The “seeds versus sod” debate is not a new one among lawn care connoisseurs. The truth is, both methods have their strong and weak points. We could argue a solid case for either option, based on personal preferences that vary from one homeowner to the next.
But there are several factors to examine, in order to make an educated decision for yourself. Most of them are regional and environmental considerations that deal directly with our agricultural zone here in North Texas:
- Soil Type
- Regional Pests and Diseases
- Seasonal Temperatures
These same factors are the ones that determine which grasses will thrive the best in our area’s soil and climate: St. Augustine grass, Zoysia grass, and Bermuda grass. All 3 grass types do really well with sod installation, and are relatively disease-resistant.
So how do sod and seeds stack up against each other, over all?
A Good Foundation
While sod grass requires minimal soil amendments, you still need to be sure your foundation is healthy enough to accommodate the deeper rooting that occurs as fresh grass establishes itself. Here in North Texas, this means you want to be sure you use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. You may also want to lightly till the soil before laying new sod, to be sure it isn’t compacted.
With grass seeds, you may face the task of making more thorough soil amendments in order to provide a verdant growth environment. Additionally, you face the risk of birds, wind, and moisture runoff, reducing the amount of seeds that actually sprout.
While spring and fall are the best times to lay new sod, fresh seeds should be sown only in the fall. This gives them the best chance to establish a hearty root system throughout the fall and winter. However, with the clay-heavy soil that’s common here in North Texas, you may be facing the task of soil amendments in order to provide an atmosphere wherein the seedlings can thrive.
With sod, both the turf and the root system are already established. You get the full packaged deal, literally rolled out like carpet onto your lawn. It takes some time for the root system to grow into your topsoil, but the healthy base it’s already got removes the task of making amendments like you might do before planting seeds.
Additionally, planting seeds in the fall leaves them less vulnerable to weeds than planting them in the springtime. With sod, however, there is quite literally less room for weeds to take root in the soil. The grass bed is already fully developed, with no “open real estate” for opportunistic species to take advantage of.
Spots and Slopes
The truth is that seeding in a sloped area can be problematic. You face a higher probability of wash-out, which may require reseeding. And even on flat terrains, you may need to overseed in order to fill in thin spots where the seedlings simply didn’t take to the soil.
With sod grass, because it is already fully established, it can conform quickly and easily to hills, dips, and oddly shaped boundaries. While sod does require a couple of weeks to take root into your lawn’s topsoil, it’s already mature and healthy. That means there is no risk of runoff from wind or precipitation.
In the off-chance that shrinkage or gaps do occur with your sod grass, your lawn care professional can fill them in with sod plugs. This is a much quicker process than re-seeding. It provides and instant and attractive remedy, rather than waiting for new blades to grow.
Let’s be real: sod is more expensive up-front than planting grass seeds. There are significantly more materials- and labor- to be accounted for. But this is a great example of immediate expenses versus long-term expenses.
Anyone who’s invested in a quality built home, or even a sturdy backyard deck, will tell you that the structure pays for itself over time. The same is true for healthy, robust sod grass. It may cost more than seedlings, but it’s immediately more resistant to weeds, soil variations, and weather-related damage.
Additionally, while fresh sod grass needs fresh watering and a bit of fertilizer to give it a boost, seeds are certainly more high-maintenance upfront. They require more irrigation, which will affect your water bill, and they simply don’t offer the self-sufficiency of an established bed of sod grass.
A fresh bed of sod grass needs to be left alone for a good two weeks after it’s laid. This is important to the integration process, as the roots bind to the topsoil. It’s also important to leave it undisturbed in the interest of keeping the sod bed flat and untorn.
While all of that sounds a bit inconvenient, let’s compare it to the alternative. Planting grass seeds means you need to leave your yard completely unused for several weeks, while the seedlings sprout and take root. Any disturbance risks seed loss, leaving your turf vulnerable to bald spots and weed infestation.
Both choices have their limitations. But sod grass is far more user-friendly in terms of sturdiness against weeds and damage. You and your family can enjoy it far sooner than waiting months for an entire lawn of seedlings to sprout and mature.