Grass seed or sod

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Turf Wars: Sod vs. Seed

The green, green grass of your dream lawn doesn’t have to exist only in a galaxy far, far away. If you’re fighting the battle for a beautiful lawn, you may have found yourself wondering whether seed or sod is better. The grass may look greener in your neighbor’s yard (hopefully you’re not at war with them over who has the best lawn in the neighborhood), but whether they used seed or sod to achieve it, there are a few things to consider before you decide your next move.

Sod: Transplanting mature turf that has been cared for by a professional. Can be rolled out like a rug. Usually involves hiring a pro to install, especially for large areas.

Seed: Growing grass from seed; Involves planting and sprouting your own grass. Can be done yourself or hired out.

On the Money

One of the two major factors involved in the decision to sod or seed is expense.

Sod – Simply put, sod is the most expensive option because you are essentially paying someone else for time and materials of growing the grass. And, it is dramatically more expensive than seed. If money is no problem, sod may be the winning choice for reasons you’ll see below.

Seed – Financially, seeding is an appealing choice as the cost of even the best seed mix is still a lot cheaper than sod, so if budget is your driving factor, seed wins out.

Time Out

The other major decision factor is time—the amount of time and effort it takes to grow and nurture a lawn, as well as the time of year you can plant it.

Sod – No question, if you need a nice lawn right away, sod is your hero. This option provides an “instant lawn;” you can go from dirt to green lawn in a day. The speed of rooting varies with each season, and the rooting is essential to the longevity and health of the grass; fall and spring are optimal times to lay sod, though it can be laid any time during the year if water is available. Roots establish quicker than seeds, but may not root as well.

Seed – It takes a lot longer to grow a dense, lush lawn so if time is a factor, seed may be the losing option. If you’ve got time to tend the lawn, and can wait until the optimal growing season, seed is worthy of consideration. The time of year you plant is critical and limited. Early fall is best because more likelihood of weeds in spring. Growing your own turf requires a lot of attention and time, as well as watering.

Top Guns

Regardless of time and expense, quality is also a consideration.

Sod – Though initially sod may appear weed free, it is not always guaranteed to be weed free, seed is. Sod is a great alternative for sloped areas or erosion-prone areas where seed would struggle to survive. On the down side, only certain types of grass are grown for sodding so your choices are limited. If you need to tailor your yard to a specific environment, seeding with specific species for your area would be a better way to go. Sod is not known for shade tolerance. Sod can shrink and leave spaces which weeds easily invade. Turf needs to be overlapped when laid. Sod is also the cleanest choice; not a lot of dust or mud.

Seed – Though it can take longer to establish a dense lawn, over time I think seed edges out sod on quality. There are more grass types and varieties to choose from so can select a turf you know will grow well in your area. The probability of a stronger root system developing in the beginning means you’re more likely to have a stronger, healthier lawn over time. With seed, the grass develops in the same environment where it will live so you don’t face transplant issues and sensitivities. However, seeding can be frustrating. You might have to reseed, sometimes germination doesn’t take in spots or seed can be washed away. And it is messy, lots of dust and mud at first.

Strategic Advantage

The critical component to a thriving lawn, whether you sod or seed, is the soil. The investment you make in soil preparation will give you the best strategic advantage and increase your odds of success.

It is absolutely essential that grass be well rooted in order to thrive. Often even sod fails because owners do not prepare the soil well before laying it. Prepare the site to ensure your lawn is healthy either way. Conduct a soil test first and learn the characteristics of your soil. The best type of soil for growing turf is sandy loam (mostly sand with some clay and silt). Clay needs to be amended with organic matter such as peat. You may need to finely grade the area and add phosphorous, potassium fertilizer or nitrogen depending on your soil test. Roll or pack the soil slightly. The effort and time you put in to the soil preparation will make a world of difference in winning the battle for a beautiful lawn whether you seed or sod.

Add to Your Arsenal

There are actually some other options you can add to your arsenal of possibilities for growing a great lawn:

Hyrdoseeding – a mix of seed, fertilizer and material that retains water that is sprayed on to a yard. It can work for slopes and large areas, has high germination rates and quick growth. Less expensive than sod but more expensive than seeding.

Plugs and Sprigs – You can start a lawn with individual plants, which is less costly than sodding, though both are considered rooted pieces of sod. Sprigs are thin 3 to 6 inch pieces of grass stems without soil. Plugs are 2 to 4 inch chunks of sod with soil covering the roots. Because of the amount of open soil, weeds can be a factor in planting plugs and sprigs.

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Sod vs. Seed: Which is Better for Your Real Grass Lawn?

Sod Seed Sod vs. Seed: Which is Better for Your Real Grass Lawn?

If your lawn is patchy and thin, you have several options for bringing it to life. Two of the most common methods are seeding and sodding. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and which one is right for you will depend on your circumstances, your budget and how soon you need a lush lawn.

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What’s the Difference Between Sodding & Seeding?

In sodding, you or your professional install strips of pre-grown grass on exposed and prepared soil. The sod sets up within 2-3 weeks and makes for an instantly green lawn. Professional farmers grow this grass and harvest it on farms across the country.

