Answer: Whether you decide to seed or sod your lawn, soil preparation will be the same. The advantage of sod is that you'll have an instant lawn because the sod will have an established root system. Seeded lawns will take several months to grow lush and thick, but eventually it will look just like a sodded lawn.
You'll want to begin by breaking up the soil with a tiller. Tillers (also called rototillers) can be rented from your local rental center. Spread a starter fertilizer over the now-loosened soil. This type of fertilizer is high in phosphorus, the middle number in the NPK sequence on a fertilizer bag. Also spread a soil conditioner over the soil. "Soil conditioner" is often what it's called at the store, but if you have a good supply of compost at home, it will serve just as well as a soil amendment. Again using the tiller, till the starter fertilizer and soil conditioner (or equivalent) into the soil. I know this seems like a lot of work, but good soil preparation is one key in seeding lawns successfully. Now rake the soil to begin to level it out, removing any rocks and debris that you find. To avoid problems with excess water-runoff, make sure that any site grading you do allows water to flow away from your house. This step requires a roller. Rollers, like tillers, can be rented from your local rental center. Fill the roller's drum with water, then use the roller to finish leveling the soil. Water the soil lightly. If you decide to seed, for this step you'll need a seed spreader. Following the recommended seeding rate, spread 1/4 of the seed over the entire lawn area. Then repeat times, each time using 1/4 of the seed. However, each of the 4 times you distribute a load of seed, push the spreader in a different direction, to encourage even dispersal. Rake lightly, so as to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. For this step you'll use the roller again. But first you'll empty out the water from the drum, because you want it lighter this time. Now roll the lawn surface. Once you've finished seeding you'll need to keep the seedbed moist so the grass will germinate.
Or, instead of seeding, lay your sod and roll it as described above. Water frequently to keep the sod moist so the roots will grow into your soil. Good luck with your new lawn!
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