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putting in a small sod lawn

Hi all. I've been reading the forums trying to find some answers to my questions about putting in a small (14 3/4' x13 1/2'), sod lawn, on top of a rock infested, lol, mostly clay yard, there is no real soil to speak of. I was going to get a truckload of topsoil, but found it extremely expensive, $150 delivered, and there's an Oregon law that says you can't dump soil on the street anymore due to drainage problems over the years. I live in a 50+ community and have a 2 bedroom apartment with a small yard in back, and my backyard is on a golf course, so I can't have the truck dump it there.  


I spoke with a great guy at my local Salem, Oregon Home Depot, Byron, a couple of weeks ago. He was very helpful and when I go in, in 2 more days, (waiting for the "soil"  to dry from the rain last night), I am hoping he's there to help me in person.


My understanding was, since this is an apartment and I'm on a limited, VERY limited budget, I don't need to add topsoil, I can just use the clay soil and add amendments, fertilizer, lime, sod of course, and rent a small tiller and roller.


My transportation is a small PT cruiser, my sister's, and he said the tiller and roller will fit, with all the other goodies. The sod might take 2 trips, I will need 26 rolls, but that can be managed with a bribe of more gas money, (there goes my budget!).


So, long story longer, I have a few questions:

1. if I remove all the rocks in this yard, I will be left with a 20 foot deep hole and a small pile of clay! My other plants seem to do ok in the clay, so, with the amendments and lime and so forth, will that be enough to let the sod root and grow and live?


2. the yard is angled quite steeply, at least I think so, and I've been trying to get it more even in the last few days, using a shovel and rake to take down the higher areas and fill in the lower areas. Is there a good way to see how level it is, both sideways and up and down? I can't figure that out, and looking at it, I just keep finding new places to work on!


3. i have watched a number of videos on laying sod lawns and some of them insist on putting down compost and things of that nature, 6 inches!, which I don't have the money for. Is that really necessary?


I don't want to do this in a partial manner, this lawn is a present for my service dog who was diagnoised with diabeties 5 months ago. He died 2 times, 1 time with me and I revived him, and 1 time at the hospital and a number of other times very close to death. When they sent him home with me, for the last time, (they thought), I stayed up with him all night, telling him that he could go if he needed to, but if he stayed, I would put in a sod lawn for him by this summer. I don't know if that's why he stayed, lol, but a promise is a promise!


I've scrimpted and saved every penny to get this done and I want to do it right, for both of us, but I don't want to start something that's not going to work.


If you can help me with any of my questions, I would appreciate it and thanks for the forums, I've learned alot about watering and other gardening stuff too.



David & Billy (my service dog) 


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Posted 2012-06-12T20:02:09+0000  by buclkysdad1 buclkysdad1

Hello buclysdad1,


Hello and welcome to the site!:smileyhappy:

Let me answer your questions in order.

 1. If, with the soil amendments and clay it is enough to fill the hole, you will be fine with your sod.

 2.  you do want your yard to be angled away from your home, so the water doesn't pool up next to your house,you could use a laser level or 2 stakes and a plumb line to check. You could also take a 2x4 and scree the lawn to check for level.

 3. Compost and soil amendments are basically the same thing, add one or the other.


Here is a post that I wrote on laying a new lawn, I hope it helps.


And say hi to Billy for me, he certainly is a lucky dog.:smileywink:



Hope this helps,




Posted 2012-06-13T17:27:03+0000  by Gail_HD_OC

Hello David and Billy,

 This is BostonRoots with The Home Depot community. I read your questions, and also GardenGails great advice last week. After posting my video on a visit to the sod farm, and now that I have a new appreciation for sod, I kept thinking about your questions.


I check with one of my sod experts on this side of the country and he told me that, he too had a clay based yard at his vacation home.  His advice for you was to roughin up the soil, and remove any big rocks. Lay the sod down. He said that you will need to feed the sod often, every two months or so, with a high nitrogen fertilizer. The sod will not get nutrients from the soil, because the clay is dense so you will need to provide them.


My question to him was the effect of the fertilizer on your beloved dog…He suggested that you try to keep him in one section, where he lays, and do not fertilize there.  Because you get so much precipitation in Oregon the fertilizer will dissipate quick. Just keep your buddy off the lawn after application, just let him roam the untouched section.


I too believe, a promise is a promise! I promised myself to look into your questions a bit, and this is what I dug up.


  Just remember that the root system will take time, so the mowing will be tricky. A reel mower may be in order for you small sod space. That way you will not be sucking up the turf rolls as you mow!



 Please let us on the community know, how things are growing!  I look forward to hearing from you and your good buddy! Keep in contact with your local Home Depot too, sounds like you have a great friend in the aisles there. Best wishes to you and Billy!  Good Luck!!  Bostonroots

Posted 2012-06-19T14:48:33+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS

Hi Dave and Billy!

