The Masters concluded yesterday in dramatic fashion, and it has left us wanting to do two things: play golf and make our yards look as good as Augusta National.
Few of us can achieve excellent golf and pristine lawns, but we sure try. I can’t help you with the golf, but I can help you with the lawn.*
Today is tax day, so if you got some refund from Uncle Sam, then you might want to invest in your home landscaping. Last year I decided to lay sod down in my yard. I have some advice to anyone who wants to do it: hire someone to do it for you.
No, it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t as expensive as I thought to do it myself. So if you are looking to lay sod this spring, here are some friendly pieces of advice from someone who had no experience doing that sort of thing this time a year ago:
Step 1: Research
There will be several times you want to say the Hell with it all, and this will be one of those times. It isn’t fun. The first thing to do is get a soil sample, and this will tell you what types of fertilizer you need. Go to your local Cooperative Extension Office and get the kit from your county agent. They will send it off to UGA and get you a report back in about a week.
I spent several hours painstakingly looking up different types and varieties of grasses. I knew I didn’t want St. Augustine as that was what was already in my yard. My county agent recommended St. Augustine, Ucheedawg recommended Bermuda, I wanted Zoysia. I played golf in Missouri one time and the fairways were Zoysia, and I was impressed with its lushness. I knew I wanted to go to Supersod in Perry (there are Supersod outlets all over). After comparing drought and shade tolerance, and making lists comparing all types and the price, I finally settled on Zenith Zoysia.
There is a ton of information out there on the web, just use Google. I found that the Supersod and the Walter Reeves’ sites were the most helpful.
This has to be your decision, as no two yards are alike. But I had good success with my Zoysia, and I have been pleased with it thus far.
Step 2: Prep work
Laying the sod is relatively easy. Prepping the ground for it is a royal pain in the ass. No better way to say it.
Different places will tell you different things, but here is a general outline. First, spray Round-Up on the old grass and weeds to kill everything. Give it about a week (I waited closer to 10 days) before you even think about laying the sod. This is important.
After you spray everything with the Round-Up, you then have to get the ground ready.
A tiller is required; my dad had one in Rome but we couldn’t get it down here in time so I just went to Home Depot and rented one. This was cheaper than having to drive halfway across the state and back to get it, anyway. I think it cost like $50 to rent one for a half day. I was able to till up everything in my yard in about 3 hours, but I have a very small yard. If you have a bigger yard you might want to rent one for a full day.
Once you till up all the old grass, you then have to rake it off and get the dirt nice and flat. You also want to have the dirt lower than your sidewalk. You are going to fill up several yard trash bags full of sticks, roots, dead grass, dirt and other yard debris. Macon is fortunate where the city comes by weekly and picks up yard trash; if you city or county doesn’t do that, then you will have to plan what to do with it all.
Your yard should look something like this, before and after, when you are finished:
All the debris in bags:
Before it was all leveled off:
After everything was leveled off:
Step 3: Installation
The actual installation is the easy part. It comes in rolls, and you just roll it off. Order it about a week in advance, so they can have it ready. I opted to save $50 and drive down to Supersod and pick it up myself. I ordered two pallets (covers about 1,000 sq. ft…I needed just a little more and you can go later and buy individual rolls). Definitely get it from a farm; getting it from Home Depot or Lowes will significantly increase your costs. All told, I spent about $350 bucks on the sod for about a 1,000 sq. ft.
I made a very bad calculation. They said that one pallet will fit in the back of a pick-up truck. So I got Uchee to meet me there in his truck so we could make one trip. I didn’t account that my 1995 Chevy 1500 is a step-side with a narrow bed. So the pallet wouldn’t fit in my truck. So we had to come all the way back to Macon, unload his truck, and then go all the way back down there again.
This was aggravating because we had to take down each individual roll and sit on my sidewalk, cover it with a sheet, and put the water hose on it so it wouldn’t die. Then I had to go all the way back down to Perry again. Just pay the $50 and have them deliver it to you. Even if you have enough trucks and friends to make on trip, having to take off each individual roll takes a lot of time and effort. Letting them just sit a whole pallet down on your sidewalk or yard will be much easier.
The actual installation is easy. Just follow the directions and lay it like a brick wall where the ends are staggered on different levels.
Here is the finished product after installation:
Step 4: Maintenance
Initially, you are going to spend some money watering your lawn, especially if the drought conditions persist again. I watered my grass so much, the Macon Water Authority called and asked if we had a leak due to an unusual increase in activity. Our water bill went from $40 a month to $180 in the summer. I probably water too much, but after all that hard work I was damn sure going to make sure it lived and got established. Once the grass gets established you can back off some. Don’t wait so late to install; I installed the last week of May right after Memorial Day (did all the prep work with the tiller on Memorial Day), and that was about as late as you want to do it. Now is the time to start the prep work.
Also, when you mow, a lawnmower with a bag is nice. My mower broke, so I had to buy a new one. I didn’t want to spend the extra $50 on a push mower with a bag, and I wish I had. It will take about a month to get established, so it may look like it is dying at first. Don’t worry, just keep watering it and you’ll be fine. I highly suggest you use a sprinkler system, but a sprinkler on a water hose can work OK.
Follow the directions for fertilizer and pre-emerge. I screwed around and didn’t do the pre-emerge in the fall, and my lawn was ate up with weeds this winter. It is simple remedy to just spray some 2-4-D out there, but it could have been avoided with some pre-emergent.
I had never laid down any sod before, and I was able to do it successfully. Good luck if you do it, and if you get confused with anything, there is a ton of help on the internet to answer your questions.
*If you completely mess up, it isn’t my fault. Also, I didn’t get paid to pump up Supersod. I just had a positive experience with them.