Sod vs. seed


It doesn't matter if you're in a newly built home with no lawn or an older home with patchy spots of grass here and there, you have two options to turn your yard into a lush, green showplace your neighbors will envy: sod or seed. Regardless, a good thick lawn always starts with a well prepped base.

"It's important to prepare the soil, whether you're doing sod or seed. So go ahead, rake the soil and add at least two inches of fresh top soil or compost, so that the sod or seed has good soil to take root in," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Sod takes just two or three weeks to establish a good root system. It's about eight times more expensive than seed, so don't waste your investment – water it daily.

"Keep it wet for a couple weeks.  I mean, every day, ten minutes a day, two times a day, because that helps. All their roots are in the tops of the sod, so you don't need to soak the ground to get it wet. You want all the moisture to be in the top layer," explained lawn care specialist Terry Jungels.

"If you're considering sod, be sure that your yard has a good amount of sunlight because sod doesn't do as well if it's laid in an area of all shade," Hicks added.

Seed is a better option for people who don't need immediate results or who don't want to spend a lot. A seeded yard develops a stronger root system because it's established in native soil. Fall is the ideal time to spread seed; springtime requires more patience.

"Because they're so much cooler, the seed lays dormant, and when it does germinate, it's fighting against of a lot of the early spring weeds that are already germinating at that time. I would much rather do seeding late summer through the fall,"said lawn care specialist TJ Houghtalen.

If you decide to plant seed, Angie says to buy the highest quality seed you can afford. Check to make sure it has zero weed content and a germination rate of about 85 percent.

Before you sod or seed:

  • Understand your climate… All grass is good for sunny climes; but shady areas require certain seeds.
  • Test your soil… No grass will thrive in poor soil. Get a soil test to determine pH, organic and mineral content so you know what grass to plant. Clay soils, for example, may need a  layer of compost or high quality topsoil first.

  • After you sod or seed:

  • Water… Sod needs twice daily doses for two weeks straight; seed requires just one drink/day.
  • Maintain… Continually re-seed, fertilize and aerate in fall and/or spring

  • Pros & Cons – Sod:

    • Pro: Immediate gratification.
    • Con: Often grown in climate different than yours.
    • Con: Takes two weeks to establish good root system.
    • Con: Costs more than seed; 50cents to $1 or more per square foot – $9,5555 to seed the average American yard (9,800 sq. ft.).


    Pros & Cons – Seed:

    • Pro: Better long-term solution because roots establish in native soil.
    • Pro: Costs less than sod – a penny to 3-cents or more per square foot – $1,225 to seed the average American yard.
    • Con: No immediate gratification; takes weeks to establish and months to "thicken."

    Grassy Specifics:

    • Centipede grass only needs one fertilization a year plus mowing, but it can't take traffic or compaction.
    • Bermuda grasses tolerate heat and trampling, but need irrigation, fertilization and frequent mowing.
    • Bluegrasses are better in full sun.
    • Fescue is better in shade.