What's the Difference: Seed vs. Sod?
At Drumm’s Turf and Sawmill, we are hardcore believers in the value of adding sod to your site. This is because there can be HUGE differences in the final appearance of your lawn when you choose seed vs. sod.
There is NO guarantee seed will take. With sod, you get results immediately and don’t have to worry as much about following proper aftercare procedures to get great results. It comes in looking beautiful and should stay that way as long as you follow easy procedures to care for it. While there’s still some maintenance involved, sod is a breeze to take care of in comparison to seed.
However, there actually positives and negatives to both types of material. We’ll run through the differences.
THE INSTALLATION PROCESS
One of the key differences between seed and sod is the ease at which you can install it.
Seed is usually easier to install than sod is. With most seed installs, you start with a LOT of ground prep. You need to dig or till to a 3” depth, raking to remove clumps or clods from the soil before levelling the surface.
You, then, add compost, topsoil, and starter fertilizer before rolling with a weighted lawn roller. You might want to let them sit for a while to compress before spreading your seed.
Those doing their seed installs themselves should remember to spread seed evenly. We typically use a machine designed for this purpose when installing seed or use another machine to hydroseed the area.
You want to make sure the seed is spread evenly so that it has more of a chance of taking evenly!
After installing the seed, you may want to cover the area with straw or mulch to protect the newly laid seed. With hydroseed and some types of seed, this is an unnecessary step so if you see us skipping it don’t worry!
But if you’re installing seed yourself, don’t take the chance of getting it wrong - always apply an overlay of straw or mulch.
In comparison to seed, sod is a little more particular when it comes to how to install it. You can think of it like rolling out a rug, but depending on the type of sod it might be liable to break so be careful!
You’ll want to follow similar steps during the ground prep stage. You need to loosen the soil to a depth of 6”-8”. We do this by using a rototiller. If you’re doing the install or ground prep yourself, you can rent or buy one at many gardening stores.
During this step, you’ll want to remove any debris you encounter such as rocks and stone and also add in and till 2”-3” of organic matter, like our 100% organic screened topsoil.
Organic matter helps improve the aeration, water retention, and microbial population of your soil and will help promote healthy sod growth!
You’ll want to keep raking the soil until it’s one inch below the grade of sprinkler heads and paved areas like your driveway. This will even out the surface, loosen up the soil, and allow for the grass roots of the sod to take with ease.
If you’re doing the install yourself, give it a healthy hit of water 24 to 48 hours before you install your sod!
Then, you’re all set to begin your sod install. This is the part that is most difficult for at home installers and is often best left for the professionals.
Even if you want to do the ground prep yourself, consider having us install the actual sod for you. You’ll get better results and it will take less than half the time on average.
If you’re doing it yourself, start laying your sod along a straight edge. We recommend using your driveway as a starting point, particularly if it’s paved. Work with whole roles, not small pieces, and lay them one at a time end-to-end.
You’ll want to lay the sod in rows, laying the next row firmly against the first row of sod. Tight seams are the trick to getting a beautiful lawn, but don’t place the sod directly on top of another rolled out roll.
Avoid walking on this fresh sod, it’s fragile!
Work out any wrinkles in the sod as you go and carefully pat it into place to remove any air pockets between the soil and sod that can make it difficult for the sod to take root.
In the end, if you have any gaps between the sod - try using any small extra pieces of sod to cover up the gaps.
When the sod takes, it’ll be rooted as one surface and the lines between the rolls will vanish.
All in all, installing seed is a LOT simpler than installing seed and because we’re masters at both we encourage you to seek professional help when installing either option. We are trained to install lawns and we’re great at what we do!
But, if you’re looking at doing the ground prep and overall install yourself, seed is definitely the easier option.
Immediately after installing seed or sod, you’ll want to start thinking about how to take care of it.
The true key to a healthy lawn is healthy watering practices.
Newly installed sod, in particular, needs to be watered thoroughly twice a day for at least two weeks. Skipping this watering can result in brown or dead sod!
You will need to water this newly installed sod immediately after installation. You cannot wait until the next day and you have to water deeply, at least six inches down into the soil until the sod feels soggy to the touch.
Please refrain from walking on it after watering. This can damage the sod.
You will need to continue deeply watering the sod for two weeks, twice a day. We recommend watering thoroughly in the early morning (between 6am and 8am) and then again the afternoon.
Do not water your sod in the evening. Water that sits on sod overnight can promote fungus growth and the spread of disease.
As the sod takes root, you can start weaning it off of twice-a-day-waterings. We recommend you wean it off of the evening watering and keep thoroughly watering your lawn in the morning to prevent any damage from high temperatures midday.
Weaning the sod slowly will allow for it grow more drought resistant and will promote the growth a stronger root system.
In comparison to sod, newly installed seed needs a lot less water. You’ll want to water thoroughly a couple days before planting you seed, again to a depth of at least six inches, and then water new grass for 5 minutes immediately after planting.
Watering newly installed seed for too long can cause the seed to run off, preventing it from taking in the location you want it to take. Do not water for more than ten minutes at a time.
Watering for too little time will kill the seed.
If grass seeds are allowed to dry out, they will probably die. Without roots, they have no tolerance for drought.
However, unlike sod, you can water your seed in the evening. Evening and early morning are the best times to water seed because the temperature is the coolest at those times.
Cooler temperatures allow water to absorb into the soil instead of evaporating away like they would at hotter times.
As the seed begins to take root and sprouts, you can begin to decrease on the evening watering until the point where you don’t need to water in the evenings at all. Just make you sure you always water in the morning.
And also remember that it can take up to a month for the new grass seed to begin to sprout at all.
In both the case of seeded and sodded lawns, remember that infrequent, but thorough watering are better than consistent shallow watering. The root system of your lawn will only grow as deeply as the depth of to which water is available.
The stronger your root system, the stronger and more drought resistant your lawn will be.
Cost can often be the biggest deciding factor between seeding your lawn and sodding it. In our opinion, this is where customers make the biggest mistake.
Most people assume that seeded lawns are cheaper than sodded lawns simply because the initial cost is so much lower.
This is completely incorrect!
Sodded lawns, in the long run, can be MUCH CHEAPER.
They don’t require the same amount of care, fertilizer, herbicides, or maintenance as seeded lawns. Plus, with seeded lawns, the risk of all that work and money ending up being for nothing is much, much higher.
While we can’t guarantee any organic product taking in your area, seed is just way more sensitive and you could end up having to reseed and overseed over areas you’ve tried to take care of in the past.
This is one of the most important reasons we recommend sod.
Sod is a ready to go product that provides you with a perfect, durable lawn within about two weeks. While you should still use fertilizer and herbicides when needed, sod needs nowhere near the same amount of care products and, because of its already grown root system, it has a higher chance of coming in and staying healthy, lush, thick, and green. As long as you follow proper care procedures, you should have a beautiful lawn.
Seed takes about a year and a half and what feels like a 100 different products to provide the same results. You’ll need to use herbicides and fertilizers to make sure the seed is in a healthy environment for growth. And even then you might end up having to reseed or buy an overseeding kit to get the same results sod easily provides.
In the end, our recommendation is pretty obvious. We think the best choice for most homeowners is having us come to your home and install some grade A sod.
With us doing the work, and us installing sod instead of seed, you’re more likely to have a beautiful, lush, healthy lawn that, if cared for properly, will last you years!