As we get to the end of August and the beginning of September, the temperatures will moderate a bit. Of course we will have the occasional hot days, but for the most part it will be cooler. That is the perfect time to plant sod. It will have time to get established before the ground freezes and will flourish in the cooler temperatures.
Soil preparation is the most important part. There are three different ways to prepare. I prefer completely removing the grass using a straight-edged shovel or a sod cutter. This is infinitely more work, but I think it gives the best results. Add some compost and fertilizer and till it in, loosening two inches of soil. Even the soil as much as possible, making sure that the level of the sod will be below any edges (like sidewalks). Level the soil, leaving a good inch of space. Another way to remove the lawn is with a product like Round-Up. Let the grass die, put down a layer of compost mixed with some fertilizer, and lay the sod right on top. I do not prefer this method. While it’s easier, it uses a lot of dangerous chemicals that eventually end up in the water supply. The last method is using a tiller. If your landscape is relatively free of rocks and roots, this is a decent method. As you’re tilling, add some compost and fertilizer.
Buy sod at your local garden center, Menards, or Home Depot. Try and get the freshest sod possible. Ask the garden center clerk; they can tell you which days the sod comes in. Alternate the sod as you lay it down, so no ends are next to each other. Start with the longest continuous edge. Use a sharp utility knife to make any cuts and make sure no edges overlap. Press the edges together with your feet. See that all the sections are making contact with the under soil.
Roll the entire area with a light sod roller. You can rent one of these or borrow from a friend. The newer ones are plastic and can be filled with water to the desired weight. Now comes the most IMPORTANT thing: WATER! Without proper watering, all your hard work will be for naught. Water at least one hour per day for the first 2 weeks. Stay off it, except to move sprinklers as needed. Sod is particularly fragile for the first 2 or 3 weeks- especially when wet. After 2 weeks give it a light cut; never removing more than a third of the length.
There you go! Your hard work has been rewarded with a beautiful lawn. Keep watering, cutting properly, and fertilizing twice a year. You will have a wonderful lawn for many, many years to come.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO