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Old 07-13-10, 07:57 AM   #1
SonataInFSharp
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Advice for Laying Sod?

Okay, so I plan on laying sod this weekend or next week in my backyard, so I have been reading up on the subject on sod farms' own websites and other sources, but every single site is so very different in what they say that I don't know how much (or how little) I need to do, so I am asking the FOOniverse for advice, of which I am well aware may or may not help me one bit.

Here is my situation: The backyard was half gravel (small yard; it was really a 33% gravel, 66% dirt, 1% worms the size of small snakes mixture), so I removed the gravel and the plastic under it. So, the area is currently down to the flat, smooth, compacted dirt, about 6 inches below where I want the surface to be. I need to raise the surface a bit since the previous owner laid a sidewalk right on top of the existing lawn, so there is a small cliff when stepping off the sidewalk to the lawn.

This is how I plan to prepare the area and lay the sod, based on the conflicting information I have been reading about these past few days:

--I am going to haul in black dirt, and lay it down about 4-6 inches thick in most areas. For the areas that don't need that much dirt, I am going to turn over the soil that is there with a shovel.
--I will level the area using string line as a guide, but making sure the grade slopes away from the house (6+ inches for 10 feet)
--I won't pack the dirt down, but I will walk on it as I go, intentionally.
--Add peat moss to the top of the dirt, and rake it in a bit.
--Add starter fertilizer, without raking it in. (24-24-?? something?)
--Water the area well the night before sod delivery so it can be moist but drain overnight.
--Lay the sod, watering as I go, staggering seams like bricks.
--Walk on the sod intentionally as I go, but don't stomp on it, pack it, or roll it.
--Keep watering as much as I can, daily, about an hour for each spot, for three weeks, etc...
--Start mowing it after 10 days, keep 2"+ high
--Let the 30 pound two year old run on it all he wants right away(?)
--I do not want to put fertilizer on top of the sod because I have a two year old...

--I know this isn't the best time of year to lay sod, but the area (20x30) square feet is in the shade 100% of the day, with a little bit of sunlight that shines through individual leaves on the trees, nothing more.
--I was told that because of my scenario/yard/shade/etc that it will actually be cheaper and much less work for me to lay sod than to seed the entire area.

Any thoughts, advice, etc? Am I putting way too much thought into this like usual? Can I really just put down dirt, grade away from the house, put down sod, water, and skip the other 20 steps in between?
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Old 07-13-10, 08:00 AM   #2
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my advice....let someone else do it.
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Old 07-13-10, 08:05 AM   #3
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my advice....let someone else do it.
Interesting...why? Or just because?
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Old 07-13-10, 08:06 AM   #4
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Laying sod is hard work.
It requires a bit of experience or patience, or both to do good job. Neither of which I have in any measurable amounts.
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Old 07-13-10, 08:10 AM   #5
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Maybe it's relative?

I always thought that I didn't have much patience until I met my wife, then I realized I have TONS.

I have learned that some experienced contracts do a worse job than someone like me who has never done something before, so that doesn't always seem to matter, either.

My dad used to never do anything because it was always "hard work." Then once I tried it for myself, I realized that "hard work" is a vacation compared to raising a toddler.
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Old 07-13-10, 08:15 AM   #6
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Summer is not the right time of the year to lay sod as it will burn and weeds will grow like mad. I had mine laid in October. Seeding in the summertime will only invite birds to fest like it is Thanksgiving. I suggest you put down a ground cover like English Pennyroyal that requires a little water and is green year round unless you get some little beasties who will visit to nibble on the leaves.
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Old 07-13-10, 08:20 AM   #7
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I expected this to be another pooping thread.
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Old 07-13-10, 09:35 AM   #8
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Your idea / plan is very sound. Travelmama is right that late spring or fall is the best time for sod. The heat of the summer is the worst time.

Do not raise the grade over the tree roots by more than 6" if possible. 90% of a trees roots are in the top 3' of soil. Soil is 50 solids, 25% air and 25% water trapped in the capillary spaces of the soil. Changing the grade will rob the tree roots of both air and water.