For seeding, you or your professional must test and prep the soil extensively. Measure and perfect the pH levels of the soil and distribute the seeds throughout the yard by way of a hand-caster.

What is Sod?

Sod is pre-grown grass that comes in rolls of about 2 feet by 5 feet. Farmers harvest the grass in these strips with up to 2 inches of soil intact, so that the soil, root systems and grass stay together like a mat. You can purchase it by the pallet, and a pallet’s worth of rolls usually covers 400-500 square feet. It is available in economy, mid and high grades. An alternative name for this is “turf,” though this is also commonly used to refer to artificial grass installations. Artificial turf costs between $5-$20 per square foot and is made from synthetic materials like polyethylene and nylon and requires very little—if any—maintenance. One of the most popular applications for this type of grass is on sports fields.

Real Grass Rolls versus Grass Plugs

Grass plugs come in squares of about 3 inches with a layer of soil attached. They are like smaller versions of sod. They are a more economical option than their counterpart, but they take longer to fill out. You plant them in a grid pattern and, over time, they spread to form a lush yard. Like with all grasses, different types grow best at different times and in particular environments.

Grass Seed

Grass seeds come from grass plants that mature, sprout heads and flower. You plant them in your yard as part of the seeding process. They germinate when moist, sprouting to make a lush new lawn.

There are hundreds of species available, and it’s important to get the right one for your climate and lawn, and to plant it at the right time. If conditions aren’t right for the type you choose, the germination process won’t be successful. All the options have standardized labels to help homeowners choose the right ones for their regions.

Sod vs Seed vs Hydroseeding

Hydroseeding costs an average of $1,000 for a 5,000-10,000 square foot lawn, though homeowners could pay anywhere from $500 to $4,000 depending on the size of their yard and quality of the mix. This is not a cost-effective DIY project due to the cost of purchasing or renting the specialty hose and spraying machine needed.

The process involves the distribution of a mixture of mulch, seeds, fertilizer, water and additives across bare soil. The seeds develop deep root systems and deter erosion because they are surrounded by the moist, nutrient-rich mixture.

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Which is Better for Your Lawn – Sod or Seed?

Below, we compare the pros and cons of seeding and sodding in important categories so you can work toward making the right decision for your budget and needs.

Note: Unless otherwise specified, the comparisons refer generally to seeding with grass seeds versus sodding with real grass rolls, or “turf.”

Which Is Best For Your Lawn?

Sod is Better for… Seed is Better for…
Immediate Results No-Rush Results
Preventing Soil Erosion Smaller Budgets
Less Restrictive Planting Times Greater Number of Options
Blocking Weeds DIY
Low-Maintenance Quality
Easy Patching & Reseeding

Cost Comparison

The cost of materials ranges from $100 to $500. Professional seeding costs an average of $400 to $1,300. Typically, homeowners spend around $850.

Most budget-friendly: Seed

DIY vs. Hiring a Landscaper

Seed
Pros
  • Easier and more economical to DIY than other methods. Costs around $100 to $300 for the materials, where hiring a professional could be $400 to $1,500.
Cons
  • You run the risk of buying the wrong species and preparing poorly, resulting in failed growth and wasted supplies.
Sod
  • You will have more options for materials because you won’t be limited to the products only a pro works with. You will also have total control of the project and timeline.
  • Improper installation could lead to unsightly and weed-prone gaps between sod sheets. DIY sodding can cost up to $2,000 for soil testing and equipment. It would be more cost-effective to hire a professional at $1,000 to $3,000.

Best for DIY: Seed

Reseed vs. Resod

Costs $60-$200. When doing an entire yard, you must kill the living grass and remove it. For small patches that need to be reseeded, you only need to plant in that area.

Costs $0.50 to $2.15 per square foot. For a 2,000 square foot yard, this would be $1,000-$4,300. The service includes killing and removing the current grass, buying new grass and having it installed.

Lowest cost to replant: Seed
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Transplanting Time

  • It is best to plant seeds within a year of buying them but, if you store them properly, they could last 2-3 years.
  • You must plant them during times suited to their species and the environment. You can plant warm-season options between March and September and cold-season ones between August and October.
  • The most ideal times for planting are in spring and early autumn due to the temperature and moisture, but you can install it through much of the growing season
  • You must plant the freshly harvested sheets within 24 hours for best results.

Least restrictive rules for transplanting: Tie

Maturation Time

  • Even though it will take longer to get a lawn with this method, the resulting grass will have a deeper root system.
  • Has a long maturation time. It could take up to 2 years before you have a full lawn.
  • With this method, you will have an instant yard and it will only take 2-3 weeks for it to root in your soil.
  • The roots may not be as deep or firm as with other methods. In fact, it is common for portions of the product to do not root.

Fastest results: Sod

Maintenance & Care

  • Requires up to 3 daily waterings for first three weeks.
  • Requires careful watering so seeds don’t wash away.
  • Won’t hold up to foot traffic until roots established.
  • Can’t be mown until fully grown in.
  • Has greater problems with weeds.
  • May demand extra fertilizer.
  • Requires daily watering for the initial two weeks.
  • Will not need as much water as a seeded yard during and after initial weeks.
  • Less likely to have significant weed problems.
  • Can hold up to foot traffic after 2-3 weeks.
  • Can be mown after 2-3 weeks.

