Should You Seed or Sod Your Lawn

seed or sod

“Should I use seed or sod to fix the bare areas in my lawn?”

“Which method provides a better lawn – seed or sod?”

“I removed an old above the ground pool from my back yard.  Should I seed it or sod it?”

These are all common questions we receive from customers when they ask about fixing areas of their lawn that may have been damaged by insect or disease activity, landscaping changes or even about installing a new lawn. The answer to these questions require asking additional questions to determine what method works best for your lawn, where you live, your ability to water and the current weather conditions in your part of the country.

Where you live and the type of grass you want to grow, plays a major part in determining which method you choose. If your lawn has one of the warm season grasses like St. Augustine, centipede, Bermuda or Zoysia, seeding is not the best option to repair small areas. First, seed availability is limited and the germination success rate is very low. In most cases, any bare areas smaller than a dinner plate will fill in on their own from the grass that is already growing in the lawn.

Repairing larger areas are more easily repaired by placing sod in the area. Purchase sod that is of the same variety of grass that is growing in your lawn. If you are not sure, cut out a small sample of the turf and take it to your local garden center and they will be able to identify it for you. The best time of year to install new sod in warm season turf areas is late spring to early summer.

Those of you that live in the northern parts of the US and grow cool-season turfgrasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue or turf-type tall fescue, you can either seed or sod the areas that require repair. There are some decisions you have to make to determine which method is better for your lawn.

4 questions you need to answer:

  • What type of grass is growing in your lawn? Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are probably the most popular type of grass growing in the northern parts of the US. Turf-type tall fescue is the most common cool-season grass growing in the Transition Zone. Fine fescue is the preferred species for shady areas. For the most part, all the grasses will blend together, although fine fescue has a gray-green color and may appear out of place in a bluegrass/perennial ryegrass lawn.
  • Are you repairing small sections of a lawn or larger, more significant areas? Small spots are better repaired with seed, while larger areas, bigger than one square yard, may be better served by using sod.
  • Do you have the ability to water on a regular basis? Both seed and sod need to be watered, but at least daily watering of new seed is critical to its survival, more if it is warm and the areas dry out quickly. Once new seed germinates, it has a tiny little root that needs water, which may mean watering two or three times a day. All the cool season grasses generally germinate within 2 weeks, but Kentucky bluegrass can take 4 or more weeks to germinate. It then needs to be kept moist for another 2 to 3 weeks after it has germinated and for a longer time if it is hot.
  • Have you ever replaced sod or prepared the soil for seeding?  There is a lot more to the process than just throwing some seed out or rolling out a piece of sod across the dead spot. There are numerous YouTube videos that go into detail on how to perform these procedures.  Take the time to look at those before you start. You may have to search a little bit, but you should end up with a fairly good idea of how to re-seed or re-sod your lawn.

If the job is more than you can handle, it may be better to contract with a local landscape company, especially if you plan to sod larger sections of your lawn. Seeding may seem like an easier task, but it also may be something you want a professional to do.

Contact your local Spring-Green professional to learn about our core aeration and overseeding services.

The Time Has Come to Seed Cool-Season Grasses

Cool season lawn

Late August to early September is the best time to overseed cool season grasses. It may still be a little warm, but temperatures will quickly begin to moderate as the days get shorter.

The easiest way to get new seed into your lawn is to core aerate it first before sowing seed across your lawn. Be sure to either wait until a decent rain has fallen or the lawn is watered well before aerating.

seeding cool season grasses

The goal is to allow the core tines to penetrate the soil to pull up plugs of soil and leave them back on top of the ground. This opens up the lawn for more air, water and nutrients to penetrate into the root zone to help build stronger roots.

It also provides a great place for seed to come in contact with soil in order survive after germination. Throwing grass seed across a lawn without proper preparation will provide poor or no germination.

You can hire someone to do the work for you or you can rent care aeration machines at rental centers, hardware stores and home improvement stores. The core aerator will not fit into the trunk of a car, so you either need access to a pick-up truck or a small tow-behind trailer. Use it just like a lawn mower, but be sure to mark sprinkler heads, buried cables and electric dog fences.

New seedlings germinate and grow best when soil temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees.  Purchase good quality seed and not a bag of cheap seed you find at a discount store. A good mix of seed will cost around $4 to $8 a pound. You may have to go to a landscape supply store or to a feed store to find quality seed. Many times the seed is available in bulk and you can purchase larger quantities.

Most seeding failures comes as the result of putting too much seed in too small of an area and not keeping the area moist for a long enough period of time. Perennial ryegrass will germinate in 5 to 7 days, turf-type tall fescue and fine-leafed fescues will germinate in 7 to 14 days and bluegrass takes 28 days. Once the grass germinates, it will need continual water to develop roots and shoots. Provide ½ inch of water to your lawn each week – more if it remains hot and dry.

Depending on the mix of seed you plan to use, the amounts sown per 1,000 square feet range from 3 to 6 pounds. Bluegrass is the smallest of seed, so it contains more seeds per pound. Ryegrass is the next largest followed by the fine-leafed fescues and turf-type tall fescue. The larger the seed, the more you will need to spread per 1,000 square feet.

After your lawn has been core aerated and overseeded, apply a fertilizer with an analysis of 16-4-8 or similar.  In states that require phosphorus-free fertilizers, most allow fertilizers with phosphorus (the middle number on the analysis statement) to be used on newly seeded turf.

Check with your country extension service to see if your state allows the use of these fertilizers. You will want to apply a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. To determine the amount of fertilizer needed to apply per 1,000 square feet, divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag. For example, if you purchase a 16-4-8 fertilizer, 100 divided by 16 equals 6.25. This means you will apply 6.25 pounds of fertilizer to provide 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Continue mowing as the new seed germinates. You want to make sure the sun reaches the new seed to help it germinate. As far as spraying for weeds, you need to wait until the new grass has been mowed two to three times before spraying for any weeds. If you are very careful, you could spot spray a few broadleaf weeds, such as a dandelion, but do not spray across the entire lawn.

You may find it easier to contact your neighborhood lawn care professional at Spring-Green to do all this work for you, except for the mowing.  Don’t wait as there is a limited amount of time to get this work completed until it gets too cold for good germination.