Compare Options for a New Lawn: Seed vs Sod
By Chuck Fagin, X-Seed Inc.
Chuck Fagin is the owner of X-Seed Inc., a grass seed company whose products we carry at Murdoch’s. We asked him to identify the pros and cons of seeding and sodding a new lawn. Seed vs Sod? You decide.
Installing a lawn? Trying to decide between seeding or sodding could be difficult. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so you have to decide what is most important to you. First, you will need to determine if sod is even feasible. Most sod is grown in full sun and not adaptable to shade or poor soils. Seeding may prove challenging on steep inclines or hills that could erode the seed if not properly covered. Below is a list of the advantages and disadvantages of both.
- More adaptable – seed mixtures contain different varieties that can be chosen for:
- Soil types (sandy, clay, loam)
- Sunlight (full sun, sun-to-shade or deep shade)
- Planned maintenance – some varieties offer low maintenance that can be more environmentally friendly.
- More disease resiliency – improved seed varieties can be selected for better resiliency, plus using multiple varieties ensures better chances of survival
- Turf develops in the environment in which it will live.
- Lower initial cost than sodding
- If done properly and weather cooperates, new turf can take root in less than two weeks.
- Timing of establishment is critical – best time is September. April is also a good time, but weed seeds germinate in greater numbers in the spring.
- Longer time period to get a dense lawn
- May require reseeding due to poor germination in some areas (like washouts from heavy rain or irrigation).
- Weeds can be a problem until lawn is fully established.
- Initial watering is critical.
- Your lawn is practically instant.
- The lawn may be walked on soon after planting.
- Dust, mud and erosion are quickly reduced.
- It may be planted anytime during the growing season as long as adequate water is available.
- The lawn is essentially weed-free.
- Higher initial cost
- Choice of species is very limited.
- Sod is not produced in shaded environments.
- Large volume of water needed initially.
- Sod may shrink, and weeds may invade, especially if the sod is not properly installed. Do not stretch sod. Stagger seams similar to brick-laying.
- Speed of rooting varies with season. Spring and fall are optimal.
For All New Lawns
Whether seeding or sodding, initial soil preparation is crucial.
- If possible, get a soil test first so any amendments can be added. Grass prefers neutral pH levels (6.5-7.5).
- Loosen soil 2-3 inches deep and remove all debris and rocks.
- Level the soil bed with a drag or rake. This is important. If the soil isn’t level, you run the risk of scalping the turf when mowing later (rather, shaving off grass blades too close to the soil).
- Apply a starter fertilizer with an even N-P-K. Organic or slow release fertilizers also work well.
- For sod, water heavy once a day for the first 14 days. For seed, water light and frequent for the first 7-10 days. Watering seedlings 2-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes is best.
Long-term care of your new lawn is the same whether you choose seeding or sod.
- Fertilize 2-3 times a year. It will help keep weeds choked out and roots deep and healthy.
- Water more frequently in sandy soils and water less in deep shade.
With good planning, a little effort and some luck from Mother Nature you can have a new lawn that your neighbors will envy!