Most low-maintenance: Sod

Choices

Most Popular Types of Grass Seeds

Species Cost by 7-10-pound bag Season Type & Description
Bahia $50-$70
  • Warm.
  • Handles foot traffic well.
  • Adapts well to drought.
  • Coarse texture.
Bermuda $30-$90
  • Warm
  • Grows fast.
  • Adapts well to drought.
  • Fine to medium texture.
Buffalo $100-$120
  • Warm
  • Handles foot traffic well.
  • Fine texture.
  • Low-maintenance.
Centipede $20-$40
  • Warm
  • Grows slowly.
  • Doesn’t handle traffic well.
  • Coarse texture.
Fescue $20-$25
  • Cool
  • Grows slowly.
  • Doesn’t handle traffic well.
  • Coarse texture.
Kentucky Bluegrass $35-$45
  • Cool
  • Doesn’t handle traffic well.
  • Good in cold.
  • Disease-resistant.
Kentucky 31 $40-$50
  • Cool
  • Good through winters.
  • Moderate foot traffic.
Ryegrass $20-$30
  • Cool
  • Doesn’t adapt to drought well.
  • Not good in extreme temperatures.
Types of Sod

Species Cost Range (Economy to High Grade) Description
Zoysia $170-$370
  • Grows slowly.
  • Temperate climates.
  • Fine, soft blades.
  • Tolerant to light and water.
St. Augustine $150-$320
  • Grows fast.
  • Warm, southern/coastal climates.
  • Wide blades.
  • Adapts well to drought.
Bermuda $170-$370
  • Grows fast.
  • Southwest and southern climates.
  • Good for food traffic.
  • Adapts well to drought.
Fescue $130-$300
  • Cool climates.
  • Good in shade.
  • Has many, many subtypes.
  • Adapts well to drought.

Greater number of options: Seed

Quality

  • Because of the long maturation time and deep rooting, you will get a higher-quality, firm lawn.
  • You also have more options and can find the correct species for your soil and climate, which will make for healthier and stronger results.
  • May wash away in rain or they may not germinate in spots, leaving vulnerable patches that need to be reseeded.
  • More resistant to weeds if installed correctly. A good choice for slopes and areas of erosion.
  • You may not be able to find the species that is the best fit for your lawn due to limited species. Less tolerant to shade.

Most high-quality results: Seed

Erosion, Soil Conditions and Other Planting Considerations

Seed – Prior to installation, you or your installer must prepare the soil with any necessary herbicides and nutrients to prevent weeds and encourage germination. Because of its long maturation period, this installation will not do much to prevent erosion.

Sod – Before laying, you or your installer will need to prepare the soil by testing the quality and adjusting accordingly—but it doesn’t need to be nearly as extensive as with seed. This installation will also work to instantly control erosion.

Most effective erosion control: Sod
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Top Brands of Seed & Sod

Seed has several top brands, but the most popular and highly rated are:

  • Pennington
  • Jonathan Green
  • Scotts
  • DC Earth
  • Kentucky 31

Sod doesn’t yet have major brands because of the nature of the work and how quickly it must be planted after harvesting. The industry is still reliant on local farms. Harmony and Sod Solutions are common brands carried by large garden centers.

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Sod vs. Seed: Which is Best?

By Marty Ross

Gardening can be a tricky business: There are lots of questions, but the answers can be elusive. Often, there is really no right or wrong—it’s just a matter of deciding what works best for you. The choice between laying down sod or growing grass from seed is just such a question.

Regardless of whether you buy sod or seed, you’ll need to take care of your investment. Make sure you have a long hose—long enough to place your sprinkler where it can reach every corner of the lawn. Gilmour’s Flexogen hoses are available in 25-, 50-, 75- and 100-foot lengths. They’re extremely durable, flexible and kink-resistant.

You’ll also need a good sprinkler, such as Gilmour’s Adjustable Pattern Master Circular Sprinkler, or an oscillating sprinkler such as Gilmour’s Wind-resistant Rectangular Sprinkler.

They are both designed to water a large area, and they’re adjustable. Set them to water the lawn, not the sidewalk, the driveway or guests on the patio.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you decide whether to buy seed or sod:

Seed:

  • Growing anything from seed is very satisfying, but it takes time. You’ll have to live with bare dirt for a little while, and you’ll need to limit walking on the lawn while the grass becomes established.
  • You can choose from a broad selection of grass types and blends. Look online for recommendations from your local extension experts, and shop with a list of their suggestions in hand. An important consideration is whether your grass will be growing in full sun or part shade.
  • Timing is critical. Sow seed for cool-season lawns (these lawns stay green through the winter) in late summer or early fall. Warm-season lawns (which are dormant during the cold months) should be seeded in spring or summer.
  • You’ll have to keep an eye out for weeds until the grass takes hold.
  • Sowing seed is the least expensive way to start a lawn.

