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From Bare Soil To Lush Lawn

Imagine your yard one day bare soil and the next a lush green lawn.

It's not magic. The secret is sod. And CBS This Morning's home improvement contributor Bob Vila, in Martha's Vineyard, shows how to transform drab grounds into greenery.

Installing a yard instead of planting it is the primary advantage of laying sod over planting grass seed. Sod is expensive, however, costing about $1.25 to $3 per square yard, not including delivery and installation.

But if you are working in a small area, it's an ideal do-it-yourself project. And the cool, moist days of early fall before heavy frosts occur is a good time to tackle it.

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Tips on Buying Sod

In states with a sod-certification program, buy only certified sod. Certification ensures the sod is labeled correctly and is relatively free of insects, weeds and disease.

It also means the varieties of grass in the sod are adapted to the region they are sold in. If you can't buy certified sod, buy from a reputable sod farm.

Check in the yellow pages for your local agricultural extension service or favorite nursery for recommendations.

How Sod Should Arrive

Sod usually comes in rolled or folded strips. Make sure the sod soil is moist and that the grass leaves are green and a consistent length.

Don't buy sod that's been on a pallet for more than 48 hours. If sod sits around too long, it begins to generate enough heat through decomposition to kill the grass.

If the grass and soil are overly warm to the touch, don't buy it. It is also a good idea to do all of your prep work before the sod arrives so it does not sit around in the sun.

Getting Ready

First, prepare the soil. Rake the top soil with a firm leveling action. This levels out any unevenness and creates loose soil particles that allow the new sod's root system to get a firm grasp on the soil. And it removes debris.

Sod cannot be planted over existing grass - the old grass must be tilled under first. If the area was left unattended for quite some time, dig up the old grass and lay new topsoil. (Purchase it at a local nursery.) Also lay down a brick border to provide an edge for the area.

Next moisten the soil under the sod before it's laid. Then lay the sod in strips, fitting them together tightly. Use a sharp knife or shovel to trim around curves.

Finally fill in any cracks between pieces with topsoil.

Making Sure New Sod Survives

The key is water. On a regular basis water the lawn area you have planted on - usually daily for newly sodded lawns unless there's rain.

After the first week, start stretching out the time between watering so that the roots will grow downward toward the soil moisture.

The best watering schedule is to water deeply one to two times a week during normal months When you do water, soak it deeply. Of course, during hot periods you may have to water more frequently.

A Little Maintenance

About a week after planting your newly sodded lawn, you will have some onetime maintenance to do.

Note that no matter how good a job you do, there are bound to be some areas not tightly fit against the next piece.

If you take a wheelbarrow of dirt and lightly fill in these cracks, you will end up with a smoother lawn. Over time those noticeable cracks will be gone.

Apply fertilizer in intervals through the growing season and practice a regular mowing schedule. Mow your new sod lawn for the first time about three to four weeks after planting, then at regular times and at the correct height.

For more information about Bob Vila, visit his Web site.

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