Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or are managing this project for others to implement, there are quite a few steps involved with the planning for and purchasing of sod. This can be a daunting task whether your site is quite large or you simply need to improve some bare spots in your lawn. The following is an attempt to address every detail you should consider.
BEFORE YOU PURCHASE YOUR SOD
PREPARE YOUR SITE
Sod is a living organism. An analogy could be like bringing home a new-born baby. It needs to be nurtured and cared for to survive on its own. Your initial care must be consistent and very dedicated. As it matures and becomes more self-reliant, your care will be less demanding. Eventually, you will be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But first...
IS YOUR SOIL SUITABLE
FOR THE GROWTH OF HEALTHY GRASS?
TEST YOUR SOIL!
The condition of your soil will be critical to the success of sod you plant. If it is hard and clay-like, it will not allow penetration of the new delicate grass roots in their search for moisture and nutrients. Also, if the pH balance is inappropriate, grass will struggle with health issues. While you can utilize a formal laboratory to test your soil for the most reliable, scientific information, there are fairly simple tests you can perform yourself at home even without purchasing a test kit from a home center.
Your home test our results will rely on your own assumptions of how to address any soil deficiencies. If your sod investment is not a big risk to you, then there is no harm in trying to do it on your own.
FREE IN-HOME TESTS
SOIL COMPOSITION TEST
You can determine what type of soil you have by conducting a home test using a simple glass jar so you can see how the soil settles once wet and shaken. Add enough soil to fill about half of the jar and add enough water to soak your soil sample. Shake the jar vigorously for 3 minutes. Wait a minute, measure with a ruler and notate what has settled in the bottom first which will be the sand content. Wait 4 more minutes and measure the bottom sediment which will be the sand and silt in your soil, noting the difference between your first and second measurements. Next wait 24 hours and check the measurement of what has settled in the bottom. This will be the clay content. Your soil will give you best success with your sod installation if it is about 40% each of sand and silt and only 20% clay.
If your soil is predominantly sandy, it will drain well but may need help for grass to receive enough nutrition. Just the opposite problem occurs with predominantly clay-like soil which holds an excessive amount of moisture which could promote rotting of grass roots. Clay also becomes like cement in dry weather which greatly stresses your grass root system. In addition to retaining moisture, clay also holds onto nutrients as well as harmful chemicals.
If you cannot remedy undesirable soil and replace it with a sandy loam which is a well-draining, nutrient-rich base for your grass, then you will need to address ensuing problems with proper fertilizer and other strategies for overcoming future difficulties.
SOIL pH TEST
It is relatively easy to test for your soil's pH.
In a bowl add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to about 2 tablespoons of your soil sample. If this causes foaming or bubbling, then your soil is alkaline or "sweet." This condition can be rectified by adding ground sulfur.
An additional test requires moistening your second soil sample with distilled water in a clean bowl and introducing half a cup of baking soda. If this results in fizzing, your soil is acidic or "sour." Adding ground limestone can stabilize this imbalance.
If you had no reaction to either test, your soil is neutral or presumably a pH value of about 7. A lab test would provide the specific necessary information to confirm and adjust such conditions for you.
The ideal pH for healthy growth of grass is about 6.5 - 7.
SOIL EARTHWORM TEST
The presence of earthworms in your soil is a very good sign. Natural tillers, they keep your soil aerated and nutrients accessible to your roots. As long as it is above 50 degrees, you can determine your soil's earthworm population. Simply dig up about a cubic foot of soil and spread it out on
a flat, clean surface. Probe into the solid clumps and count how many earthworms you see. If you spot fewer than ten, your soil would benefit from soil amendment from matter which attracts earthworms. This includes organic mulch, compost, manure and water, plus refraining from the use of chemicals. An earthworm's excrement (casting) delivers about eight times more nutrients to your soil than it originally ingested!
WHERE TO GET YOUR SOIL
PROFESSIONALLY TESTED IN
While you can do your own search to find a suitable lab to perform your soil tests, you can also contact your area cooperative extension for help.
