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Sod vs Grass Seed

Posted by Sunset Garden Experts on

sod vs grass seed

I Am Starting A New Lawn. Which Is Better Sod Or Grass Seed?

Both sod and seed make a fine lawn. However, sod is much faster. Sod is green and practically ready to live on within 10 days to 2 weeks of installation. Grass seed takes at least a year to make a fully developed lawn.

How to prepare the base?

The preparation for sod or grass seed is the same. A brand new lawn needs to have a really good topsoil base. If the property is new, and fill has been used to grade around the house, four to six inches of good topsoil needs to be added over the fill. If the sub soil is light and sandy, a similar four to six inches is ideal in order to establish a quality lawn. The difficulty with fill or sand, as a base for grass, is that it is very poor at holding moisture and contains very few nutrients.

Once the top dressing of topsoil has been put in place, it needs to be raked with a garden rake to grade it evenly over the entire area. Make sure that any changes in elevation blended together to make smooth slopes as a "bumpy" base to your lawn will make it harder to mow your lawn evenly. Not to mention if you use a riding lawnmower it won't be a fun ride for your derriere!

Once the first raking is finished, the entire area should be rolled with a hand roller. This will compact the soil as would happen with rains or over-wintering. The advantage of it being compacted immediately, is that it can be re-raked, raking high levels into low levels, before the seed is applied. The result will be a very nice even finish. (If you do not roll it the soil may settle overtime unevenly and has a higher chance of the lawn turning bumpy overtime)


Sod is first available in mid May. It comes in rolls 2' wide by 5' long, and so, covers an area of 10 square feet. To estimate the number of rolls required, simply measure the area in square feet and divide by 10. The sod is very perishable, and so, must be rolled out on the lawn immediately upon delivery. Since the sod is already growing once it is laid it must be kept moist for the first 2 weeks. Properly laid sod is beautiful almost immediately. The primary grass used in sod rolls is Kentucky Bluegrass. It is a gorgeous lush green grass however it is not tolerant of deep shade and will slowly deteriorate if put in it. For this reason if you have a deeply shaded area of you yard you may want to consider using a shade mix of grass seed which will be more suited to the area.

Grass Seed

Grass seed comes in a variety of mixes blended especially for individual purposes. This is usually stated in the name of the mix. Some examples would be sun mix, shade mix, sun/shade mix, hardy lawn mix etc. Many blends also included varieties of grass which spread laterally instead of just forming a clump (noted by LS on a bag). These blends are good because even after the seed comes up it will continue to spread and thicken up even if you missed a few spots.

The average coverage for grass seed is about 450-500 square feet per KG. (The coverage of each blend is usually stated on the packaging) Grass seed is put on after the rolling and second raking of the base, and then, needs to be raked in again using a leaf rake.

As with sod, it is important once the seed is spread to make sure that even moisture is applied until the grass is up and has been mowed two or three times. First seeds will germinate in about ten days, but a better quality of grass seed is slower to germinate, so starts to thicken only after two or three weeks. It takes the rest of the season for the seeded lawn to grow and establish. 


Both sod and seed should be mowed as soon as it is high enough for mowing at usual height. A common mistake is made to let the grass grow long so that it can get established. This is not a wise move.

Both sod and grass seed should be fed fairly early. An application of starter lawn fertilizer on newly sodded and seeded lawns ensures that both get a good substantial start. Fertilizers with a higher middle number (phosphorus) are good for this stage as they promote root growth to help the grass root in well.

For the purposes of estimating costs, sod typically costs approximately ten times the price of grass seed. With both sod and seed, an ongoing maintenance program will ensure that a beautiful rich green lawn is established.

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