Though it’s a landscaping idea borrowed from aristocratic European landowners centuries ago, the lawn has become as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. Even in an era of making peace with the environment, this energy- and resource-demanding feature continues to thrive—so much so, that it’s hard to imagine a home without a lawn.
Keeping a lawn looking respectable is a challenge. Hostile climates, years of backyard soccer matches, irregular rainfall, invasions of lawn pests—or simply benign neglect—have left many looking ragged. If your lawn suffers from acute soil compaction, rampant weed problems, heavy thatch or organic matter deficiencies, you may want to remove the existing weeds and grass and start anew. It’s a big job but, like a new floor or roof, it will last a long time. For do-it-yourself homeowners, there are two ways to replant a lawn: the more familiar method of seeding and the alternative of laying sod, carpetlike sheets of grass that are usually about 3/4 in. thick, 1-1/2 ft. wide and 6 ft. long.
Seed Versus Sod
Seeding is less expensive and requires less work than laying sod. But a newly seeded lawn needs long-term care, and there are fewer times during the year when you can seed. In most areas, the best time to seed cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and the fescues, is in the fall when upper soil temperatures are between 68 degrees and 86 degrees F. This will allow your new turf to establish roots while plant growth is vigorous and competition from weedsis low, and before the winter dormant period arrives. In the South, spring and summer seeding is recommended for warm-season grasses, such as bahiagrass, centipede grass, carpet grass and buffalo grass. The upper soil temperature should be between 68 degrees and 95 degreesF. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for timing recommendations in your area.
Sod requires more skill to plant, but offers several advantages over seed. It looks good immediately and a sodded lawn can be used much sooner than seeded lawns. Sod is better suited to sloping terrain where seed would be washed to low areas after the first hard rain. Sod is also less susceptible to erosion while it is becoming established and it’s harder for weeds to compete with sod.
Sodding is best done in the fall or spring in the North and in the spring in the South. Planting sod in warm, dry weather will make the venture more risky and subject the lawn to burnout. Do not plant sod later than one month prior to the first fall frost to give it time to establish roots before cold weather sets in.
Hydroseeding is becoming a popular means of planting grass due to its relative ease of use and effectiveness. Hydroseeding is a process by which seed, water, fertilizer, fiber mulch, and sometimes lime are blended together in a tank and applied onto a prepared lawn area through a spraying hose. Once sprayed, the wet fiber mulch will help create a bond to the soil and provide the seeds with a water retaining blanketing-coat while protecting it from sunlight, wind, and erosion. As the grass seeds begin to germinate, the fiber mulch will slowly decompose adding nutrients to the soil.