Sod:

  • Sod provides instant gratification. If you’re planning an event in the garden, you can lay down sod the week of the party.
  • Most garden shops carry just one kind of sod. It’s likely to be a type recommended for your area, so you usually don’t have a choice of varieties.
  • You can lay down sod at any time during the gardening season.
  • Sod is a crop, and it is grown in sun. When you buy sod to put in a shady area, it will have to adapt.
  • Sod is weed-free.
  • Sod is more expensive than seed.


After you sow seed or lay sod, watering is crucial. Seeds should be watered lightly and regularly—every couple of days. A deep soaking is not called for here. Sod, on the other hand, should be watered thoroughly as soon as it is laid down. Keep it moist (but not soggy) for a couple of weeks, until the roots are knitted to the soil. It’s all right to peel up a corner of sod to check on the roots.

If you like a challenge or you’re on a budget, plant seeds. You’ll enjoy the process, and you will be able to see your progress daily as the seeds sprout and grow. If you’re in a hurry or you don’t feel confident planting seeds, buy sod. In either case, the success of your project depends on careful watering. With the right tools, you’ll have a lawn to be proud of.

Sod  vs  Seed

When you want to improve your landscaping and increase the amount of grass you have on your property, you typically have two options – add some grass seed or put down sod. Grass seed comes in a variety of different types and allows you to fill in thin areas or grow an entire lawn over the course of about two years. Sod gives you an instant lawn without any of the waiting involved with seeds. Both will eventually produce a lush, green lawn when well cared for, but they do have several differences. Below, we’ll explain these differences to help you make a more informed decision for your property.

Soil Preparation

In both the installation of seed and sod, there is some preparation required for the lawn. In either case, there may need to be the removal of old, dead grass, rocks, tree stumps, or fallen leaves. Also in both cases, the soil may need to be prepared to handle the addition of the new grass. Herbicides may be necessary to control weeds, while nutrients may need to be added to help the grass grow. The cost of this soil preparation is normally included in the cost of the seed installation, but if the ground is in poor condition, it may cost an additional $2 per square foot. The cost of soil preparation with sod is generally less, around $0.40 to $0.60 per square foot.

Installation and Costs

Seed is fairly easy to lay once the soil is prepared. The grass seed is added to a spreader and laid evenly over the ground before being raked in. This process typically costs around $150 to $700 depending on the size of your lawn and the amount of preparation work, with an average cost per square foot of $0.14 for labor, with a small garden costing about $150, and a 5,000 square foot lawn about $700.

Sod can be laid out in rolls or squares, as well as smaller plugs to fill in sparse areas. Like seed, the labor cost is generally priced per yard rather than per foot, with a 5,000 square foot yard costing between $1,250 and $3,000 in labor or $0.25 to $0.60 per square foot, depending on the amount of preparation required.

Both seed and sod have a range of prices depending on the type of grass installed. Seed is much less expensive than sod, not only to install but also to purchase. Most grass seeds range between $65 and $105 for enough to cover a 5,000 square foot lawn, costing roughly $.08 per square foot. Sod is considerably more money, costing between $1,250 and $4,250, or $0.69 per square foot on average, to cover the same 5,000 square foot lawn – roughly a 30% to 42% increase in the cost of the material.

Appearance

Both seed and sod come in a range of different grass types, including fescue 1 and Bermuda. Seed is typically available in a wider range of options than sod, however, giving you more choices for color, hardiness, and lushness of the lawn.

Seed does take up to 2 years to fill in completely, however, while sod will give you a new lawn within one day. Because seed takes much longer to cover a lawn completely, weeds may mix in with the grass over time, which can ruin the initial appearance of the lawn and may require the use of herbicides. Because sod is fully grown grass with no weeds introduced, it doesn’t require the same amount of care.

Planting Season

When adding seed to your lawn, the best time of year is during the cooler fall months. The warm days and cool nights help the grass grow quickly, putting down roots that will help it come up stronger in the spring. Keep in mind that it will be several weeks at least before you see the grass begin to grow and around two years before you will see the final results of a fully mature lawn.

For homeowners wishing to get an instant lawn, sod is the better choice. Sod can be laid in the spring or fall, but should not be laid in the winter months. It will take the sod roughly two weeks to put down shallow roots after it is laid; it is best not to walk on the sod during this period of time. Over the next 30 days, the sod will put down deeper roots, establishing itself in your lawn.

Maintenance

Both seed and sod have some degree of maintenance after laying. Sod will require daily watering for the first two weeks to encourage the roots to grow. It should be cut after 45 days when the grass is dry to prevent ripping it out, with the mower set to 3 inches in height.

Seed may have a greater degree of initial maintenance than sod. Seed also requires daily watering, but it also requires a weaning period from daily watering so that the new grass does not become stunted. In addition, the seed should not be watered all at once. Instead, apply half the water, wait an hour, then apply the rest. Otherwise, the seeds may be washed away.

Seeds may also require special fertilizers meant for new lawns for the first few months before switching over to a fertilizer made just for grass. Fertilizing too soon may actually cause the weeds to grow more quickly than the grass, therefore fertilizers mixed with weed-controlling herbicides are recommended.

