Seed vs. Sod for Small Area - Knowledgebase Question

Lansing, MI
Question by andreaefm
February 14, 2000
We have an area approximately 20 x 30 feet (at most) that is currently covered with pea gravel. We'd like to plant a lawn here and don't know if we should seed it or buy sod.

The gravel is about an inch deep over black plastic sheeting. We'll probably need to build the soil from scratch, or at least add substantially to what's there. Also, the area is somewhat shady. We're looking for the fastest results (without having the expenses get too high since we'll only be in this house for a few years). Any suggestions for where to dispose of the gravel?


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Answer from NGA
February 14, 2000

0

Remove the plastic even if you decide to work the gravel into the soil.

Another consideration on whether or not to remove the gravel completely (or dig it into the soil) will be the texture of the existing soil and how well it drains. You will need to run some basic soil tests to see what the soil does and does not need in the way of amendments. Your County Extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. They should also be able to suggest grass seed varieties best suited to your area.

A final note, most grasses need plenty of sun to grow well, so if your area is mainly shady you might want to consider using a groundcover rather than lawn. While more expensive initially than grass seed, groundcover is usually far less expensive to maintain over time. Remove the plastic even if you decide to work the gravel into the soil.

Another consideration on whether or not to remove the gravel completely (or dig it into the soil) will be the texture of the existing soil and how well it drains. You will need to run some basic soil tests to see what the soil does and does not need in the way of amendments. Your County Extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results. They should also be able to suggest grass seed varieties best suited to your area.

A final note, most grasses need plenty of sun to grow well, so if your area is mainly shady you might want to consider using a groundcover rather than lawn. While more expensive initially than grass seed, groundcover is usually far less expensive to maintain over time.

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