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How To Install Or Seed A Lawn

Julie Bawden-Davis | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Lush, green grass is a satisfying sight. While installing a new lawn takes some time, the results are well worth the effort. When you put in turf, you'll have to decide whether you want to plant seed or use sod. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.

Seed vs. sod

Seed is more economical than sod, costing about 3 cents per square foot and 1 cent for planting, whereas sod runs around 35 cents a square foot and another 50 cents to $1 for installation. Seed takes less upfront work, yet requires vigilant watering until it becomes established. Seeded lawns can't be used until the grass is at least 2 inches high, which can take a couple of months, whereas sod turf tolerates foot traffic within three weeks.

Soil preparation

  1. Remove your old lawn by digging it up with a sod cutter.
  2. Rake and level the soil.
  3. Mix a 6-inch layer of compost into the soil using a rotary tiller.
  4. Check that the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5, and amend if necessary.
  5. Tamp down the soil with a lawn roller filled one-third with water.
  6. Apply a high-phosphorus starter fertilizer to the soil and water it in.

Planting seed

  1. Evenly distribute the seed using a spreader at the recommended rate. Gently rake the seed into the first ½-inch of soil.
  2. Set the sprinklers to mist four times a day so they moisten the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Once the grass germinates, taper off on watering until you're irrigating once a day.
  3. Begin mowing when the grass reaches 3 to 4 inches high, removing just ½-inch on your first mowing.

Installing sod

  1. Lay the grass in one area at a time. Place strips around the perimeter and then fill, cutting the turf ends with a utility knife so that they fit snugly up against the perimeter strips.
  2. Soak each section with water before moving on to the next.
  3. Set the sprinklers to water twice a day, saturating the top 1 to 2 inches.
  4. Mow when the grass begins to grow, but wait at least 10 days.

When to call a lawn company

Seeding a lawn takes very little expertise, but laying sod is more complicated and must be completed the same day you receive it. If you doubt your ability to lay sod in an efficient manner, call in a professional to install your new lawn.

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