Seeding and sodding home lawns
When establishing a new lawn, a common question asked is, "Should I seed or sod?" Both have advantages and disadvantages. There are three important decisions when considering establishment methods:
- Turfgrass selection
- Site preparation
- Care of the new lawn
Timing and site specific conditions may also influence the decision. For example, sodding will provide an immediate lawn if the site is susceptible to erosion. Once the lawn is established, it can provide many benefits such as cooling effects, erosion prevention, as well as noise and allergen reductions.
The pros and cons
The most important difference between seeding and sodding is the time necessary for developing a mature or durable turf. The following outline lists some of the advantages and disadvantages of each establishment method.
- More grass types and varieties to choose from
- Less expensive than sodding
- Stronger root system development initially
- No layering of soil types
- Initial establishment is longer
- For best results, time of seeding is limited mainly to late summer and early fall
- Moisture is critical for the young seedlings
- It takes nearly a full season to achieve a mature and durable lawn
- Rapid establishment and relatively weed-free in the beginning
- Good for slopes or areas prone to erosion
- Can be laid any time during the growing season
- "Instant" lawn
- Less flexibility in choosing species; most sod in Minnesota will be Kentucky bluegrass
- Labor intensive to install
- Potential layering of soil types which causes rooting issues
In Minnesota, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, turf-type tall fescue and some of the perennial ryegrass varieties are recommended. Your local seed distributor, garden center, or county extension educator can help you to determine the best varieties for your lawn.
- For shady locations, look for seed mixtures specifying shade tolerance. These will contain fine fescues along with some common and shade-tolerant Kentucky bluegrasses.
- For sunny areas that receive a lot of wear, mixtures of 50% improved Kentucky bluegrasses and 50% perennial ryegrasses are best.
- For low maintenance turf, mixtures of Kentucky bluegrasses and fine fescues or newer tall fescues will offer a durable lawn.
Most of the sod grown in Minnesota is a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass varieties. Occasionally, some perennial ryegrass, improved varieties of tall fescue or fine fescue are available in the mixture. A retailer or installer should know what varieties are in their sod; if not, they can get this information from the sod grower.
Soil preparation: seed and sod
Soil preparation should be the same for seeding or sodding.
- Do a soil test. Follow sampling procedures for representative results.
- Make amendments as prescribed by the soil test.
- Firm the soil slightly with a roller or cultipacker.
- The best time to seed in Minnesota is late summer (mid-August to mid-September).
- Seed should be spread at a half rate in perpendicular directions across the site. Follow up with a light raking allowing about 10–15% of the seed to show.
- Use a roller or cultipacker over the area to ensure good seed-soil contact.
- Water to a depth of 4–6 inches and then follow a light and frequent watering program by applying light irrigation up to 3-4 times per day.
- After germination, reduce the watering frequency as roots grow into the soil.
- Ideally, fresh sod should have been cut no more than 24 hours prior to delivery. It should be laid as soon as possible, or within one day after delivery.
- Lay the sod on slightly moistened soil, staggering the seams so they are offset.
- On a slope, lay the rolls across the slope and stake each piece to hold it in place. Fill any cracks with soil to prevent edges from drying. Use a roller about one third full of water to ensure the roots of the sod have good contact with the soil.
- Keep the sod moist but not saturated until it is firmly rooted in the soil (a few days), then gradually reduce watering. After approximately 10-14 days perform a tug test by gently tugging the sod in a few areas to ensure that it has firmly rooted into the soil. If the sod has resistance it is rooted in and can be treated as an established lawn.