Just wanted to check in and hear if your project was complete!  I just spoke with Byron in, Salem, Oregon store. He said that you had been in and purchased sod and he remembered you and your sister and the PT cruiser..So I hope all is well and you are enjoying a freshly sodded back yard!!! Show us some pictures we would love to see Billy and you relaxing in your yard!!!  Look forward to hearing from you guys   BostonRoots

Posted 2012-06-21T18:20:41+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS
Hello All. Sorry it's been so long and thank you all for your replies.
Billy hasn't been well; he developed pacreatitus on top of the diabetes, but we got both of those under control, then he developed Inflamitory Bowel Disease,, which is not curable, but it's manageable. He's had a rough time of it as have I. And it's put me almost $10,000 in debt! Thank God for Carecredit (vet credit card).
However, the lawn is not doing well.
I did as I was instructed, but I wasn't able to afford a push mower, so I had to go with the $24 weed whacker and I am not happy with the results look wise or the problems I'm having, I think, from not being able to properly rake away the cut grass and have it sink into the roots and suffocate the other grass. So, I have many patches of dead sod and clumps of moody grass that I am having to hand pick out of the living grass.
At this point I don't know what to do. Should I reared the yard, and should I pull out the dead moldy grass? Or should I leave the dead stuff alone and reseed next month?
Is the grass going to all die because of the layer of dead stuff on top? I just don't know what to do. Thanks again for your kind words and Billy will make it through this illness, but will the lawn?
Posted 2012-08-25T02:57:05+0000  by buclkysdad1

Hi buclkysdad1,


I'm Travis from Atlanta.


Yes, your lawn will make it, and Billy will be enjoying it soon. The weather is improving as far as lawns are concerned. The time to over seed is near and the heat of summer is behind us.


You are correct in your observation that the crass clippings left by the weed whacker are smothering the lawn. Raking these clippings is critical because those large blades and stalks of grass require a much longer time period to decompose. Smaller grass clippings will decompose faster and will then benefit the lawn.  


Lawnmowers will produce relatively small clippings that may break down in just a few weeks. Mulching mowers produce the smallest of clippings to produce the quickest of results. Only after the clippings break down will they release their nutrients back to the soil. Any debris left on the grass for a significant length of time could smother the actively growing grass. Mow often to avoid excessive clippings.


The good news is that as winter approaches, the need for mowing diminishes. The grass will continue to develop deep roots, but there will be no need to mow. Maybe you can borrow a mower for the few cuttings remaining, and put a mower on your Christmas list. The off season is a great time to find deals on mowers.


Good luck to You and Billy.




Posted 2012-08-28T14:33:33+0000  by Travis_HD_ATL

Thanks for your reply and I'm glad that the season for mowing is coming to an end and I already have a mower on my Xmas list! lol


Unfortunately, I live in a retirement community and I am one of the few that have put in a lawn instead of the barkdust or rock or artificial grass! Really, one guy said he put in "astro turf", it's fake grass from Walmart! LOL, but to each his own. So, it's almost impossible to find a lawnmower, except the big ones they mow the golf course with and they won't even fit in my yard!


I guess I'm just going to have to buy a good rake, I have a little "under bush" rake, which doesn't do much of anything, when I get a few dollars and go from there, picking up the clippings as I whack, until I can get a mower. I've even been checking the yard sales in this area, but no luck, and I can't drive because I go blind, so I can't go to outside sales. Sigh, but, I will get a push mower, hopefully they'll go on sale soon, and a good rake and get down and get as much with the rake as I can and try to get the rest out by hand. I don't want to let this lawn die and I want to over seed or reseed or whatever I need to do to get this yard back to green and healthy and happy.


Any suggestions on the type of rake I should buy? Like I said, I have the "mini me" under the bush rake, useless, and a heavy metal rake that would rip the sod out of the ground, so I won't use that! I'm just not sure what "kind" of rake to ask for, seems like there are many types. Any help would be great.

Thanks again.

David :smileyhappy:

Posted 2012-08-29T05:44:31+0000  by buclkysdad1

Hey David and Billy,

Welcome back to the community! Glad your rough patch with Billy is over, but sorry to hear about the patchiness of your lawn. Raking and removing the long cut, blades of grass from the lawn surface will help it green back-up. The refuse sitting on top will stop light and air from penetrating the roots causing yellowing and weakling of the turf….. So rake away, but not too hard, the sod  roots are still taking hold. I recommend a light-weight, flex, steel tine, rake…here is a picture. You will find it in the long-handle, tool section of the garden department at your Home Depot….ask Byron he will help you. You could also order it on line and have it sent right to your door.  Let us know how things are growing! Give Billy some pats for me!!  BostonRoots

 good tine rake.png

Posted 2012-08-30T16:40:48+0000  by Maureen_HD_BOS
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