Sod Vs. Seed: Which is Better for Your Lawn?

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Aug 21, 2020

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A patchy or weed-riddled lawn can sometimes sneak up on you. One week, everything is green and lush. The next week, brown patches or weed clusters start taking over. Fortunately, there are two great ways to restore a lawn with these issues. You can either reseed your lawn or replace the sod.

Sometimes, it’s hard to choose which is better for your lawn, sod or seed. Below, we’ll help you decide by covering the pros and cons of laying new sod and reseeding. Plus, we’ll run through situations where it makes more sense to do one or the other.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Spreading Seed

If your lawn is looking a little thin or patchy, seeding is one way to bring it back to life. Though it’s a relatively simple process, seeding isn’t always your best bet.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of spreading seed compared to laying sod.

The Advantages of Spreading Seed

To its reduced cost to its firmer rooting, there are plenty of advantages to spreading seed instead of laying new sod.

Here are the key benefits of choosing seeding over laying sod.

Lower Cost

Likely the biggest advantage to seeding instead of laying new sod is cost. Grass seed can cost less than a cent per square foot, depending on the brand, volume discounts, and grass type.

If you’ve got a 5,000-square-foot lawn to reseed, it may set you back only $25, or so, for a bag of seed.

You’ll also save on tools, as spreading seed requires a walk-behind spreader and possibly a rake.

Reduced Labor

Laying seed is a simple process. Just place your spreader on the correct setting, fill it up, and push it through your yard in a consistent pattern. The only other physical labor may include aerating your lawn and removing any thatch.

Rarely will you encounter an issue where you feel you need a professional’s touch when reseeding.

Grass Options

Go to any lawn care store, and you’ll find dozens of grass seed options to pick from. This allows you to have a custom-looking lawn that’s not limited by what local sod farmers have available.

You can also tune the grass seed to fit your property. For example, if you have a lot of shady areas, you can pick up a few bags of shade-friendly grass seed and spread that in those trouble areas.

Establishes Healthy Roots

Laying seed allows the grass to establish healthy roots in your soil as it grows. With healthy, undisturbed roots comes healthy turf that can handle more stress.

The Disadvantages of Spreading Seed

Seeding may seem like the ideal option, but it’s not without its share of disadvantages. Below, we’ll cover the not-so-great things about seeding instead of laying sod.

Limited Seeding Window

While sod also has ideal windows for laying it, seeding has an even narrower window. The seeding window depends on the climate you’re in and the type of grass you’re planting.

You always want to sow your grass seed during the optimal germination season. For example, if you live in the northeast and have cool-season grass seed, you’ll want to spread your seed in the early fall. If you’re in a warmer climate and are planting warm-season grass, the best time is early spring.

Lack of Immediate Gratification

While today’s grass seed germinates faster than ever, it still takes time to establish. In some cases, you may have to wait 10-12 weeks before your grass is mature enough to handle foot traffic. If you walk on it too early, you could cause lasting damage to your adolescent turf.

Plus, it could take a full growing season before your grass reaches full maturity, leaving your lawn looking thin for an extended period.

Requires Careful Supervision and Maintenance

Seeding requires more maintenance than sod. It not only has specific watering needs, but you must also be aware of birds using your freshly seeded yard as their personal all-you-can-eat buffet.

You can fend off birds with a series of pinwheels, which act as scarecrows. However, if you’re seeding a large area, the number of pinwheels may make your yard look like a wonky attempt at contemporary art.

Risk of Erosion or Washout

With bare spots comes an increased risk of erosion. By the time your turf is thick enough to prevent it, there may already be significant damage.

Also, with no turf preventing water from flowing on top of the soil, you could see all your seeds float away in heavy rains.

Weed Takeover

Weeds thrive in areas where the grass is struggling or thin. Before your grass reaches maturity and becomes thick enough to stave off weed growth, you run the risk of the area becoming a hotbed of weed activity. And as weed take over, it becomes harder for your new grass to thrive.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laying Sod

Installing new sod is another common fix for larger bare spots or full lawn replacement. It involves cutting out all the old turf and laying new grass in its place.

