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How to Lay Sod in the Summer

How to Lay Sod in the Summer

With the summer heat and seasonal thunderstorms, it’s no surprise laying sod in the summer is an intimidating task for many of us. The best time to lay sod is generally early or mid-fall followed by the spring season depending on your geographical location. But for some of us, the summer may be the most opportune time to complete the project depending on our situation and schedule.

It’s true that the summer is a tough time for new sod—it’s hot and your new sod can be prone to more drought issues than usual while establishing. Although there will be plenty of sweat, dirt and hot sunshine, you can still install sod during the summer season despite these challenges! Just be ready to water it a lot. 

With the right strategy, you can install warm or cool season sod any time of the year. Follow our step-by-step guide to lay sod in the summer below. The first few steps help you prepare the site for installation while the final steps provide instructions for laying and caring for the new sod.

Looking to buy new sod? Use the Sod Sales Tool below to request a free quote. Start by entering in your address and amount of square feet you need to cover. If you aren’t sure how many square feet you will need to cover, find out in Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area.
Step 1: Test Your Soil

Although the best time to test your soil is during the spring and fall seasons, you can test your soil anytime of the year and it’s a good idea to do this before installing new sod.

Test your soil before applying chemicals to kill off your old grass and before installation. Since your soil’s health is what determines the overall health of your grass, working from the ground up is the best way to ensure a successful, thriving lawn. 

It also helps balance your soil’s pH so that when you apply nutrients found in fertilizers, your grass is able to actually absorb them. In other words, if your soil’s pH is off, nutrients won’t be absorbed as effectively, meaning the fertilizer you apply may be a waste of money.

Taking a soil analysis and sending it to a laboratory is affordable, but typically takes about two weeks to complete depending on where you send it. Keep this timeframe in mind before installing sod so that you have enough time to receive results and determine what your soil needs.

Learn more about soil testing in How to Test Your Soil.

Step 2: Choose a Type of Grass

Selecting the type of grass for your lawn is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the installation process. It’s also a step that will occur during installation any time of the year.

With that being said, be wary of picking a grass solely for its aesthetic and beauty. Make sure the grass can thrive in your environment and climate first. 

For example, if your lawn has a lot of shade, make sure you pick a shade tolerant grass. Also be sure to ask how much maintenance goes into the different types of grasses available. Here is a list of some things to do and think about before selecting a new turfgrass:

  • Research the area and climate you are located in.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different grass characteristics.
  • Understand the visual differences between grass colors, textures and other physical aspects.

Learn more in Tips for Selecting the Right Grass for My Lawn. How to Choose the Right Type of Sod may also be a helpful read that gives a brief summary of the different types of grass. 

Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area
Home Area Neighborhood Top View

The third step involves finding out how much sod you will need to order. This is important no matter which season you’re laying sod. We recommend using the Area Calculator Tool to draw and measure how much surface area you’ll need to cover and determine how much sod you’ll need to purchase. 

  • Start by entering your address.
  • Draw an overlay shape for where you plan to install new sod.
  • You can now move forward with this square footage number and request a free quote.

Find more detailed instructions here or watch the video below. Once this step is complete, be sure to check out How Many Square Feet are on a Pallet of Sod?.

Step 4: Kill and Remove Old Grass

Before installing new sod, it’s important to clear the area of any currently existing grass, vegetation or debris in the area you want to replace with new sod. This should be done AFTER a soil test. If you are removing grass, we recommend following these steps:

  • Begin by making an application of Specticle or some other glyphosate-based/nonselective product 10–14 days before sod installation takes place.
  • Wait 3–4 days and then make a second application if the grass isn’t dying quickly enough.
  • Once your grass is dead, use a sod cutter or roto-tiller to remove the top layer of grass and debris.

If you plan to use a sod cutter, don’t be intimidated! You can rent this piece of equipment from a local hardware store. Home Depot has a rental service, for example. Check it out. Read How to Use Sod Cutters When Sod Needs Removal for more information on what a sod cutter is and how to operate them.