University of Connecticut Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory | 6 Sherman Place, Unit 5102, Storrs, CT 06269 | phone: 860-486-4274 fax: 860-486-4562
This lab invites your mailed samples to conduct soil testing and welcomes homeowners, professional growers, groundskeepers, landscaping companies, lawn care workers and construction firms and others.
You can find answers to whatever questions you have here:
WHERE TO GET YOUR SOIL
PROFESSIONALLY TESTED IN
NEW YORK STATE
Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory, G01 Bradfield Hall, 306 Tower Rd, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA | Phone: 607-255-4540 | Fax: 607-255-7656
CNAL does not provide fertilizer recommendations. Clients who want fertilizer recommendations based on Cornell University research should contact AgroOne.
See links below for specific information.
Soil Testing Services
at AgroOne in partnership with Cornell University.
for Soil Testing Lab Services at AgroOne in partnership with Cornell University.
(Soil Test #856 for home lawn health is listed at $8.)
How To Take a Soil Sample
for AgroOne's lab services in partnership with Cornell University.
How To Submit a Soil Sample
for AgroOne's lab services in partnership with Cornell University.
Your Options for Receiving Results
from AgroOne's lab services in partnership with Cornell University.
IS YOUR SITE READY FOR
INSTALLATION OF YOUR NEW SOD?
PREPARE YOUR GROUND!
Just as when you plant a garden, you need to address the state of your soil. First, sod will need the ability to put down roots to extract moisture from a depth of about 6-7 inches below surface. This means you will need to remove any preexisting turf, weeds, rocks, and other debris from your planting area so your soil is ready for tilling or turning over. This aerates the soil and recycles nutrients from a deeper level. If you have been lax about removing weed growth, your tilling will serve to promote more vigorous weed growth, unfortunately. If your soil tests have not identified any deficiencies, you only need to grade your newly cleaned planting area so your sod will sit evenly when planted. When grading, pay attention to creating a slight incline away from structures and other paved surfaces to avoid poor drainage. Keep your soil level about an inch below any pavement in close proximity. Finally, it is advised that you roll your site to compact soil and ensure a level surface. This will not defeat the lower aeration and tilling you accomplished but will deter uneven settling once sod is planted.
If your soil tests defined some problems, you will need to address these issues before grading. This could mean adding an appropriate fertilizer and other amendments to the soil as recommended for grass health.
Another concern you should be aware of is whether your ability to water your sod and developing lawn will be sufficient. If you are just adding a few rolls of sod to your existing lawn, you will probably be able to focus your attention on the watering regimen you will need to follow for the next few weeks and long-term. If your site is large and your sod order is substantial, you should consider the benefits of investing in a professionally installed irrigation system for best results.
HOW TO MEASURE YOUR PROPERTY TO ORDER SOD
HOW MUCH SOD DO YOU NEED?
Since sod is sold by the square foot, you need to find the total square footage of your site. We have no minimum so you may order as much or as little as you need.
USING THE MANUAL METHOD
To find the area of your site, you need to multiply the length by the width. You will need to subtract the square footage of any structures (your house, driveway, sheds, etc.) where you will not need sod.
Of course, many sites are not perfectly rectangular which makes measuring more challenging. One way to approach this problem is to estimate your site size as if it were perfectly rectangular. You can do this by walking your site in straight lines to get the overall width and length with each pace worth about 3 ft. Since it is sometimes recommended that you plan to order more sod than you think you need in case of measurement miscalculations, waste after trimming and installation errors, you can justify any extra square footage in your estimate for this purpose. Large home centers also sell measuring wheels which can possibly give you a more accurate estimate. An old-fashioned tape measure can be used as well but usually requires two people to accomplish.
Another way to solve this irregular property shape issue is to divide your site into a number of square plots for which you can then get the square footage. Add all the total square footage of each plot to get a grand total.
OR...USE MODERN TECHNOLOGY INSTEAD!
