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A New Lawn: Sod vs. Seed

As mentioned in this previous post, we moved in to a new house last fall, which means we get to install a new yard. And while I am very much a proponent of everyone including more trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and even annuals in their gardens, I cannot deny that I am also a fan of grass. There’s just something about walking barefoot on the cool grass in the summer.

There are a lot of reasons to reduce the amount of grass in your yard: it can be terribly water inefficient, it requires a lot of maintenance, you can’t eat it or make a bouquet out of it, etc. But, there are some reasons to still include at least some grass in your plans: it doesn’t have to be water inefficient or require a lot of maintenance, and while you still can’t eat it or make a bouquet out of it, you can play tag or Frisbee or red-rover or football or (insert favorite activity here) on it and it will withstand the traffic and stress much better than, say, a bed of pansies. And it will be a lot more comfortable than doing said activities on gravel or amongst the roses.

So, while I’m not advocating endless expanses of emerald green turf, I do believe there is a place for at least some lawn in the home garden. If you’re building a garden from scratch, like we are, your next question then is probably something like this, “Ok, so we want a lawn. Should we plant seed or sod?”

Here are some points to consider:

  • I don’t know if this is true for every sod farm, but where I live the sod options are limited to Kentucky Bluegrass and …Kentucky Bluegrass. If you are looking for a custom blend or a particular species of turf grass, then seed would be the route to take.
  • If you are on a tight budget, seeding is a good option since you’re paying just for the seed and perhaps the application of it. Though, if you’re going to do it yourself, you may also need some specialized equipment to make sure the seed is evenly applied across the area.
  • Sod, on the other hand, while more expensive per square foot of grass, needs no specialized equipment for installation once the initial soil prep is done – which is is the same for both seed and sod.
  • One of the hardest things about successful establishment of a lawn through seed is that those seeds need water to germinate. And if they dry out before those roots are established there’s no going back. This is why hydroseeding is so popular. The grass seed is applied with a protective mulch that will help keep the seed from drying out too quickly. Water will still need to be applied at regular intervals those first few weeks, however, for successful establishment. And while those little grass seeds are getting regular water to help them grow along, so are any weed seeds that were in your soil. Competing against weeds to get a foothold is probably the other biggest hurdle your grass seeds will have to cross.
  • Sod, on the other hand, is basically a weave of mature plants that have been cut from where they were once growing and you will transplanting in a new location. It will still need regular watering to get those roots to take hold in your yard, but the water isn’t going to evaporate away as quickly as it would from a bare surface and the sod will be much more competitive against any newly emerging weed seedlings.
  • Another important factor for where I live is that sod is also not going to blow away. We get some strong canyon winds every morning and evening and I’m concerned that the seed wouldn’t have much of a fighting chance against the wind and the weeds.

I also really like the idea that with sod I’m getting an “instant” lawn. I know I’ll have to be a little patient and not walk on it for a few days, but the waiting period will be much shorter than if I was planting seed. And with an active toddler, keeping her off the germinating grass seed just sounds more exhausting than necessary.

The following two photos show the difference between starting a lawn from seed and starting a lawn from sod. Both seed and sod were applied last fall. The seeded lawn is patchy and fighting a lot of weeds. The sodded lawn, while still coming out of winter dormancy, is looking lush and full.

a photo of a lawn started from seed

A lawn in my neighborhood seeded last fall.

a picture of a sod lawn

A lawn in my neighborhood started from sod last fall.

Which have you done? Seed or sod? Would you do it again?

Social Gardening

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I started publishing a monthly e-newsletter earlier this year, and I have to say, I’m quite enjoying it.

If you’re hesitant to give away your email for yet another website, here’s what you can expect:

  1. You’ll only get one email a month, delivered on the first Thursday of the month (unless there’s some super-cool event that I’d like to tell you about)
  2. In the newsletter you’ll find links to the most recent blog posts, as well as timely articles from the archives
  3. I share exclusive plant care advice in the newsletter that you won’t find elsewhere on the website or any of the various platforms highlighted above
  4. I will never, ever sell or share your email address with anyone else.

Who says gardening just has to happen in the garden?

A Case for Pesticides

I feel like what I’m about to say may get me expelled from the garden blogging community, but I’m going to say it anyway: I use pesticides in my home garden.

There. I’ve said it.

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Garden Tour: South Coast Botanic Garden

If you, like me, are (im)patiently waiting for spring to really make her appearance, what better way to pass the time than virtually touring someone else’s garden (either in real life or virtually)? It’s time for another Garden Tour! (Previous garden tours can be found here, here, and here.)

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Houseplants: Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Continuing the theme of purple and green foliaged plants, I’ve got another oldie but a goodie for you: Prayer Plant, also known by it’s Latin name Maranta. Among my first houseplants – if not the first – I’ve had this one going on twelve years. Maybe thirteen? It was gifted to me by a college friend for helping him through one of our soils classes. I figured was a pretty good trade-off: I needed to study anyway and I got a free plant out of it! Win-win.

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