1. Measuring the Area
In New Jersey, sod is usually ordered by square feet (SF). If the area you want to sod is a basic square or rectangle you simply measure the length by the width and multiply to come up with the total SF. However, in most cases the area doesn't have a simple rectangle layout. In those cases, one method of calculating your SF is to divide your area into smaller sections, and add the SF of each section. If you would sketch your area (including all your measurements) and visit one of our sod sales locations, we would be happy to determine the amount of sod you need from your sketch.
2. Soil Preparation
Proper soil preparation saves time and money in the long run. Loosening the soil surface is beneficial for incorporating fertilizer and facilitates quick root growth from your freshly installed sod. Cultivate the area by roto-tilling or spading to a depth of 4-6 inches. Remove all debris such as roots, wood, large clods and such. It is always best if you have your soil tested for proper pH factor and nutrient deficiencies. Apply a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-20-10) to the area. If you are installing sod under large older trees, chances are you will have a high acidity level and ag lime should be applied before sodding. Complete final grading and smoothing by hand raking or tractor mounted box blade. Be sure to slope soil away from buildings to prevent drainage problems. Roll or water your graded area to settle and firm the surface. This will reveal low areas that require more soil.
3. Installing the Turf
Begin placement of your sod along the longest straight line, such as a driveway or sidewalk and work toward the middle. Snugly fit the edges of your turf against each other. Avoid gaps and overlaps. On sloped areas, install your sod rolls or slabs lengthwise and parallel to the slope. Stagger the joints in a checkerboard fashion. Depending upon the grade, sod staples or stakes may be required to hold the sod in place until root establishment. After installing the turf, tamp or roll the area to eliminate air pockets and to ensure proper contact between the sod and underlying soil.
Water your new turf grass immediately. Initially, apply at least 1" of water so that the soil underneath is very wet. Pull back a corner of sod to verify your watering is penetrating the underlying soil. Make sure that the water is getting to all the areas of your lawn and that no corners or edges are missed by your sprinklers. Weather conditions will dictate the frequency and amount of water to apply. It is critical to keep the underlying soil moist for two weeks or until your turf is well rooted. Frequent and lighter applications of ¼" water daily should be adequate in the absence of rainfall. As the turf becomes more established, begin deeper, less frequent water applications to promote deeper rooting and hardier turf. Be sure your new turf grass has enough moisture to survive hot, cold or dry conditions.
5. Keep Off the Grass!
During the first couple of weeks after installation, keep traffic off your newly planted turf grass as much as possible. Your new turf grass needs time to firmly knit with the soil. If you have properly watered your turf grass it will be moist and soft. Traffic will create indentures and destroy your smooth grade. Do not mow until firmly rooted into the underlying soil.
Your new turf grass significantly enhances your property value. With proper care it will be a permanent enhancement and provide beauty for years to come. It is preferable to mow regularly removing less grass height as opposed to mowing taller grass less frequently. The proper height in which to mow your turf grass will depend upon the variety. A good rule of thumb is to not remove more than 1/3 of the grass height in a single mowing. Weed control chemicals should be avoided for at least 3 to 4 weeks following planting. In small areas, weed control can be accomplished by hand pulling. The organic arsenicals (DSMA, MSMA) are available on newly sodded Bermuda grass for control of emerged summer annual grassy weeds such as crabgrass and sandbur. Broadleaf weeds can be controlled with 2,4D and related compounds. Check with your local chemical dealer for the herbicides available and recommended rates of application for your variety of turf grass.