Below, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of choosing sod over seeding.

The Advantages of Laying Sod

Sod is a quick way to spruce up your yard. Here are the main reasons it’s better than spreading seeds.

Instant Gratification

There are few lawn care tasks that provide the same immediate gratification as laying sod does. Your lawn can go from dying to lush and green in just a weekend. This is one of the key reasons people choose sod over seed.

Takes Root Quickly

While seeds take time to germinate and establish strong roots, sod already has roots that will grow and reach your existing soil quickly. This gives you a well-rooted lawn in just 2-3 weeks, which means you can enjoy it sooner.

Flexible Installation

It’s best to install sod during the grass’ peak growing season, but you can install it virtually any time of the year. The only exception is during periods of extreme heat, as the sod may struggle to grow due to a lack of moisture.

Early Weed Control

Because quality sod should be thick and lush, it should have limited weeds — if any at all. Plus, its thickness prevents weeds from cropping up after installation too.

Keep in mind that not all sod is equal. If you receive a shipment of weed-riddled or thin sod, don’t be shy about rejecting the delivery.

The Disadvantages of Laying Sod

Sod is a solid option for quick replacement grass, but there are some drawbacks to it. Here are the disadvantages of laying sod.

Huge Cost

Sod can run anywhere 30-80 cents per square foot, depending on the type you choose.

This means resodding your 5,000-square-foot would cost $1,500-$4,000, and this doesn’t include delivery fees and the tools you’ll need, like a sod cutter and a lawn roller.

Requires Skill

Unlike seeding, which basically just requires the ability to pour seed in the spreader and walk, laying sod requires skill to get it right.

You not only have to carefully remove your existing lawn, but you must also properly prepare the topsoil, grade the area for optimal drainage and measure with precision.

Not everyone has this skill, so you may have to pay extra for professional installation. This can add 14-60 cents per square foot to your cost.

Limnited Grass Options

Because of limited space and the growing conditions, sod farmers can offer only certain types of sod. This can dramatically limit what grass types you can get.

Scheduling

Sadly, you can’t order sod from Amazon Prime and have it delivered the next day. Sod farmers cut and deliver sod on specific days. Since you can’t leave cut sod sitting around for days before installing it, you must work around the delivery window and any shipment delays.

Which is Best for You, Sod or Seed?

With a firm understanding of the pros and cons of laying sod and spreading seed, you’re now ready to choose which is best for your situation. Below, we’ll cover common situations where there is a clear advantage to choosing to seed or lay sod.

Grass Density

The biggest determining factor between seeding and laying sod is the state of your lawn. If your lawn is mostly weeds, they’ll likely choke out germinating grass seeds. This means seeding is out of the question and laying sod is the answer.

Budget

Your budget is another critical factor in deciding between seeding or laying sod. If you’ve already budgeted thousands of dollars to rehabilitate your lawn, sticking with sod will deliver instant results you can be proud of.

If you’re haven’t budgeted for sod and don’t have the means to save enough money to do it, seeding is your best option. It may take longer to get the results you want, but you also won’t put unnecessary strain on your finances.

Upcoming Events

If you’ve got an event coming up in a few weeks or less and your lawn is overrun with weeds or bald spots, there’s simply no time for seeding. In this case, laying sod will be your best bet. Even if the sod won’t be ready for heavy foot traffic, at least it’ll look great for your event.

Choosing Sod or Seed Made Easy

With the pros and cons, and our list of the common reasons to stick with so or seed above, you’re in a position to make an educated decision between laying sod or reseeding.

Whether you’ve determined sod or seed is the way to go for your lawn, you’re on your way to a full, green lawn once again. The key moving forward is to ensure your lawn remains healthy and vibrant through proper watering, fertilization, and pest control so you don’t have to worry about rehabilitating it again.