The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Seed or Sod. Which is best?

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

We have a love-hate relationship with our lawns. It's time to evaluate your lawn. We will leave evaluation of your emotional relationship with your lawn until later. Much later.

Your lawn may not be living up to your expectations or you have a new property and mud is not your favorite landscape style. This is a good time to seed or sod a lawn. But which method is better? As with all things there are advantages and disadvantages to both, so you have to decide what is most important.



  • Larger selection of species available. Different mixes of species and blends of different cultivars are available for specific management practices, sun or shade, disease resistance, and soil type.
  • Turf develops in the environment in which it will live.
  • Lower initial cost than sodding.


  • Timing of establishment critical. Best time is September. April is also a good time, but weed seeds germinate in greater numbers in spring.
  • Longer time period to get a dense lawn.
  • May require reseeding due to poor germination in some areas or wash outs from heavy rain or irrigation.
  • Weeds can be a problem until lawn is fully established.
  • Initial watering is critical.



  • "Instant lawn".
  • May be walked on soon after planting.
  • Dust, mud and erosion are quickly reduced.
  • May be planted anytime during the growing season as long as adequate water is available.
  • Basically weed-free.


  • Higher initial cost.
  • Choice of species is very limited.
  • Not produced in shaded environment.
  • Large volume of water needed initially.
  • Sod may shrink and weeds may invade especially if the sod is not properly installed. Do not stretch sod. Stagger seams similar to brick-laying.
  • Speed of rooting varies with season. Spring and fall are optimal.

Whether seeding or sodding, initial soil preparation is crucial. If possible get a soil test first so any amendments can be added. Add compost especially to clay soils. Large quantities of compost are available at the Landscape Recycling Center on east University in Urbana. Rough grading and fine grading is crucial for both seeding and sodding. Control perennial weeds first. Don't assume tilling or covering with sod will kill perennial weeds such as creeping Charlie, bindweed or quackgrass. An initial application of a non-selective herbicide of glyphosate sold as Round up™ may be helpful. Wait until weeds are brown before seeding or sodding. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

Tips for successful lawn seeding

  • Purchase quality seed.
  • Rake, roll lightly, then mulch lightly.
  • Top ½ inch of soil should be kept moist until seeds germinate. First watering will be lightly and frequently. Keep in mind germination rates: Kentucky bluegrass 10-30 days and perennial ryegrass 3-10 days. Once the seedlings have emerged, watering should be deeply and less frequently.

Once the seedlings are growing:

  • At 2-inch height, fertilize at ½ rate.
  • Mow when 3-4.5 inch height down to 2-3 inch height.
  • Limit heavy traffic for first year.
  • Wait until after 3 mowings for postemergent herbicide application if needed.

Tips for successful sodding

  • Choose fresh, healthy sod with a thin soil layer.
  • Choose sod grown on soils similar to that of planting site if possible.
  • Lightly roll after installation.
  • Water thoroughly.

Post-Planting Care of Sod

  • Sod should root in about 14 days.
  • Fertilize using the regular recommended fertilization schedule.
  • Mow using the "1/3 rule". Do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at one time. Gradually mow down to 2-2.5 inch height.
  • After proper rooting, core aerification can encourage deeper rooting.

For information

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