We all want a beautiful lawn that is lush, vibrant, and feels great underfoot. Something that the neighbors will envy, and our kids will laugh and play in. To get to that stage, you might be asking yourself, “What’s better, sod or seed?”.
In an everyday conversation among neighbors, everyone seems to have their own opinion. The answer to this question is personal and involves your budget, timing, and how much work you are willing to put in. There are many differences between Sod and seed, with distinct benefits and drawbacks.
What is Sod
Sod is grass with a thin layer of soil held in place by the root system or biodegradable material. It comes in rolls and is installed simply by rolling it out and watering it. It is the quickest way to establish an instant lawn, but it requires attention to detail and more physical labor than grass seed.
Cost of a New Lawn
The price plays an essential role in deciding between Sod and seed. While the upfront costs of Sod can be 3-10x the cost of seed, you need to consider the speed and ease of installation when deciding.
The price of Sod is typically between $0.30 to $.90 per square foot. This depends on the variety of grass, location, source, and how much you need. This does not take into account delivery fees or professional installation costs, which can raise the price by $1 or more per square foot.
As the inexpensive, albeit time-consuming, option, grass seed costs $.24 installed. Added to a seed spreader, grass seed is evenly spread over the ground before being raked in.
From the numbers above, we can see that professionally installed grass seed is cheaper than the cheapest sod option using DIY installation. Paying the premium price and going with sod installation makes sense considering the timing (3 weeks vs. 3 months-1year).
How Long Until It’s Lush
Regarding timing, Sod and seed could not be any more different.
Laying Sod is a near-instant way to have a brand-new lawn. Because it is pre-grown, it already has roots ready to dive into fresh soil and start growing. As a result, the grass can immediately begin absorbing sunlight and growing and can be established in as few as two to three weeks.
To install Sod, you must strip your yard down to the bare soil. For this reason, Sod is often used to install a new lawn and not to repair an existing lawn.
Seed, on the other hand, takes one entire growing season to become dense and healthy enough to withstand foot traffic. Because of this, the seed is often used to repair existing lawns that have damage or sparse areas rather than grow a brand-new lawn.
Unlike Sod, seed is a very effective way to fill bare patches in an existing lawn.
If you are in a rush or starting from bare soil, Sod is the way to go. Using seed is your best bet if you are repairing an existing lawn.
Ease of Installation and Upkeep
The convenience of growing a new lawn from Sod far outweighs planting from grass seed if you know what you are doing.
When correctly planted, Sod is as straightforward as unrolling, watering, and waiting. But installed incorrectly, you will end up with a quickly dying yard that costs you more time and money.
Some of these concerns are out of your hands, as your lawn may have a different environment than where the Sod was harvested. Differences such as the amount of sunlight, nutrient balance, and moisture levels can affect how the new Sod will grow and adapt.
To ensure a high success rate, you must do your research before attempting to install Sod. As a DIY project, this is more complicated than using seed, and hiring a professional will raise costs. Sod is heavy and unwieldy, and while you don’t need specialized equipment, it is not easy work.
As the more time-consuming option, it’s also more DIY friendly. When growing from seed, you don’t have to concern yourself with visible seams or the short transplanting window, issues that sod installation carries.
Because grass starts from seed and only knows your natural environment, it does not need to adapt like Sod. Therefore, it has a better chance of developing a robust, deep, and healthy root system.
The trick to growing grass from seed is to stay diligent in your responsibilities. Water regularly and monitor your lawn throughout the growing season to ensure everything is up to par.
If you do the research or hire professionals, Sod has the shortest installation time. Seed is DIY-friendly, although it requires more time and dedication over a much extended period.
Availability of Varieties
Many homeowners have their favorite type of grass, whether that’s because of color, feel, water needs, or existing lawn. However, when it comes to finding a specific variety of grass, you will have a better chance of going with seed over Sod.
Because Sod has a short window for transplanting (24 hours), the variety you are looking for may not be in stock. So you may need to call around more or travel to find the type you are looking for. Or you may have to go with something else.
When properly stored, grass seed can be kept for up to three years. This makes it much easier to find the grass variety that you want. Not only that, but you can also find seeds designed for your particular region and soil type.
If you feel flexible, Sod will allow quick gains if you take what is available. Seed will offer more options if you want a specific variety or something that will excel within your particular landscape.