Add as much soil amendment as you can now and get the area as smooth as you can now. You can make a simple drag with a section of chain link fence and a 2x4. For your small area this migth be overkill. In our part of Texas, the soil is very alkaline, so adding peat or any organic matter really helps.

On the fertilizer, try a 10-20-10 or anything with a high middle number and a low first number. You do not want nitrogen (1st number) as it will promote top growth. You do want phosphorous (2nd number) as it will promote rooting.

Lay the sod tight, or if you can find it, get rolls of sod to cut down on the seams between squares of sod. Think about renting a roller from a rental center or nursery center. This will be a large drum that you can fill with water to weight it down and really get the sod nice and flat and smooth.

lay the sod, water, roll, water, roll.

From then on, keep it evenly moist for the next few weeks.

BTW, studied horticulture at A&M and worked in retail nurserys and greenhouses for years, but have been out of the industry since the 90s
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 07-13-10, 09:57 AM   #9
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Your idea / plan is very sound. Travelmama is right that late spring or fall is the best time for sod. The heat of the summer is the worst time.
I agree, but I am in MN and the area is mostly shaded, so heat shouldn't be too much of an issue, but I was reading that the shade actually could be an issue. Anyway, I am going to go for it!

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Do not raise the grade over the tree roots by more than 6" if possible. 90% of a trees roots are in the top 3' of soil. Soil is 50 solids, 25% air and 25% water trapped in the capillary spaces of the soil. Changing the grade will rob the tree roots of both air and water.
Lucky for me, I only have one tree to deal with and it's slightly downgrade, so I will keep this in mind. The roots are already exposed at the surface. Plus, the inspector said the tree will be dead in three years anyway (I can't remember why--ash disease or somethig).

Quote:
Add as much soil amendment as you can now and get the area as smooth as you can now. You can make a simple drag with a section of chain link fence and a 2x4. For your small area this migth be overkill. In our part of Texas, the soil is very alkaline, so adding peat or any organic matter really helps.

On the fertilizer, try a 10-20-10 or anything with a high middle number and a low first number. You do not want nitrogen (1st number) as it will promote top growth. You do want phosphorous (2nd number) as it will promote rooting.
Do I want to do BOTH peat and fertilize, or just one or the other? Also, there is so much conflicting stuff about fertilizing and raking it in vs. fertizling and putting the sod right on top of it (I would think the latter would burn the sod, no?).

Quote:
Lay the sod tight, or if you can find it, get rolls of sod to cut down on the seams between squares of sod. Think about renting a roller from a rental center or nursery center. This will be a large drum that you can fill with water to weight it down and really get the sod nice and flat and smooth.
Can't I just have the two year old roll around on it? Kidding...
I understand the tight, no gaps, sod will shrink a bit, make sure edges are tucked in around sidewalks so they don't burn, stuff.

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From then on, keep it evenly moist for the next few weeks.
Yay for a high water bill!

And thanks, by the way! This was very helpful.
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Old 07-13-10, 10:16 AM   #10
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Sonata:

Is there any thought to a sprinkler system in the future? If so, do it before you plant the grass, it will be a lot easier. I put one in when I laid my own sod about 12 years ago (I lived in Denver though) and it was pretty easy and not too expensive (step by step instructions at Home Depot)
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Old 07-13-10, 10:23 AM   #11
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Peat, like many soil addaments does 2 things. First it helps the soil retain moisture. That is almost always good. Second it makes the soil more acid. For me in California and jsharr in Texas that is a good thing. In MN it is apt to be a bad thing. A touch of lime would overcome this. Find out if your soil is acid or not and adjust accordingly. (But don't worry much, just don't go overboard on the peat).
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Old 07-13-10, 10:51 AM   #12
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I did a small lawn a few years ago. 15x20. I dug up the old grass. Got all the rocks out and tilled the soill a little with a metal prong rake. Bought the sod and put it down. I watered it every night until teh roots took hold in the soil underneath. Still looks great. was a 3 hour job tops.
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Old 07-13-10, 11:32 AM   #13
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I've done/helped on a few sodding jobs including both houses.I agree with the info you have been given by most posters except Mono's,it's definitly a job you can do and get the satisfaction of a job well done when you're finished. Your plan looks good to me but a couple of hints though,rent a rear/middle tine rototiller to turn over/loosen the whole yard (easier on the body and mixes everything ) then roll it well. Roll the lawn after you finished laying the sod with a water filled roller to set the sod,the kid ain't heavy enough. A LIGHT fertilization two weeks later using the same high phosphorus low nitrogen fertilzer that you use before sodding.Have some quality cold ones handy for the post job critique and enjoy your lawn. I also agree with ROUkie about the ease of putting in a spinkler system before laying the turf. It makes watering the sod/lawn a whole lot easier and helps to save water and time thus lowering the water bill and leaving more money for bike bling and riding.
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Old 07-13-10, 12:11 PM   #14
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I would consult with a local source of info about soil amendments. Peat, compost, manure, any sort of organic matter will be good, and as Keith99 pointed out, each soil is different. Where we need iron, you may need lime, etc.

