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Is Seed or Sod Better For A New Lawn?

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.