Erosion Control

If the soil in the area you are planting is experiencing erosion, sod can be installed as a form of erosion control. A biodegradable mat is first secured to the soil to help prevent any further displacement. The sod is installed on the mat, then as the roots grow, the mat degrades and allows for the roots to help anchor the soil.

Seed cannot be used for this purpose, as the length of time it takes to put down roots cannot stop erosion quickly enough.

Grass Seed vs. Sod: Dealing with shady lawns

100 sq. ft. of sod vs. seed for 100 sq. ft.

More isn’t always better. You’ll get better results in highly shaded areas using 1/2 lb. of grass seed than laying 11 rolls of sod weighing 25 lbs. each.

It will take more patience and tending on your part, but for shady areas you’ll get better results with seed. Sod is great when you want instant lawn. You get grass that’s thick, weed-free and fertilized. You can be mowing the stuff in two to three weeks.

Here’s how to prepare to install sod.

But most sods are grown in wide-open fields, a condition that favors bluegrass and other sun-loving grasses. And sod that’s primarily bluegrass won’t grow as vigorously under your shade tree as fescue and other shade-loving grasses. Head to a landscape center and buy a grass seed mix that’s formulated for shade. Some mixes get pretty specific in their formulation, so if you know what kind of soil you’re working with, it will help you find the ideal mix. And you’ll save money—grass seed for a 100-sq.-ft. area will only cost a few bucks, while sod could cost 10 times as much, or more. Plus, it’s a lot easier carrying home a sandwich bag of seed than hauling a dozen rolls of sod.

Your seed will require more soil preparation and pampering. You’ll need to rototill or loosen up the soil before planting, keep the area watered and battle weeds as they try to take root before the grass fills in. And you won’t be playing croquet for at least six months. But once it’s established, seed has the best chance of survival.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare your lawn for seeding.

If you want to establish a new lawn, or reestablish an old lawn, you have two basic choices: you can plant seed and sprout your own new turf, or you can buy sod and roll it out like new carpet, ready to go.

The end result should be about the same if done correctly so what are the differences between the two options?

Seed Advantages

  • Significantly lower initial cost than sod.
  • More species of grass available as seed for sun and shade.
  • Lawn develops in native soil.

Seed Disadvantages

  • Takes longer to establish a new lawn as seed must germinate.
  • Water requirements are critical during germination.
  • May require reseeding after heavy rain.
  • Ideal time of year for seeding is limited to late summer and early fall.
  • Weeds can be a problem until lawn is established, especially if seeded in spring

Sod Advantages

  • Creates an instant lawn, which can be walked on almost immediately.
  • Virtually no weeds when installed.
  • Stops soil erosion right away even on slopes.
  • Can be installed any time during the growing season.

Sod Disadvantages

  • Much higher initial cost to establish lawn.
  • Choice of species is very limited, not shade tolerant.
  • Possibility of importing problematic non-native soil.
  • Large volume of water needed initially.

Whichever way you choose to go, the quality of the seed or sod is essential to establishing a healthy lawn. Initial soil preparation is also important. If possible, get a soil test done before starting so any amendments can be added to the soil. Compost may be necessary for clay soils. Rough as well as fine grading is crucial and control of perennial weeds is necessary before seeding or sodding to prevent them from taking over your new lawn. Tilling or covering with sod will not kill perennial weeds and an initial application of a non-selective herbicide may be necessary.

Newly seeded lawns must be watered frequently, but not deeply. It’s only necessary to keep the top ½ inch of soil moist, but you don’t need to deep water initially. Once the seedlings have emerged, watering should be done deeply and less frequently. Limit heavy traffic on lawn for first year until it has become well established.

Newly sodded lawns need a good deal of water initially to keep them healthy, however they will hold up well to foot traffic and can be fertilized on a regular schedule. Beware of shrinking as weeds can grow between the sections of sod. If you decide to go with sod, it’s best to hire a professional to do the installation and insure you get fresh sod.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Grass Seed vs Sod

Disadvantages of sod

  • High initial cost. Finished sod carries a higher price tag than comparable grass seed coverage.
  • High labor expense. Improper installation leads to poor rooting, visible seams and failed, unsightly lawns. Effective results may require trained professionals.
  • Restricted grass choices. Sod limits you to grass varieties sod farmers choose. This means fewer choices matched to your unique home and lawn goals. Take time to seek out farmers who grow premium, top-performing grasses, such as Water Star varieties.
  • Different growing conditions. Growing conditions in your yard may vary significantly from where sod was grown. Adjustments to different light levels and soil conditions can be difficult. Most sod is grown in full sun, so shady lawns can be challenging for sod.
  • Short transplanting window. Fresh sod must be laid as soon as possible after harvest, ideally within 24 hours of being cut.