Step 5: Prep Soil and Level

This step is very important if you’re laying sod in the summer. Proper site preparation makes it easier for new grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly—this allows your sod to establish quickly during the stressful heat of the summer. 

Although you will still need to water your lawn a lot during the summer, deep roots will make the lawn denser and drought resistant, allowing for more efficient use of water and nutrients. A dense lawn will outcompete weeds and resists insects and disease a little better as well.

Follow these steps to begin prepping and leveling your soil:

  • Reduce compacted soil with a rake or hoe.
  • Pull up or add organic matter.
  • Smooth out the soil’s surface to get a visual for how leveled your yard is.
  • Wait for rain or irrigate with a sprinkler to help settle the soil a little more.
  • Smooth the soil’s surface one last time.

Be sure to moisten the surface of the planting area before laying sod. This will help the new sod stay hydrated during the warm summer temperatures. For more information on prepping and leveling your soil, take a look at our article, Leveling Your Soil and Preparing for Installation

Step 6: Lay and Roll Out New Sod

Once you have done all the preparation work, it’s time to have your sod delivered and installed. The grass should be off the pallet and in your lawn in 48 hours or less.

It should remain on the pallet even less than 48 hours during summer installations as this will cause the sod to dry out. If you notice the sod is heating up on the pallets, unstack them and soak them with water.

When laying out the new sod, it is recommended to follow these tips:

  • Plan on where the sod will be delivered and place it in a convenient location in your yard.
  • Use wagons or wheelbarrows to help transport slabs to where you’re working as you move around.
  • Plan on having the appropriate amount of people handy to help with labor.
  • Have the right hand-tools, such as utility knife box-cutter to cut oddly shaped pieces to fit around curbs or other landscaping.
  • Use a brick pattern when laying with offsetting seams.
  • Use a landscape edger or machete to cut around corners and at the edges.
  • Place the pieces together as tightly as possible to prevent weeds from pushing through the seams and to retain moisture.
  • Once installed, the grass should be rolled for smoothness. Find more handy tips for sod installation projects in Tips for Your Next Sod Job

Pictured above from left to right: Sod laid in a brick-like pattern and a man using a sod roller to smooth the new sod out into the soil.

Step 7: Water and Fertilize

During sod installation, it is essential that the sod is watered thoroughly—especially during the summer. Soak the area after the sod is laid as water is needed to keep your grass from drying out. 

Select a fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients your soil may need according to the soil analysis results you should’ve received by now. Your new sod needs plenty of phosphorus at this time. Phosphorus helps roots grow so that the new sod can establish successfully. Sometimes it can be hard to understand a fertilizer label so we discuss a few ways to interpret and find what you’re looking for here. We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer.

Grow, the first and second bottle of the New Lawn Starter Box, is especially useful during the establishment process. It serves to promote healthy root growth of newly installed grass by providing nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and carbon. The soil should be moist 3–4 inches deep. 

Read When to Fertilize Newly Installed Sod for more details.

Other Tips for Laying Sod in the Summer
  • Keep your lawn moist, but do not overwater it—if you do this, it will be susceptible to disease.
  • Apply disease control products regularly to prevent lawn disease since you will be watering your new sod a lot to keep roots from drying out. Learn more here and check out a few disease control products below.
  • Taper back watering in the shadier spots since these areas are more prone to fungus and disease pressure.
  • Our establishment guide says to water in the early morning and late afternoon; however, watering new sod midday is also a good idea to make sure the new sod doesn’t dry out. Learn more in When to Water Newly Installed Sod.
  • Be sure to fertilize your lawn to promote healthy rooting and establishment. 

Congratulations on your new lawn! The next step in the process is establishment. Be sure to take a look at How to Care for New Sod for proper maintenance practices to help your newly laid sod develop into a thick, established lawn.

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