Step 1: Measure the lawn areaYou can use a tape measure, a landscaping or contractors measuring real or even your walking stride to calculate the area of your lawn. Be sure to measure the length and the width of the lawn to be installed and multiply the two together. With this information you now have your lawn square footage (sq.ft.).
Step 2: Select your sodWhen you use sod, your choice of species will be limited to the species already in the sod. Here in NW, Oregon perennial ryegrass is the dominant grass in our sod. Much of it is grown south of Portland where it is usually cut fresh and shipped the same day to Portland area homes or retailers. This is a good choice if your lawn is “normal” for the area. Not “normal” would be extremely wet or dry or sunny or shaded, etc. Occasionally you will find specialty sods at retailers.
Step 3: Remove the old lawn sodNow is time to rent a sod cutter. The cutter slices the old lawn into sheets. After the sod is cut; you roll it up in 3-5 ft sections and remove it. It is best to have an advance plan to deal with the cut sod. Your old lawn is heavy and the rolls will take up a lot of space. A “drop box” can be ordered to your house so a big truck can haul away the sod. You can let people know on craigslist that you have “free sod” or you can use the sod rolls to make a berm in a new location of your property. What ever you do, have a plan for the old sod before you start the project.
Step 4: Remove rocks, weeds, and debrisNow that the sod is gone, it’s time to remove all of the roots, clods of grass and weeds. Be sure the soil surface is clean before going to the next step. It will be a lot easier to use the tiller if the soil area is free from debris and other items.
Step 5: Prepare the soilYour soil is very likely compacted and needs air and water drainage. Preparation is done using a rotary tiller. Additionally, most people add soil amendments when they till. The best choice for a tiller is a high powered, hydraulic driven tiller that will do the work for you. A powerful tiller is a safe tiller and you will not regret having a hydraulic tiller for this job. There are several choices for amending the soil. Some of the most preferred are adding:
Topsoil or compost at a rate of 2-3 inches over the whole lawn area. This will improve fertility and make a lighter soil.
Turface at a rate of 50-100 lbs per 100sf of lawn. Use Turface if you want to improve drainage and add longer lasting loft to your compacted soil. Turface is also great if you want a more convenient amendment than topsoil or compost.
Lime at a rate of 10 lbs per 100sf of lawn. Use lime if you have acidic soil often associated with moss and weeds. Liming rates are best done after performing a pH test but this rate is a good guess for many lawns in the Willamette Valley.
Spread the amendments over the soil and till it 4 to 6 inches deep. It is important to note, this is the only time you can provide soil builder under the lawn in the soil. If you don't build the soil now, the lawn will loose much of the air and drainage you just worked so hard to provide. Top dressing of amendments can be done annually to enhance a currently performing lawn, but not as a substitute for a lawn that was never amended in the first place.