With grass seed, you become the grower. This allows you to influence and experience every step of your lawn’s establishment, from germination and rooting to the development of thick, lush, green turf. Starting a lawn from seed has its own distinct set of considerations: Advantages of grass seed

  • Lower initial cost. The cost of premium grass seed is much less when compared to the cost of sod for the same size lawn.
  • Low labor investment. Seeding a lawn is a simple process when you follow best practices for planting grass seed. You can avoid common mistakes – even as a first timer.
  • Expanded grass choices. Seed allows great flexibility in choosing grass varieties to match your growing conditions and complement your environmental and ecological values and desires. Choosing grasses suited to your geography, light and soil translates to better performance and less maintenance, which means more leisure time for you. For example, Pennington Smart Seed grasses require significantly less water than ordinary grasses, offer improved resistance to disease and pests, and come in regional mixes and blends to match your needs.
  • Established in place. With seed, your grasses continue to grow in the same place where they germinate and root. Grasses can grow deep and healthy root systems, undisturbed.

Advantages of Grass Seed Over Laying Sod

If you had to pick between establishing your new lawn with sod or grass seed,which would you choose? Sod has the obvious advantage of being “instant,” but seed has some advantages you may not know about. Here are the three biggest advantages to plant grass seed instead of using sod to establish a new lawn:

  1. Less expensive. Let’s say that you have a yard measuring 2,000 square feet that you would like to turn into a lawn. How much would it cost to lay sod over the entire area? The least expensive sod you will probably find is around 30 cents per square foot. That means you would be paying $600 for a new lawn—and it might not even be worth the investment, depending on the quality of the grass seed it was established from. Additionally, for best results sod should be laid within 24 hours of it being cut, and it isn’t likely that the sod on sale in your garden supply store is that fresh. You would be better off ordering sod from a professional supplier who can guarantee when it was harvested. That, of course, increases the price of the sod, to perhaps as much as $1.00 per square foot. That 2000 square foot lawn might cost as much as $2,000 to establish from sod. Grass seed at NaturesSeed.com ranges from about $0.02 to $0.08 per square foot of coverage, resulting in a savings of 90-95% over sod.
  2. More choices. Sod is a convenient and fast way to establish a lawn, but it is basically a one-size-fits-all product. Sod lawns usually contain only one species of grass and no different varieties of that grass species—this is known as a monoculture, which can make your lawn more susceptible to drought, disease, and stress. The great thing about seeds is that they are so easy to mix together, and mixes of different seeds are the best way to make your lawn more versatile and resistant to poor environmental conditions. For example, Nature’s Finest Seed offers a Sun & Shade Grass Seed Blend that can handle full sun to heavy shade. It contains 4 different species of grass: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, chewings fescue, and hard fescue. If you’re interested in an alternative lawn option, Nature’s Finest Seed has a Low Maintenance Grass Blend which contains unique grass types that you wouldn’t find in sod products. Even blends with only one grass species will usually contain different varieties to increase diversity, such as in the Triple Play Blend, which contain 3 varieties of turf-type tall fescue. Establishing a lawn from these seed products may take longer than sod, but the care you take in selecting the perfect blend for your needs will be well worth it in the long run.
  3. Less labor intensive. Laying sod is not a solitary job. You will first need to figure out to transport it—do you have a vehicle big enough to fit all of your sod pieces, or will you need them delivered to you? You will also need the muscle of more than one person to lay it on your yard. Most sod pieces are too big to be carried by one person, and they could break. Often people will hire a professional to lay the sod for them, which significantly increases the cost of the lawn project. In short, laying sod can get complicated, and simplifying it by using labor can get expensive.

What’s involved in seeding a lawn? You buy the appropriate amount of seed from a professional supplier. You prepare the soil appropriately, and you spread half the seed on the lawn widthwise, and half of the seed lengthwise. There’s more to it than that, of course, but with some background research it can certainly be done by one person in the space of an afternoon. And with all the money you saved by buying grass seed, you could choose to have professional do the seeding for you.

Hydroseed Vs Sod: What To Expect

Your bare feet just can’t wait for plain old grass seed.

You want a speed lawn — an envy-inducing spread of grass so green and soft, you might just throw away all your shoes.

So, hydroseed or sod? Both are shortcuts that will get you that lawn much faster than planting seed and waiting.

Here’s a look at both methods, and what you can expect from each.

A Look At Hydroseed

Even the name sounds fast, and kind of sciencey. What exactly is it?

Hydroseed is a mixture of grass seed, water, and fertilizer that’s sprayed onto your yard or property with a hose.

How Long Does It Take?

Hydroseed has to be applied to bare soil, so how long it takes depends on how much preparation is needed.

It’s a good choice for new construction, because the ground is already new and bare.

If there’s already some grass on the property, it has to be removed, so only bare dirt remains.

While hydroseed doesn’t offer the instant lawn of sod, it’s faster than traditional lawn seeding. You’ll see some green grass in 7-10 days. This initial green grass that you see in our climate is rye grass. This grass is thin and germinates faster than bluegrass. The rye grass protects the bluegrass as it germinates and takes hold.

Most of the lawn that you want — the thick, soft, dark green grass — is bluegrass. Bluegrass takes 22-30 days to germinate. So when you initially see green sprouting in your new yard, you’re only seeing about 3-5% of the seed. The rest will come later.

What Kind Of Care Does It Need?

Remember, with big cost savings comes a trade off. When you choose to hydroseed or traditional seed, you’re taking on all of the work that the sod farm does for you — weeding, fertilizing, managing the water.