Budget allowing, I would do both soil amendment and fertilization. If I could do only one, soil amendment. The organic matter will increase aereation and water retention of the soil and allow it to release nutrients more readily. The fertilizer will only give the one feeding and if the soil is bad, it can actually retain some of the nutrients and not allow the grass to use them.

On the tilling issue, if you do not have other landscape material whose roots will be damaged by tilling, then tilling is a good option, but you will need to drag or rake the area to get it level and smooth again prior to the rolling.

And I agree that seeing something you created with your own hands and your own sweat will make the work more meaningful when you watch your son rolling around in the yard that you installed.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 07-13-10, 12:43 PM   #15
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Sounds like a good project to involve the wife in. If you do it yourself and there's a problem, it'll be all your fault. If she assists, or takes the lead, you won't get the blame if something goes wrong.

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Maybe it's relative?

I always thought that I didn't have much patience until I met my wife, then I realized I have TONS.

I have learned that some experienced contracts do a worse job than someone like me who has never done something before, so that doesn't always seem to matter, either.

My dad used to never do anything because it was always "hard work." Then once I tried it for myself, I realized that "hard work" is a vacation compared to raising a toddler.
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Old 07-13-10, 12:48 PM   #16
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Sounds like a good project to involve the wife in. If you do it yourself and there's a problem, it'll be all your fault. If she assists, or takes the lead, you won't get the blame if something goes wrong.
I like your way of thinking.
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Old 07-13-10, 01:43 PM   #17
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When we sodded my old yard, My wife and I did it together. I was still blamed for the few spots where the sod did not line up perfectly, AND she was sore as hell for a week.

If I had done it myself, I still would have been blamed, and at least she would not have been sore.
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Old 07-13-10, 01:44 PM   #18
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RuOkie, who gets blamed if the yard gets bald spot from mowing it too low?
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 07-13-10, 02:13 PM   #19
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sod you x.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 07-13-10, 02:33 PM   #20
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RuOkie, who gets blamed if the yard gets bald spot from mowing it too low?
The lawn boy of course! (I was hoping you would share Ichy--I need a new lawn boy)
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Old 07-13-10, 02:37 PM   #21
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An Ichy lawn boy? Might need a round or two of penicillin.
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Old 07-13-10, 03:16 PM   #22
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I agree, but I am in MN and the area is mostly shaded, so heat shouldn't be too much of an issue,
Yes. So you should apply after "ice out" and before "biting black fly" season. Or just after "biting black fly" and before "freeze up" seasons.
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Old 07-13-10, 03:30 PM   #23
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Before you start, round up all the raccoons in your neighborhood and send them on an all-expense-paid vacation out of state. Otherwise, you'll wake up each morning for the next six months to find that the raccoons have rolled up corners of the sod looking for insects.
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Old 07-13-10, 03:31 PM   #24
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Before you start, round up all the raccoons in your neighborhood and send them on an all-expense-paid vacation out of state. Otherwise, you'll wake up each morning for the next six months to find that the raccoons have rolled up corners of the sod looking for insects.
this is what .22's are made for.
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Old 07-13-10, 07:38 PM   #25
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To help raccoons get the insects?
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