Types of Sod for Your Lawn
Install sod, rather than planting grass seed, if you want an instant lawn. But don't expect much choice in types of sod.
We live in a world where instant gratification has become a way of life, and we’re repeatedly seduced by the products and services that provide it. Macaroni and cheese, instant oatmeal and pre-cooked bacon are just three examples. They’re staples for many of us impatient folks who want what we want, when we want it — as in, right now.
So how do you feel about planting grass seed and waiting several weeks for your lawn to turn green? Silly question. Who’s got that kind of patience, right?
I once worked for a large sod producer in Minnesota, albeit not for long. I can tell you there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Cultured sod is a perishable commodity. Think of a sod field as a 100-acre produce department at your favorite grocery store. Once it’s harvested, the sod is pretty much on life support. Keeping it fresh and presentable after transit and during retail display can be a challenge.
What is Sod?
Simply put, sod is established — dare I say ‘instant’ — turf grown from seed at a nearby farm, harvested several months later, then shipped to garden centers and other retailers. Depending on where it’s grown, it can take a full year for the sod to be mature enough to harvest.
Fortunately, sod producers are much more patient than we are. They have the equipment and agronomic know-how to produce a premier, highly cultured sod. All we do is drive to our neighborhood retailer, grab a few rolls, take it home and install, all in an afternoon’s work.
What to Consider When Choosing Sod
You’re not going to have many choices or “features” to consider when buying sod. It’s not like buying grass seed. That’s because some grass species are better suited for sod production.
In Northern regions, Kentucky bluegrass sod will almost always be your only choice. In Southern states, Bermudagrass sod is predominant. Read on to learn why.
Limited choices can be a good thing. You’ll spend less time trying to figure out what sod is best for your lawn and more time to focus on its quality. When looking for the best sod to complete your landscaping project, consider:
Sod quality suffers the longer it sits on a pallet. While still in the roll, it can heat up internally and begin to dry out. Carefully unroll a piece of sod before purchasing. If it looks dry or started to turn yellow, wait for the next load to arrive.
Most likely you won’t have a choice. But if you do, go with the shape and size that best fit your needs. If you’re simply patching a few damaged areas, go with smaller rolls that are easier to handle. If you’re taking on a larger project, larger rolls may fit the scope better.
The sod should be around an inch thick. Again, unroll a piece and check for thickness and tensile strength. Sod strength is really important.
Stretch it in a couple of directions. If it tears easily, it will fall apart in your hands as you attempt to install it. Don’t buy it.
Free from weeds and insects
Take a close look at a couple of pieces of sod and make sure no weeds or insects are present. Good sod producers meticulously manage intruders like weeds and insects. Both can be major problems and cost them business.
Some sod is grown on peat soil. Soils high in organic matter hold moisture better, and producers who grow sod in this type of soil have an easier time with it. In many markets, it may be all you can find.
However, peat-grown sod can cause issues for the lawn owner. Not matching the sod soil type with your lawn’s soil type can make rooting difficult. Sod grown in peat soil can also shrink if allowed to dry out between waterings. This can create unsightly seams in your newly sodded lawn.
To avoid this, look for “highland” sod (AKA mineral sod). Although more expensive, this sod is grown in soil with less organic matter and more sand, silt and clay. It will better match the soil in your yard.
Types of Sod
The types of grasses in your sod will vary depending on where you live. Focus on lawn grasses that adapt best to your area and your lawn’s specific needs.
Southern and Southwestern U.S.
Most retailers stock Bermudagrass sod. It’s versatile and knits into the ground quickly, creating a high-quality, golf-course-type lawn.
St. Augustinegrass sod creates a lawn that loves heat and humidity. It requires less maintenance than most Bermudagrass lawns. Seed is not available, so sod is one of a limited number of options if you’re looking for St. Augustinegrass.
Zoysiagrass sod is found on the West Coast and in the Mid-South transition zone. It does well in hot and humid conditions, as well as during the colder winter months.
Kentucky bluegrass sod is king. You’ll find little else. Sod producers love it because it knits together quickly, and lawn owners love it because it produces the highest quality lawn possible. Its only major drawback is it loves sunny conditions and does not do well in heavy shade.
Tall Fescue sod is harder to find in the Upper Midwest and New England. You’re more likely to find it along the Atlantic Seaboard, the Mid-South or California. It’s a bunch-type grass so it takes longer to knit into a durable sod. But it loves the heat and does well in drier growing conditions.