Which is a better way to start a lawn? (Grass Seed vs. Sod)

Which is a better way to start a lawn? (Grass Seed vs. Sod)

Which is a better way to start a lawn? (Grass Seed vs. Sod)

So you are looking to start a new lawn, and you are wondering…

Which is better?

Laying down sod, or planting a new lawn from seed?

Well, there is a lot to consider. But rest assured we have you covered.

Below you will find what you need to know about whether to lay sod, or start your new lawn from seed. 

Starting Your New Lawn: Sod or Seed?

So you have decided to start your lawn over again, but aren’t sure which way to go. 

You are not alone!

There is definitely a lot to consider when choosing which option is best for you. Sometimes it's best to use sod for a new lawn, and other times laying down grass seed is a better option. 

Use the following guide to help you make the right choice. Whichever you choose, be sure to fertilize your new lawn properly.

Some things to consider moving forward on your project:

  • What is your budget?

  • Do you want a specific type of grass?

  • What time of year will your project take place?

  • How long are you willing to wait for results?

Which Requires More Labor: Sod or Seed?

Right off the bat, one of the biggest differences between seeding a new lawn, and using sod is the initial labor. 

Planting Seed is INITIALLY Less Labor Intensive.

It’s true, it really doesn’t take much to spread some grass seed, and straw and water in a new lawn. 

On the other hand, sod requires a lot of preparation and labor. From leveling the old lawn by adding top soil, to laying the sod. Through and through, laying sod involves a lot more upfront labor. 

Sod Saves Labor in the Long Run

While laying seed is initially less labor intensive, there are a few things you should consider.

In the long run, sod may be less intensive due to the following factors:

  1. Seed may need to be spread more than once for even coverage,

  2. Seed will take longer to water in and establish,

  3. Sod offers superior weed control, whereas laying seed offers none. 

When you consider all of the factors, laying seed properly, is about as labor intensive as laying sod. 

Consider the Cost

The second thing that will stand out is the cost difference between the two techniques of establishing a new lawn. 

Planting Seed is Significantly Cheaper. 

No doubt about it, the cost of material for sod, the preparation, and labor costs make it significantly more expensive. With labor perhaps being the most costly factor. 

After all, laying sod involves a lot of preparation to do it right. 

Which Provides Faster Results: Sod or Seed?

Here is where sod really starts to shine. 

Sod Provides Instant Results

Look, sod provides nearly instant results. And creates an established lawn in a fraction of the time it would take for a lawn started from seed. 

So, if you are looking to install a new lawn before a party, event, or simply want to get instant results, sod is your best option. 

Sod takes only 2-3 weeks to become fully established. 

Full Results from Seed Can Take Months

Grass seed can take over a month just to establish itself, and can take up to a full season to really shine. Meaning getting full results from grass seed can take 2-3 months. 

Additionally, grass seed may need to be sown several times to get full coverage. 

No matter how well you spread grass seed, sometimes it simply doesn’t take evenly. 

Time of the Year

What time of year you plan to redo your lawn will impact your options. 

Grass Seed is More Selective

Grass seed needs specific conditions to take off, and grows best during the cooler times of a year. Grass typically fairs best when planted in fall so it can establish itself over the winter months. 

This is in large part due to the time that grass seed will need to establish itself in your lawn. 

Sod Offers More Flexibility in Scheduling

Sod on the other hand can be planted more flexibly.

Because it is already somewhat established, sod can be planted during most times of the year

With the exception of winter and the hottest parts of summer. 

Weed Control

Weed control is another huge factor you should consider when investing in your new lawn. 

Sod Offers Superior Weed Control

This is one of the huge upsides to using sod. Weeds hardly stand a chance when sod is installed. 

Think about it, when you start grass from seed, it has to start from scratch. It will be competing with 1000’s of weed seeds, and more established weeds as well. 

Deciding Based on Grass Types: Sod or Seed?

What type of grass do you want to use? This may limit your options.  

Grass Seed Offers More Grass Varieties

With the exception of St. Augustine’s, most grass varieties are available in seed form. Whereas your grass variety options with sod will be extremely limited. 

While the most commonly desired forms of grass are available in sod, you will likely only have a few options available in your region. 

Grass seed, and even plugs can be ordered online and shipped nearly anywhere

Is erosion an issue?

The final factor you want to consider when making your choice on which way you will go is erosion. 

Sod Offers Superior Erosion Control

If you are planting in an area that is prone to erosion, for example a hillside. Or perhaps you plant in an area that is subject to very rainy seasons. You likely want to consider sod. 

While there are mats that can help contain grass seed as it establishes, sod will offer far superior erosion control. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I lay sod over an existing lawn, or do I need to remove the old grass first?

Yes, for the sod to properly root and thrive, it's best to clear away any old grass and get the soil ready first. This approach minimizes competition from old grass and weeds, giving your new sod a great start.

Is it necessary to test the soil before choosing between sod and grass seed?

Definitely! A soil test can uncover what your soil is missing or what's too much, like nutrient needs or pH issues. Knowing this helps you prepare the ground perfectly, whether you're going with sod or seed.

What is the best time of year to lay sod or seed a lawn?

The best time for sodding is spring or early fall, when temperatures are mild. Late summer to mid-autumn is generally the ideal time for seeding grass. As it allows grass to establish before winter without the intense heat of summer.

What maintenance is required after sodding or seeding a lawn?

After sodding, it's crucial to water frequently to ensure the roots establish. With seeding, you'll need to water lightly but more frequently to keep the soil moist for germination, and you may need to reseed areas that don't take. Both methods require regular mowing, fertilization, and weed control once established.

Can I install sod or plant grass seed myself, or should I hire a professional?

Both sod installation and seeding can be DIY projects. However, hiring a professional can ensure proper installation or seeding, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process or if your lawn has special requirements.

Comparing Sod vs. Grass Seed for a New Lawn

Grass Seed
Initial LaborHigh, involves preparation and laying
Low, mainly spreading seeds
CostMore expensive due to material, labor, and prep
Less expensive, lower material and labor costs
Speed of ResultsInstant lawn, 2-3 weeks to establish
Takes 1 month to establish, 2-3 months for full results
Weed ControlSuperior, less competition
Less control, competes with weeds
Variety of GrassLimited options
More varieties available
Erosion ControlSuperior, good for slopes and high-rainfall areas
Less effective, may need erosion mats
Seasonal FlexibilityMore flexible, except extreme weather
Best planted in cooler seasons

So, Which Is Better for Your Lawn: Sod or Seed?

There truly is no simple answer to the question of which is better; sod or grass seed. It really depends on the factors listed above. 

You or your lawn care pro will need to assess your lawn independently with the above factors in consideration to make that determination. 

Hopefully you now find yourself informed enough to decide for your own needs which is better. If you learned something new, why not share this article with a friend or family member?

Until next time, thanks for reading, and all the best to you and your new lawn! Go here, for the full infographic from Pennington.

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