Preparation of the site to be sodded is probably the most critical step to the success of the survival of your sod. Sod which is installed over hard compacted soils, sod which is installed over any green material (either weed or grass), sod which is installed over construction debris (gravel, brick, lumber, trash, etc) has very little chance to fully survive and develop into a lawn for which you would desire. Basically, the site preparation is the same for sod as it is for seeding.
When preparing the site, begin with the removal of all trash and building debris such as bricks, concrete, stones, scraps of lumber, stumps, or any other material that is not soil.
Sample and test the soil for all the necessary soil amendments that will be needed to be incorporated into the soil for optimum growth. See our Guideline entitled “Amendments to the Soil” for the procedures for taking proper soil tests, where to have the soils tested, and how to apply the necessary amendments.
Till the soil to a depth of 3-4” using a roto-tiller or similar piece of equipment. Use caution not to till the soil when it is excessively dry or excessively wet. When the soil is either excessively dry or wet, tilling will destroy the structure of the soil, eliminating the pore spaces which are vital for the storage and movement of water and nutrients as well as space for the roots to travel and establish.
Remove any additional debris, weeds, or grass clumps which may have surfaced during the tillage. Apply any necessary amendments which are recommended, from the soil test, to be surface applied.
Hand rake the soil to a uniform, friable surface. This is the stage to be cognizant of the need for any swales or ditches which may be necessary to channel water away from the house, driveway, or other structures. Along the edges of the sidewalks, driveway, street or other areas where people are likely to walk from an impervious surface onto the turf, lower the final grade ½” immediately next to these structures and feather these slopes out toward the main turf area. This will allow the sod to be installed level with these structures and avoid potential tripping hazards and areas where water may collect and freeze during the winter.
If the air and soil temperatures are high (90 degrees or higher), lightly sprinkling the soil with water just prior to installation of the sod will cool the soil and increase the survivability of the sod by providing a better environment for young tender roots.
As the sod is installed, keep a rake handy to remove footprints or tire tracks as you proceed with the installation.