If you would prefer to let today’s modern technology accomplish this task for you, you can use the following link to a free calculator:
It is easy to use, totally free, and relies on your drawing your preferred sod area with a pen tool on a Google Satellite map of your address. It works on desktop and other mobile devices. You do not need to register or commit to a free account for it to work.
Using the Start Now button, it takes you to the Google Earth map where you need to input your address in the search field.
When your property appears, you can select the pen tool shown on the right side of the page to draw the area you want measured and it will figure total square footage
If you click on the dot on your pen tool drawing, it will show the results above your map drawing.
Jot down the total shown before proceeding. You can then draw another outline of your house, driveway, etc. so you can subtract that square footage from your overall total. You can find that new square footage to subtract again by clicking the blue dot on your new pen tool drawing.
If you get confused, scroll down on the "Start Now" page (use link below) where you can watch a video titled "How It Works."
HOW TO FIGURE YOUR ORDER SIZE
D. Breen Sod is sold by the roll which measures 2 ft. wide x 5 ft. long. That means one roll of sod is 10 sq. ft. If you need sod to cover a total site square footage of 2,000 sq. ft. (for example), you will need 200 rolls of sod at 10 sq. ft. each. Our pallets can typically stack up to 60 rolls or 600 sq. ft. We can deliver up to 12,000 sq. ft. per truckload or 1200 rolls. Our deliveries are made with one or several of our trucks and moved by a portable lift truck once on your site.
YOUR ORDER OF SOD?
If preferred, smaller orders of sod can be picked up from our Goshen farm location when prearranged. Since we cut your sod to be ready for your pick-up time, it is important that you arrive promptly to avoid any delay in installing and irrigating your sod immediately. Sod cannot long tolerate lack of water without its roots planted. This also means where you intend to plant your sod must be ready with soil prepared in advance, graded, aerated and at the proper pH for your successful installation.
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR VEHICLE?
DIMENSIONS OF A PALLET OF SOD
A Pallet of Sod is 4x4x4 or 64 cu. ft.
Each roll of sod is 2 ft x 5 ft or 10 sq. ft.
Each Pallet will hold an average of 60 rolls
or 600 sq. ft. pf sod.
PLANTING YOUR NEW SOD
The most important thing to understand is that your new rolls of sod should be unrolled and planted as soon as they arrive at your site. This is because the roots have been shocked by the cutting process to provide you with your order and are in immediate need of moisture from irrigation as well as nutrients and sunlight when planted. If you have a large order, you should break your task into smaller sections so you can irrigate while you address the other segments. Your installation should follow a brickwork pattern so seams are staggered. Lay the rolls as tightly as possible without overlapping. This will expedite the process of blending into one cohesive lawn when rooted.
PLANTING IN COLD WEATHER?
Take a look at our Dec. 2017 Sod Project for a home in Livingston, New Jersey. Our installers planted their sod right over snow.
Planting in Snow
HOW TO CHOOSE SOD
FOR YOUR SITE
There are two types of sod grown by D. Breen Sod Farms. Both are classified as "Cool-Season" Sod which is perfect for use in our greater New York region and the Northeastern area of the United States.
Cool-season sod is hardy enough to withstand our subzero winters as well as the sometimes extreme heat of our summers. What is critical for survival of your new sod is what kind of lighting conditions your site has. Some sites are exposed to full sun while others are relatively shady. However, all grass needs some sunlight to survive! Since sod is grown in full sun without any shade, installing it in a shady area will be a shock. Grass grows taller quickly in shade in its effort to reach for the sun but the growth is weaker than grass in full sun. If grass installed in a shady area does not get at least 4 hours of dappled or filtered sunlight, it will eventually expire. As a general rule, full sun means 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.
For this exact reason, D. Breen Sod Farms grows 2 types of grass: A special "Athletic" blend of Kentucky Bluegrass for full sun and a special blend of Tall Fescue grass for partial shade or wooded areas.
SEE KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD INFO
SEE TALL FESCUE SOD INFO
IMMEDIATELY AFTER PLANTING
CARING FOR YOUR NEW SOD
SEE FIRST 2 WEEKS
OF SOD CARE