Hydroseed needs to stay well watered. And unlike sod, you can’t walk or play on it for about a month or more, until the roots get established.

What’s The Cost?

Hydroseed costs more than traditional grass seed but less than sod, making it a good middle-ground choice. Hydroseed will range from 9 cents a foot to 15 cents depending on the type of grass and what is included.

At Outback Landscape, we include the initial fertilizations and herbicide treatments for you to get the ball rolling.

What’s The Best Timing?

Spring is typically the best time to plant.

How Much Labor Is Involved?

Hydroseeding takes less labor than sod.

Next, A Look At Sod

Sod is rolled-up sections of pre-grown grass, roots and all. The sections of grass, roots and soil are laid on top of bare soil.

That’s the beauty of sod — it’s instant grass.

Like hydroseed, sod requires bare soil. So some preparation will be needed if you have any existing grass or weeds. Plan to stay off new sod for 10-14 days after initial installation.

Lots of water. Plan to water your new lawn two to four times a day for the first few weeks, to help the roots get established.

Sod typically costs 40 cents or more per square foot, including labor and delivery.

What’s The Best Timing?

The cooler weather of spring and fall are best for laying sod.

It’s more labor intensive to lay multiple sections of sod than it is to spray hydroseed. Depending on the size of your yard or property, it can take several hours.

What Are The Benefits Of Sod?

You can walk on sod within a few weeks.

It’s an instant lawn.

If your yard is small, it won’t cost that much more to do sod than other methods.

Preparation Matters

Whatever method you choose — hydroseed or sod — now is the time to be sure your soil is healthy by amending it. Make sure the pH is right, before the seed or sod goes in. The soil quality will ultimately affect the health of your new lawn.

Don’t Forget The Follow-Up

No matter what method you choose, don’t neglect your new lawn once it’s established. Be sure to follow up with a professional lawn maintenance program that includes fertilization and weed control.

Your new lawn will look great — you’ll want it to stay that way.

Trust Your Lawn To Outback Landscape

Questions about hydroseed vs sod? We’d love to answer them.

At Outback Landscape, we’re lawn experts, no matter which method you choose.

In addition to lawn care service, we offer landscape design, construction, maintenance, irrigation and lighting services to enhance your property.

We serve residential and commercial properties in Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Pocatello, Idaho, as well as Bonneville, Madison and Bannock counties.

Call us at 208-656-3220. Or fill out the contact form to schedule a no-obligation meeting with one of our team members.

We’d love to hear from you.

Compare Sod vs Seeding a Lawn Costs

Sod Overview

All grass starts from a seed. But with sod, the difficult task of planting the seeds and nurturing them until they grow is done for you.

Sod is professionally cultivated. The seeds are planted on a farm and the grass is harvested when it is mature, healthy and free of weeds. The grass is then cut into squares or rolls and sold.

How Much Does Sod Cost?

Sod is expensive – it costs about 20 times more than growing your own grass from seeds.

  • The sod itself usually costs about 10 cents to 30 cents per square foot, depending on the type of grass you select.
  • With professional installation, the total cost could climb to $1 per square foot.
  • If you hire a landscaper to do any sort of prep work, such as ripping out the old grass, removing stumps and/or regrading the lawn, plan on paying $30 to $50 per hour for those services.

Sod Pros

  • No waiting – With sod, you instantly have a beautiful, manicured lawn. There’s no waiting for seeds to sprout. And sod can be installed year-round, while seeds are generally planted in the spring or fall.
  • More durable – Sod isn’t as fragile, at least initially. You don’t have to worry about the lawn being destroyed in the first few weeks by kids or pets trampling across it.
  • Less maintenance – Sod requires far less maintenance in the first few weeks. You’ll need to water and weed the lawn, but not as frequently as you have to with seed.

Sod Cons

  • Pricey – Even if your lawn is just 10,000 square feet (slightly less than one-quarter acre), the total cost for sod installation could be as much as $10,000.
  • Requires a professional – In most cases, laying sod is not a do-it-yourself project. It requires the knowledge and expertise of a professional.

Seed Overview

Seeding a lawn is a time-consuming process. But the results are rewarding. With a bit of hard work and a little luck, you’ll have a plush, green lawn in a matter of one to two months.

There are many different varieties of grass, and thus, many different types of seeds. It is important to do some research before you buy to find out which type of grass performs best in your climate.

How Much Does Seed Cost?

Seeding a lawn is relatively inexpensive. Grass seed usually costs about 1 cent per square foot. For a 10,000-square-foot lawn, that works out to a total cost of $100.

If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to purchase a spreader. Most residential spreaders sell for just $100 to $200.

Seed Pros

  • Affordable – The total project cost for seeding a lawn is usually just a few hundred dollars. That includes the price of the seed and purchasing a spreader.

Seed Cons

  • Time consuming – It usually takes several hours to lay grass seed. If it rains that night, you’ll have to spread more seed the next day. Then, you’ll need to spend the next few weeks watering and weeding the lawn to promote growth. About three weeks after seeding, the grass will begin to sprout.
  • Not ideal for warm climates – Seeding doesn’t work very well in hot climates; it is best in the north, where the winters are cold and the summers are hot. If you live in climate that is hot year round, sod is your best bet.

