A 9 Step Guide to Laying Sod to Start a New Lawn

Laying sod can give you “instant grass” if you prepare the ground properly. Of course, there is a fair amount of preparation involved, such as laying down plastic to exclude weeds. After the ground is ready, laying the sod actually goes pretty fast.

Laying Sod to Start a New Lawn: A Green Thumb’s Guide

Preparation is the most important part of laying sod. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

What to Do Before Getting Started

Test the soil’s pH

Sod is best planted on soil that has a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic). You can test your soil’s pH at your local garden center or get a do-it-yourself kit from your local extension office. If the soil is too alkaline (higher than 7), you can correct the pH by adding sulfur or acidic fertilizers.

Prepare the area

Pick a sunny location in your yard where you want to start a new lawn. In new construction, the builder usually lays out the sod for you. If you are starting a lawn in the middle of an existing lawn, the best way to prepare is to kill the old grass with a herbicide.

The best time to apply a weed-and-feed herbicide is when you don’t want to mow your lawn, such as in late fall.

Prepare the Ground to Lay Sod

Tilling the ground in the fall or very early spring is the best way to prepare the soil for sod. If you are tilling your lawn for the first time, use a spading fork or shovel to break up the sod.

After tilling, rake the area smooth. If you are working in an established lawn, use a nonselective herbicide, such as Roundup®, to kill the existing grass.

Avoid using a broad-spectrum herbicide on your existing lawn, especially one that is a member of the synthetic pyrethroids (such as Durango®). This will ruin your soil’s microorganism population, affecting the soil’s ability to retain nutrients.

If you are working with a synthetic underlayment, like turf-grass sod, the microorganism population isn’t affected.

How to Lay Sod

Step 1. Prepare the soil. Work the tiller around the area to a depth of about 8 inches to kill weeds and loosen the soil.

Step 2. Lay down a thick layer of newspaper. The newspaper will serve as a weed barrier during the installation and will decompose in a few months.

Step 3. Lay down a layer of cardboard, overlapping the newspaper by at least 2 to 3 inches.

Step 4. Lay down a layer of mulch to seal the cardboard. This will help retain moisture while the grass is establishing itself.

Step 5. Lay down a thick layer of plastic to stop weed growth. Overlap the plastic by at least 6 inches.

Step 6. Lay the sod. In a straight line, begin laying the sod. Lengthwise, try to keep the sod strips no longer than 6 feet. Place it parallel with the direction you are laying it.

Step 7. Continue laying the sod strips in a parallel pattern until you have covered the entire area.

Step 8. Remove the plastic from the soil after a few days to let the roots take hold.

Step 9. Apply fertilizer. Fertilize about once a month for the first three months.

After you have laid sod and it is starting to become established, water it until the grass forms a good root system. Be careful not to overwater the sod. Water it enough to keep the roots from drying out, but not so much that the water puddles on the ground.


Establishing a new lawn is a job that requires almost no experience. Laying sod requires a minimal amount of effort and can be done by almost anyone. You can do the job yourself and end up with a great lawn with little effort. All you need is a little knowledge and a lot of patience.

Should you need help with laying sod on your lawn, come to Clear Cut Group. We offer landscape maintenance services at a fair and reasonable price for both residential and commercial properties. With years of experience, our team recognizes the value of creating and sustaining long-term clients. Contact us and see an improvement in your lawn today!


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