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New Sod and Grass Seed: The Perfect Fall Project

Creative Landscaping team hard at work laying a roll of sod

We have officially entered the End of Summer, days are getting shorter, back to school ads are hitting the stores, and the temperatures at night are dipping to lower digests. There is little doubt about it, the long hot days of summer have left Southwest Michigan. While this might make some of us shiver to think about what the coming months will bring, those of us who have been waiting to install new grass seed and sod are beginning to get excited.

What makes this transitional time of year so perfect for planting new grass lawns is that the warm soil temperatures and cooler air temperatures are ideal for seed germination and seedling growth. Mid to late spring is the next best time to plant, but not beyond mid-June.

Sod, which is mature lawn that has been professionally grown and cultivated and cut into thick rolls with underlying soil and roots still attached, can become an instant new lawn. Sod can take as many as two years to mature, but even though the plants in a roll are established and mature when compared with their seeded counterparts, care must be taken at the time of planting to ensure plant survival.

A beautiful new grass lawn and entry patio

Lush green lawn and new entry patio

Site Preparation

Homeowners can’t place sod atop any kind of soil and expect it to grow. The ground where the rolls will be placed should be prepared before laying sod rolls. Remove all rocks and debris from the area, along with noxious weeds. Aerate the soil to ensure it is not compacted. Correct drainage problems by grading to avoid puddling in low areas and to ensure that water moves away from areas such as sidewalks and driveways. Correct soil deficiencies and improper pH levels by adding appropriate amendments, such as nitrogen and trace minerals, to the topsoil, to encourage root growth.


Sod rolls are living, breathing entities. As such, schedule delivery so that sod can be laid quickly, preferably in a single day beginning in the early morning. Sod should be laid 24 to 72 hours after it is harvested. Fresh sod has soil that is moist, not hard and dry to the touch. Grass blades should be dark green and feel cool. Sod strips should be laid in a straight line with ends staggered in a brick-laying pattern. If sod cannot be installed immediately, lay out the pieces in a shady location and sprinkle it with water to keep them moist.


To encourage proper and healthy root growth, the area where sod will be laid should be watered, but not soaked, thoroughly on the day prior to installation. Irrigate newly-laid sod with 0.2 inches of water daily, with short waterings once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for two weeks following installation. More water will be needed during hot and dry weather to make sure roots do not become dry. Edges of individual sod pieces should come into contact with one another so the perimeters do not dry out and create unsightly edges. Check to see if the roots have established, usually within 10-14 days, and begin to reduce the frequency of irrigation to help ween the newly planted sod off the consistent water schedule.

It may seem smart to give your established lawn a 10- to 15-minute daily drink of water throughout the summer, but this can do more harm than good. Much of the water evaporates; the rest reaches only the surface of the soil. This promotes shallow root growth and grass that is fragile in the face of weather extremes. A better strategy is to water deeply once or twice a week, applying one-half inch of water each time to encourage roots to stretch down. In sandy soil, water a little more, in clay soil a little less. To determine how long you need to water, place a 9” x 13” baking pan in the sprinkler’s path and watch the clock until you reach one-half inch of water in the pan.

Time of Year

Sod can be installed at almost any time of the year. The best time to lay sod, however, is in late summer and early fall when temperatures are cooler but grass continues to grow. Spring is the second best time to lay sod and is the preferable time for warm-season grasses such as centipede, zoysia, Bermuda, and St. Augustine that become dormant in the winter. Avoid installing sod in summer as the extra water required for establishment could result in blight and disease.

If you need help getting your lawn and garden ready to THRIVE this fall and into next spring, give the Creative Landscaping team a call. We can help with all the decisions surrounding sod vs. seed and everything else landscape - mulching, garden design, plant and tree selection, installation and planting to make your home or business more beautiful in every season. Drop us an email or call us at 269-473-1356 to get started.


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