Answer: You've got two basic choices for installing a lawn. Planting sod--rolls of grass plus roots and soil sliced off at a sod farm--offers instant lawn gratification, but requires a higher initial dollar investment. Sowing seeds saves money if you're willing to keep everyone and everything off, nurse along the seedlings and wait for the finished product.
Decide if you want to plant seed or sod. You can start coolseason grasses (Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and bent) from either. Many warm-climate grasses (Saint Augustine and hybrid Bermuda) are typically started from sod (or from pieces of vegetation called sprigs or stolons)--not from seeds.
Prepare the ground thoroughly for seed or sod. Weed carefully, then use a rotary tiller to dig in compost or a mix of topsoil and compost to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm). Rake out rocks and smooth the soil. Use a roller filled halfway with water to tamp down the soil for optimal germination and root growth.
Determine the amount of seed mix you need. This varies depending on the mix, so check the package. Seed to cover 1,500 square feet (140 square m) costs about $50.
Seed the lawn in the spring, fall or early winter.
If you decide to sod your lawn, purchase sod directly from sod farms (find sources in the Yellow Pages under "Sod," "Sodding Service" or "Lawn Supply") or from a local garden center. For an average-size lawn of 1,500 square feet (140 square m), you'll spend about $420 for sod.
Make sure the delivered sod is in good, healthy shape: moist roots, no yellow or brown grass, sod hanging together firmly.
Have sod delivered the morning you plan to lay it so that it doesn't dry out. You can lay it in spring or summer, or in mild climates during fall and winter. If you don't lay sod right away, water enough to keep roots moist. Don't saturate sod rolls with water; they'll become too heavy and muddy to roll out easily.
Best wishes with your new lawn.
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