sprayed on the area you intend to replace before tilling. This may take more than one application to kill certian varieties of grass and weeds. Doing this will insure that you have less weeds and other grasses appear in your new lawn. Wait at least 3 days after spraying to proceed with the install.
Step #3: Roto-till
Roto-till the area for the new install to a depth of about 6 inches. Remove any debris, rocks, or dead grass. Remember to slope the site away from any buildings and to keep the grade about 1 inch below any sidewalks or driveways to allow room for the root profile and soil from the new grass. Once grading is complete, water everything well to allow the area to settle and provide a moist base for the sod. Using wetting agents during this phase is also recommended to ensure that moisture is retained in the soil. Having a moist soil base prior to installation is one of the most important factors in ensuring a successful lawn. It will also drastically reduce the amount of water required after the new sod is installed.
Step #4: Installation
Sod is typically delivered on pallets and cut into rectangular pieces. A pallet of sod can range from 400-500 square feet of coverage depending on the farm it comes from. Installation should begin as soon as the grass arrives on site. The shelf life of grass is no more than 48 hours on a pallet in the sun, and yellowing can occur in as little as 4 hours from harvesting. Sod is a living plant that requires soil, moisture, and sun to survive. Transplanting grass from a field to a yard puts a lot of stress on the plant, and makes it particularly fragile in the first 2-4 weeks after installation. Lay the pieces of sod in a brick-like fashion while staggering the seams. After the grass has been laid the new lawn should be watered throughly with approximately 1 inch of water. For the first two weeks the grass should be watered daily, but do not over saturate the ground. If puddles are present, you have watered too much. After the initial 2 weeks, reduce watering to 3 times per week during the hot months of summer and 1 time per week for the rest of the year. Deep and infrequent watering promotes deep root systems and a more drought tolerant lawn. Traffic from pets and children should be as low as possible for the first month after installation.
Step #5: Fertilizing New Sod
Starter fertilizer to a new lawn is a great way to reduce stress and promote rapid rooting of your new sod. Fungicide is also an important part of a new sod installation, and should be applied to a new lawn to prevent any fungus or disease issues. Centipede, Fesuce, St. Augustine, and Zoysia are all susceptible to fungus and diseases and a good systemic fungicide is a good insurance policy against any issues.