Reseed or use sod?

(Question)

Hi,

We just removed a large patch of ivy from our garden, and are planning to relevel a section of lawn to address some drainage issues. This leaves us with large, irregularly shaped patches of bare ground where we would like to re-establish grass for walking around on. There’s no need for perfect grass – a low-maintenance ‘native’ grass would be ideal. My questions are:

1. Is it easier, in the long run, to reseed from scratch as opposed to using sod – i.e. does sod require more care over the long term (particularly watering) to establish a proper lawn? Several commenters on this site have noted their sod has deteriorated over time so I’m wondering if sod takes longer to establish proper roots.

2. Is there such a thing as ‘eco-turf’ sod? Many landscaping companies advertise that they only use Kentucky bluegrass, which I’m not sure is tolerant of either drought or shade. I’m hoping to find something that is both low-maintenance and can tolerate a few patches of shade.

Thanks in advance!

(Answer)

There is no one right answer with respect to sod or seed. Seed offers lower cost and convenience but it will take longer to establish that nice walkable surface you seek and the ideal seeding time is the early fall, when the seedlings do not have to deal with heat and drought. Sod gives you an overnight lawn anytime but it can fail and leave you back at square-one and is far more expensive.

I really like this discussion of the pros and cons of seeding and sodding from the University of Minnesota.

Seeding

Advantages

  • More grass types and varieties to choose from
  • Less expensive than sodding
  • Stronger root system development initially

Disadvantages

  • Initial establishment is longer
  • For best results, time of seeding is limited mainly to late summer and early fall
  • Moisture is critical for the young seedlings

Sodding

Advantages

  • Rapid establishment and relatively weed-free in the beginning
  • Good for slopes or areas prone to erosion
  • Can be laid any time during the growing season

Disadvantages

  • Expensive
  • Less selection or control over kinds of grasses, especially shade tolerance

Source: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg5775.html

If you do decide to seed, the City of Toronto has a terrific page with seed recommendations for Toronto lawns: essentially a mix of cool-season grasses that will work together to create a resilient lawn in sun or shade. You are absolutely correct about the Kentucky Bluegrass. It wants full sun and a lot of care to stay looking good.

http://www.toronto.ca/compost/seeding.htm

You might also want to consider a turf-grass alternative for part of your lawn to add some variety and interest. Please take a look at our Garden Guide on the topic and maybe you will be inspired to try something a bit different that will be easy to maintain and environmentally friendly.

http://66.209.177.85/~torontom/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Lawn-Alternatives1.pdf

All the best with your lawn project!