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4 Ways to Properly Remove Sod
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If you want to plant a new garden bed this summer, you’ll need to remove the sod first. There are a few different ways to remove sod, and which one you choose will depend on the effort you want to put in, your budget, and your timeline.

Now, we’ll explore a few ways to remove sections of sod for planting the right way so you can make the most of your home landscape. Read on to learn about 4 ways to properly remove sod.

Remove sod by hand. Removing sod by hand is a good choice because it only requires a few common tools and a little sweat, and you can immediately plant your garden in the area. It also saves the sod and organic matter, allowing you to use the grass elsewhere rather than throwing perfectly good turf away.

But removing sod by hand can be tough work, especially on a hot summer day. Be sure you have the tools you’ll need and plenty of water on hand if you choose this method.

Tools you’ll need

  • A water hose or sprinkler
  • A sharp spade or edger
  • A ruler or measuring tape

Water the grass. A few days before you plan to remove the sod, give the area a healthy shower. You want the soil to be moist so it clumps together easily, but it shouldn’t be so soggy it falls apart.

Cut the sod. Using a sharp spade or edging tool, cut the sod into parallel cross-strips. The strips should ideally be 1 inch wide by 2-3 feet long. If you plan to use the sod elsewhere in your landscape, an edger gives more precise cuts for replacement.

Remove sod sections. When you’ve cut your sod into strips, slide a spade or pitchfork underneath each section to lift it from the ground. Cut through any taproots underneath to minimize resistance and keep your sod safe for replanting. Be sure to remove any soil clumped underneath the sod, especially if you plan to roll or stack the sections.

Remove sod by tilling. A tiller requires less manual work than removing sod by hand, as most of the effort comes from the tiller’s engine. Tilling is beneficial because it allows you to use the organic matter in your sod to fertilize your future garden. You can also plant your new garden immediately, though tilling can bring weeds to the surface of your lawn that creates problems for your plants in the future.

Tools you’ll need

  • A tiller
  • Safety equipment (gloves, goggles, long pants, and shoes)
  • Stakes and string

Mark off the area you want to remove. It’s extremely easy to till well past your intended area thanks to the tiller’s powerful motor. Use stakes and string to set boundary lines around the sod area you wish to remove.

Till the sod. Using slow, careful lines, pass your tiller over your sod section. The blades will spin and turn over your sod, preparing it for planting. Depending on the thickness of your grass and soil, you may need to make more than one pass. It’s best to start the blades on a shallow setting and return again if needed.

Remove grass clumps. Your tiller may leave clumps of grass and soil behind. Remove these clumps and shake the nutrient-dense soil back into your freshly tilled area.

Remove sod by smothering. Smothering your sod, or denying it access to light and nutrients, causes it to decay quickly, making it easier to remove. Though smothering sod takes less effort than the other options, it also takes more time - sometimes an entire season.

Tools You’ll Need

  • An opaque material (plastic, tarp, or cardboard)
  • Rocks or bricks

Lay your material. Cover the desired area completely with a light-blocking material. Because of our humid climate, paper products like cardboard may disintegrate before your sod can die. We recommend plastic or paint tarps as the best choice.

Secure the corners. Place heavy rocks or bricks on each corner, securely anchoring your material to protect it from wind and animals. As the heat under the cover rises, the grass will decay (though this can take several months.)

Remove the sod. Depending on how long you wait, your sod may decay completely and require little removal. If needed, use a shovel or garden spade to remove any remaining clumps and roots.

Remove sod with herbicides. Specially designed herbicides that target grass are an effective (though not environmentally friendly) way to kill and remove sod.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Herbicide
  • Safety equipment (goggles, long pants, and gloves)

Choose the right herbicide. Choose a herbicide that’s designed to target the type of grass you want to remove. Some grasses are resistant to certain chemicals, and broad herbicides will kill beneficial plants and nutrients as well as grass. For help choosing, ask your home and garden store or contact the professionals at Krob Landscape!

Apply the herbicide. Some herbicides can be applied directly while others should be dissolved in water first. Always follow the directions provided by the herbicide manufacturer and keep chemicals away from children and pets.

Avoid applying herbicides if there’s rain in the forecast, as they can run-off into water supplies and nearby ecosystems. You may need to apply your herbicide more than once or even annually depending on your grass type.

Of course, you can always let the experts at Krob Landscape handle the work for you! From sod removal to seasonal beds and beyond, we’ll take the guesswork out of gardening to give you the home landscape you’ve dreamed of. Contact us today!

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