Author: Ashley Smith

Sod vs. Seed?

ENCAP’s Lawn Starter™ Pro is a granular mulch that can be applied with any spreader. The granules are made from recycled paper and contain ENCAP’s proprietary blend of soil stabilizing polymers. The polymers are designed to improve soil conditions and keep seed, soil and fertilizer right where you put them, even after it rains. The polymers also help to condition the soil by creating micro channels that help to get water and nutrients into the root zone. This improves germination and overall seed establishment. All of this in a product that is clean and easy to use. ENCAP’s Lawn Starter™ Pro is fast and easy to apply with no cleanup saving you time, money and labor. Lawn Starter™ Pro is the earth -friendly choice of landscape professionals.

Over-seeding

Overseeding a lawn can help improve its overall health and appearance. Simply explained, lawn over-seeding is a process of spreading grass seed over the already existing turf. Generally, over seeding is best for larger areas where the turf is thin, but not bare. Smaller areas that are thin or infested with weeds can be spot seeded.

The benefits of over-seeding a lawn include:

  • Filling in areas of turf damaged by summer stress, diseases or insects
  • Thickening and increasing the density of thin lawns
  • Improving the lawn’s appearance
  • Enhancing the lawn’s ability to fight insects and diseases

Lawn over-seeding is good for lawns that suffer from drought stress, insect or disease damage, or that show other evidences of decline, such as bare patches. Over-seeding a lawn with newer, improved types of turf-grass is often the best way to thicken the lawn and improve its health and appearance. The new turf-grass is better able to resist damage from drought, turf-grass diseases and lawn damaging insects.

Lawn over-seeding can be effective by itself, but it is often combined with lawn aeration. After a lawn aerator pulls cores of soil from the lawn, the seed is then applied using a rotary or drop seeder. For even coverage, the seed is divided into equal lots and each lot is spread in different directions.

There’s a good reason for combining over-seeding with aeration. The holes created by the aeration process allow good seed-to-soil contact. This adds seed germination. Once the seed germinates, the seedlings must be kept moist with light frequent watering until they are established.

In general, lawn over-seeding is most beneficial to cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass. But certain types of warm-season grasses can benefit from over-seeding, too, especially in the winter when they go dormant.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Seeding

Advantages

  • Larger selection of species available. Different mixes of species and blends of different cultivars are available for specific management practices, sun or shade, disease resistance, and soil type.
  • Turf develops in the environment in which it will live.
  • Lower initial cost than sodding.

Disadvantages

  • Timing of establishment critical. Best time is September. April – May is also a good time, but weed seeds germinate in greater numbers in spring.
  • Longer time period to get a dense lawn.
  • May require reseeding due to poor germination in some areas or wash outs from heavy rain or irrigation.
  • Weeds can be a problem until lawn is fully established.
  • Initial watering is critical.

Sodding

Advantages

  • “Instant lawn”.
  • May be walked on soon after planting.
  • Dust, mud and erosion are quickly reduced.
  • May be planted anytime during the growing season as long as adequate water is available.
  • Basically weed-free.

Disadvantages

  • Higher initial cost.
  • Choice of species is very limited.
  • Not produced in shaded environment.
  • Large volume of water needed initially.
  • Sod may shrink and weeds may invade especially if the sod is not properly installed. Do not stretch sod. Stagger seams similar to brick-laying.
  • Speed of rooting varies with season. Spring and fall are optimal.

Whether seeding or sodding, initial soil preparation is crucial. If possible get a soil test first so any amendments can be added. Add compost especially to clay soils. Large quantities of compost are available at the Landscape Recycling Center on east University in Urbana. Rough grading and fine grading is crucial for both seeding and sodding. Control perennial weeds first. Don’t assume tilling or covering with sod will kill perennial weeds such as creeping Charlie, bindweed or quackgrass. An initial application of a non-selective herbicide of glyphosate sold as Round up™ may be helpful. Wait until weeds are brown before seeding or sodding. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

Tips for successful lawn seeding

  • Purchase quality seed.
  • Rake, roll lightly, then mulch lightly.
  • Top ½ inch of soil should be kept moist until seeds germinate. First watering will be lightly and frequently. Keep in mind germination rates: Kentucky bluegrass 10-30 days and perennial ryegrass 3-10 days. Once the seedlings have emerged, watering should be deeply and less frequently.

Once the seedlings are growing:

  • At 2-inch height, fertilize at ½ rate.
  • Mow when 3-4.5 inch height down to 2-3 inch height.
  • Limit heavy traffic for first year.
  • Wait until after 3 mowings for postemergent herbicide application if needed.

Tips for successful sodding

  • Choose fresh, healthy sod with a thin soil layer.
  • Choose sod grown on soils similar to that of planting site if possible.
  • Lightly roll after installation.
  • Water thoroughly.

Post-Planting Care of Sod

  • Sod should root in about 14 days.
  • Fertilize using the regular recommended fertilization schedule.
  • Mow using the “1/3 rule”. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at one time. Gradually mow down to 2-2.5 inch height.
  • After proper rooting, core aeration can encourage deeper rooting.

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