If you are installing a new grass lawn, you may now be faced with the decision to plant grass seed vs. laying down sod. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, which you should weigh against factors such as your budget and time frame. Remember that soil preparation and general lawn maintenance will not vary between seeded and sodded lawns. These lists of pros and cons deal only with the process of lawn establishment.
- Planting grass seed is significantly less expensive than laying sod. Grass seed will only cost about $0.01 per square foot, compared to an average $0.30–$1.00 per square foot for sod.
- Seed is available in more varieties and blends than sod. For instance, you may be looking for a more shade-tolerant lawn, and seed blends can include some fescue varieties to improve your lawn’s tolerance for shade. Or you might want a more diverse blend to increase your lawn’s resistance to disease. Whatever the reason, seed mixtures will be able to meet more specific needs than sod.
- Planting grass from seed is less labor intensive. It therefore can be more easily completed by the average homeowner, and hiring someone to professionally seed your lawn will be less expensive than hiring someone to lay sod.
- A lawn planted with seeds will naturally take longer to establish than a lawn laid with sod. Germination could take up to 4 weeks, and it may takes 6–8 weeks total before a lawn is established enough to sustain normal foot traffic.
- Because there are 1) bare patches available, and 2) brief and frequent irrigations when planting seeds, weeds are more likely to creep up than they are in sod. Try to avoid this by removing as many weeds as possible with a postemergence herbicide before planting.
- You can only plant seed during the appropriate time in the growing season. For warm-season grasses, that will be during the late spring or early summer, and for cool-season grasses, that will be during the early fall. Any other time will seriously restrict or block the germination process.
- Irrigating a newly-planted lawn can be a delicate balance, with a great chance for error. Too much water can wash away seeds and make germination sporadic, and too little water can cause the seeds to dry out and never germinate. It is important to keep the seeds moist, but not soaked.
- The biggest advantage in planting sod is that it gives you a usable lawn in a much shorter amount of time. A seeded lawn may need 6–8 weeks before it is considered fully established, but a lawn from sod only needs 1–2 weeks.
- Sod is especially good for hills or other sloping areas, where exposed soil is likely to erode. Seeds planted in that environment would have a smaller chance of germinating.
- Sod is already so thick that weeds are not able to infiltrate it as easily as a newly seeded lawn. The opportunity is decreased even more when you overlap sod pieces slightly—the pieces will shrink over time and you don’t want any soil-rich gap to become home to new weeds.
- Sod is really a lawn seeded by somebody else, and transplanted by you. Because it is already mature, it can be laid at almost any time of the year. You don’t have to wait for late spring or early fall to have a lawn, although it is recommended that you avoid laying sod during freezing temperatures or during the blazing heat of midsummer.
- Laying sod is much more expensive than planting grass seed. It can cost anywhere from $0.30–1.00 per square foot. Add that up for a 2,000 square foot lawn, and you might be shelling out some big bucks to complete the job.
- Sod must be laid 24 to 36 hours after it is “harvested,” or cut. Otherwise it will dry out and be more difficult to establish. Don’t just pick up the sod on your home supply store’s shelf—you have no idea how long it’s been laying there. Pick a professional supplier who can guarantee the freshness of the sod when it is delivered.
- As far as varieties go, there are fewer to choose from when you are laying sod. Sod that has two species of grass planted is rare, and seeding can sometimes be more effective, such as underneath a shady area.
- Laying sod is more labor-intensive than planting grass seed. The pieces of sod are usually heavy and have to be transported in a truck. Unless you have the muscle power, you will have to hire a professional, and professional sod laying will cost more than professional seeding.