Seed or sod for a new lawn

soozaayJune 2, 2009

We just bought a new construction home and have to decide if we want to lay sod or seed for our lawn. We have about an acre to cover. We know seed will be more reasonable, but our soil is mostly clay...should we just do sod for the ease?

Also, would we contact a landscaper or a lawn care company to lay the seed/sod? Sorry...we've always been renters, so we have NO idea when it comes to lawn care.


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Seed is much less expensive, but you'll have a tough time getting a lawn to make it through the summer using seed if you seed now.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 3:17PM
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Also, would we contact a landscaper or a lawn care company to lay the seed/sod?

You can do it yourself. Laying the sod is the easy part. Depending how big your lawn area is, get some friends, some beer, food and maybe some knee pads and you can get it down quickly. If you contract it out you want a landscaper. A lawn care company usually just maintains your lawn.

The Rutgers Extension Office has a good publication on How to lay sod that you should read. You should do a soil test to see what the soil is like.

You might want to have your contractor handle the soil prep. You'll probably need to till in some compost to raise the organic matter of your soil. Make sure you get the soil test that includes organic content evaluation. Also make sure the soil slopes away from the foundation to help keep your basement dry. Again, these are things you can do yourself. Rent a roto tiller, have the required amount of compost delivered and have at it. Then use a stiff flat tined rake to do the grading. You should aim for at least 1" per foot for at least 10'. Use a long level to check.

The tools you'll need are:

Tiller (can rent)
Lawn Roller (can rent)
Rakes, not the leaf rake type (cheap but I think you can rent from some places should buy at least one to have)
Wheelbarrow(s) (if you have a big yard, buy one, rent another) Will help transport compost, sod, etc.
3' Level to check grade.
Spreader (can rent but you should probably buy for maintenance later.

This will also be a good time to install landscape edging, outdoor lights, irrigation system. If you don't have an irrigation system you'll need some hose end sprinklers because the sod will need daily watering for at least a couple of weeks. Coming into the summer fresh, you'll want to make sure it doesn't dry out. After the first few weeks you don't need to water every day.

Products you'll need are:
Maybe some topsoil if you need to do a lot of grading.
Lime if your soil test indicates you need it.
Any other soil amendments indicated by your soil test.

Now at this point you can seed or sod but like bpgreen said, it's kinda late in the season for seed. Sod isn't too bad in NJ. Somewhere around $35-$40/100 sq ft delivered if you go straight to the sod farm and not a nursery or other middleman. 2-3x that if you want it installed, not counting the soil prep.

Most bulk delivered materials are measured in yards so here's a tip using compost as an example. Assume you need 3" of compost and you have 3,000 sq ft of soil (good idea to add compost to your planting areas too) 3" is 0.25' so 3,000 sq ft X .25' = 750 cubic feet. 750 / 27 = about 28 yards.

Doing it yourself vs hiring a good landscaper will save you a lot of money. Having your contractor do it usually isn't as good if he doesn't sub it out to a good landscaper.

It's not hard and you could probably knock it out in a weekend depending on the size of your property. Just take the time to do it right. No point spending hundreds of dollars on sod only for it to look like crap in a year or two.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:00PM
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bobinbaltimore(Maryland - 7)

I agree with bpgreen...summer is tough to start a lawn from seed. That said, it has been a mild spring, so perhaps there is a chance. If you do go with seed, remember to be patient as your yard grows in over the next 2 - 3 years. Also, be aware of the seed being used so you know what you're getting. And be willing to pay more to get better or different seed. I'm on my third new construction lawn, and I tend to think of the process in the following terms: Year 1 - get anything growing just to control erosion; Year 2 - aim for a green lawn, even if it all isn't grass; and Year 3 - focus on remaining weeds. Overseeding (with a little prep and care) helps a great deal, as does well-timed and targeted fertilization. One of the first things I do is get a soil test done so I know roughly what I'm dealing with.

All that said, even my third time around, I'm still learning, especially from this forum.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:00PM
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iahawkz4(z5 IA)

I have been in your position before. My last house was new construction with horrible, compacted clay (in Iowa, a state known for our rich black soil!). The builder agreed to sod the front yard and seed the sides and back.

It was a little less than a 1/2 acre lot. I didn't know anything then so I let them seed the yard in June. It was a nightmare to keep up with all the watering but the lawn came in beautifully.

It was thick and since it grew from seed it was very well adapted to the site. My front yard (sod) was another story. It always looked much worse than the back. My neighbors were all amazed at how nice our back and side yards looked. No one could believe that anything could grow in that horrible clay. If I had to do that over again I would have waited until Fall and seeded the whole thing.

I live in a different (new construction, again) house now with a fully sodded yard (4 years ago). I'm pretty much 100% organic now and the lawn looks pretty good but whenever I need to remove sod to plant something I'm amazed at how easy it is to remove. The roots do not penetrate the hard clay very deeply.

We have a new house going up next to us and I said to my wife this morning that the new owners would be smart to seed this Fall but of course they'll think that sod is the greatest thing around and go that route.

Sod is easier but seed is much better.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 6:43PM
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