How to Lay Sod in a Backyard

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This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook helps a homeowner lay sod in his backyard. (See below for a shopping list, tools, and steps.)

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Shopping List for Laying Sod in a Backyard:
– Bluegrass and fescue sod
– Sand and compost, used to amend the soil
– Starter fertilizer and lime, used to feed the soil
– Landscape fabric and wood chips, for covering the play area

Tools List for Laying Sod in a Backyard:
– Shovel
– Wheelbarrow
– Garden rake
– Sod cutter, used to remove old lawn
– Large rotary tiller and mini tiller, for loosening the topsoil
– Utility knife, used to cut sod strips to length
– Walk-behind drop spreader, for dispersing fertilizer and lime
Steps for Laying Sod in a Backyard:
1. Use a soil probe to check the depth and texture of the topsoil.[BR]
2. Next, remove all the existing grass with a gas-powered sod cutter.[BR]
3. Place the old grass into a wheelbarrow and carry it away.[BR]
4. Loosen the topsoil with a large rotary tiller to a depth of at least 6 inches.[BR]
5. Use a mini-tiller to loosen the soil alongside fences, foundations, and other areas not accessible to the large rotary tiller.[BR]
6. Cover the entire tilled area to 2 inches deep with a 50/50 mixture of sand and compost.[BR]
7. Blend the sand and compost into the soil with the rotary tiller.[BR]
8. In the kid’s play area, dig down 4 inches and cover the ground with landscape fabric.[BR]
9. Spread about 3 inches of wood chips on top of the landscape fabric.[BR]
10. Add starter fertilizer and lime to a walk-behind drop spreader and apply the mixture to the tilled area.[BR]
11. Rake the entire tilled area perfectly smooth.[BR]
12. Start laying sod, one strip at a time, along the edge of the lawn.[BR]
13. Butt the strips tightly together to produce undetectable joints.[BR]
14. After laying the first row of sod, rake the soil smooth and start the second row.[BR]
15. Use a utility knife to cut in half the first strip of sod for the second row.[BR]
16. Set the half-strip in place, then continue to lay full-length strips of sod to complete the second row. Starting with a half-strip staggers the joints between the rows.[BR]
17. Continue to lay sod, butting the strips tightly together and staggering all end joints.[BR]
18. Once you’ve laid all the sod, water the lawn three times per day the first week, twice a day the second week, once a day the third week, and then resume a normal watering schedule.

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