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Seed or Sod Lawn - Choose the Best Method For Lawn Installation

March 29, 2017

The great residential landscaping debate is seed or sod. Which method is best when installing a new lawn? The answer to that question depends on what the homeowner’s needs are. Seed may be the best option for someone who has a large yard but a smaller budget. Whereas a small, sloped yard that needs to finished quickly is a better fit for sod. Let’s compare the two methods and the major factors such as cost, time, and quality of each.

Type of Lawn

SOD: Large pre-cut rolls of mature turf that has been grown and cared for by a professional. It is rolled out like a rug in linear sections, either by the homeowner or a professional landscape company. This option gives an “instant” lawn.  Sod still needs time to root before enduring heavy foot traffic, but the visual effect is an immediate beautiful, lush lawn.

SEED: Grass seed that is purchased, then planted and grown on site. This process is more difficult and time intensive, but can be better customized to the yard. There are different types of seed to choose from; common types of cool season grasses include Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Ryegrass. These options for seed will do well in the Minnesota climate, and all types of cool season grasses can be grown from seed. Shady areas will require a different blend of seed to withstand the lack of sun. The application, the area, and the care that seed requires should be considered. Seed will need much more patience and care as it matures.

Grass Seed Lawn


SOD: This is the most expensive option. Sod arrives as a nearly finished product and the cost reflects it. Someone has already planted the seed, watered, grown, cut, and even delivered the rolls of sod from the growing location. The only piece left to finish is to install the rolls. Generally, sod can cost about twice as much as a lawn grown from seed

SEED: This option is cheaper; to cover 100 square yards might cost $200-500. Even the best seed mixture is still less expensive than sod. Another seed consideration would be hydro-seeding. Hydro-seeding or hydro-mulching is a mix of seed, fertilizer, and material that retains water that is sprayed onto the yard. It has a high germination rate and quick growth. It is more expensive than seed, but still less than sod, and is perfect for sloped yards where seed would normally wash away.

Sod Installation


SOD: For an instant, lush, green lawn, sod is the best bet. A patch of brown dirt can transform into a green lawn in a matter of a day. Rooting is an important part of the survival of newly installed sod. Rooting varies with each season depending on water availability. It may take 2-3 weeks before the root system is established enough before mowing, walking, and playing on it. Sod can be laid at any time of the year as long as it is watered regularly. 

SEED: This option will take longer and require more attention. The total process may take 2-3 months before the grass is ready to use. Re-seeding is very common if germination doesn’t take place or seeds get washed away. Hydro seeding has a quicker growth rate and won’t be washed away like seed on bare dirt can. The best time to seed in Minnesota is late summer (mid-August to mid-September) due to favorable conditions for germination and growth. This also allows for enough time for the plants to be well established before winter.

Lawn Installation


SOD:  Sod is a very dependable and high quality product. It is a very clean and quick process to install. Sod is great for sloped areas or erosion prone areas where seed would struggle to establish. Sod is grown in full sun though and may have a hard time adapting to new growing conditions. If installed poorly, it can shrink and leave spaces in between the rows in which weeds would then sprout.

SEED:  Although this method takes longer to establish, it results in a better lawn long term. There are more options when it comes to seed type, and choosing the correct seed is critical for the grass to grow well in the yard. The grass will look thin and patchy while is it still growing in, and the presence of weeds taking root is also possible before the grass seed has filled in. But as the grass grows and adapts specifically to the soil, water, and sun conditions, it will have a stronger root system which will result in a healthier lawn.

Regardless of whether sod or seed is chosen, the soil condition and watering amount is crucial for a healthy lawn. If a yard isn’t well prepared with top soil and black dirt, the grass will struggle to produce that lush green lawn with either of these options. And a brand new sodded lawn will turn brown quickly if it isn’t watered properly.