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Sometimes you just have to re-sod

Overview

Published: 07/30/2012

by Richard Rix

Lawns are a much-maligned aspect of the urban garden landscape. They get criticized
for being ‘non-native’ and for requiring too much labour, water, fertilizer and
pesticides.

 

Unquestionably, lawns are overused and might often be replaced to advantage with flower beds or
ground cover. However, in certain situations, the well-manicured lawn is useful
for looks, contrast and practicality. Where else can you stretch out and relax
in the sun or play ball with a young child?

 

An attractive lawn can be hard to maintain but seldom more so than the average
flower bed. It is in truth a living emerald carpet, or at least ought to be. It
does, however, require some basic care and may indeed reach a time when it has
to be replaced by re-sodding.

 

Generally speaking, if you still have more than 50% good coverage of grass over any
particular area of the lawn, you can thicken it satisfactorily by top-treating
it with seed, humus and fertilizer. But if you have more soil or weeds showing
than grass, it may be time to start again.

 

First though, you have to ask yourself, why has the lawn deteriorated so much in the
first place? Only in case of the worst neglect will a lawn fail to prosper,
unless there is some ‘underlying’ cause that must be addressed. In this regard,
professional lawn-care people will generally blame underground grubs and spray
pesticides to control them.

 

Mercifully, this practice is soon to be banned in many communities. That’s just as well,
since it is not always justified. If your lawn is being ripped up by skunks or
raccoons, then you may indeed have grubs, since they’re a source of food. If
not, look to other causes.

 

In general, a lawn fails to prosper because the roots are not taking up enough nutrients
and moisture to sustain it. Nutrient deficiency is caused by two things: the
inability of the roots to find fertile soil and the failure to provide
additional nutrition by the timely application of fertilizer or compost.

 

So, even if you do decide to replace a lawn with fresh sod, you must first make
sure that the underlying soil is well prepared and that you are prepared to put
in place a regular fertilization program. As for lack of moisture, you must be
prepared to water the lawn on a regular basis, especially during periods of
drought.

 

Re-sodding a lawn, therefore, generally means first amending the soil underneath by the
addition of triple mix or screened topsoil and by adding humus (such as peat
moss) to help retain moisture. If you are lucky you can achieve this by
building on top of what is already there as opposed to having to dig out and
replace the existing topsoil.

 

For this reason, re-sodding often equates with re-grading. You may have to build
the lawn up to overcome tree roots or eliminate an unwanted slope, or even
introduce one. Just remember that a lawn on a steep slope will not retain water
like one on flat ground. As well, a slope of 10 degrees toward or away from the
sun effectively changes the latitude by that amount, at least in terms of
sunlight intensity.

 

Of course, you don’t have to re-sod in order to re-grade. You can re-grade over a
period of months or even years by periodically top-dressing an existing lawn.

 

If you are re-sodding your own lawn, you can get the sod delivered to your driveway by
a building supply dealer, along with an appropriate amount of screened topsoil
or triple mix, which is a combination of soil, humus and sand that is sold by
the cubic yard.

 

Incidentally, don’t be dismayed if the price of the sod from the building supply dealer
appears to be higher than that from the local garden centre. The dealer usually
deals in strips of 5 ft by 2 ft, whereas the garden centre’s strips are more
likely 6 ft by 1 1/2 ft, for easier handling. When it arrives, try to stand it
in the shade, uncovered, and keep it moist with the sprinkler if you cannot lay
it immediately.

 

You will nearly always find it advantageous to have the dealer deliver a few bags
of peat moss along with the soil and triple mix. Digging in some extra peat
moss as you go will certainly help. Just make sure the peat moss is mixed well
with the soil (or triple mix) before laying the sod over it.

 

If youare doing a large area, do it in sections. A project is made less boring by
regularly changing the activities involved, and the sooner you start getting
the sod down, the better, especially in warm, dry weather.

 

By the way, don’t be dismayed if the sod that’s delivered in early spring does not
look entirely fresh or has some yellowing blades in it. Most lawns don’t look
very good then, so why should the sod?

 

Laying the sod is the fun bit, and older children often like to help here. It’s kind
of like building your own jigsaw puzzle. The easy way to cut a strip is just to
push a spade through it, or use a sharp knife. Lawns may be laid at any time of
the growing year, though early spring and September are best, since you are
assured cool temperatures, a reasonable amount of moisture and a good period
for growth.

 

Once the sod is down, you can walk over it with care as you proceed to lay the rest
of your new lawn. In fact, newly laid strips of sod should be pressed down with
a light roller. If you don’t have a roller, at least press the strips down with
your feet. This also prevents you from compacting the soil that you have just
prepared for the next rolls of sod.

 

Also, sprinkle a thin layer of soil along all the edges of the strips, where they
butt. This will prevent them from drying out at their most critical point.

 

Water the sod immediately, section by section, by putting the sprinkler on it for at
least a half-hour. Be prepared to repeat often if there is no rain. After a
couple of weeks, feed the new sod with a high-phosphorous fertilizer (such as
10-30-10). This will encourage root development and not just top growth.

 

Be very careful with those first few mowings, since the sod is not yet well rooted,
though don’t be tempted to let the grass grow longer than an established lawn.

 

Do everything right and by next spring your new lawn will look as if it has always
been there. 

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