Laying Sod Next to Existing Grass [8 Best Tips]

You can patch your lawn by laying sod next to the existing grass with just a few simple tools and tips. This job is DIY-friendly and easy to accomplish in an afternoon. In order to fill a bare patch in your lawn or replace yellowed grass with new sod, you’ll need:

  • Shovel (preferably square)
  • Hand cultivar
  • Tamper (optional)
  • Utility knife or sod knife
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Sod

Once you have all the tools you need, you’re ready to repair your lawn and lay new sod that fits seamlessly with your existing grass.

Laying sod next to existing grass

8 Tips for Laying Sod Next to Existing Grass

The keys to laying sod next to established grass are soil preparation and watering. If you prepare the ground properly, sod installation will go smoothly and your yard will be level. After that, the most important thing is making sure the new sod receives enough water to thrive.

Remove Grass in Area Where Sod Will be Laid

Whether you’re laying new sod in half your yard or just patching an area that has turned yellow from animal use, it’s essential to dig up any existing weeds, dead grass, or other plant life in the area. Remove old plant material in a rectangle-shaped area. This will make fitting and trimming new sod a lot easier.

Man ripping up a dead piece of sod.
Removing a dead piece of sod in my yard where I will lay a new piece of sod.
  • Measure and mark rectangle area where new sod will be laid.
  • Use your shovel to cut out the rectangle and remove existing grass.
  • Dig down far enough to remove roots and thatch (1–1 1/2 inches).

Once you’ve removed the existing plant material, the hardest work is done. Don’t worry about having a perfectly level surface at this stage. The following steps will take care of that.

Loosen Soil

Sod roots best in soil that is not hard and compacted. In order to encourage faster rooting and better survival of your new sod, use a hand cultivar to loosen the soil in your rectangle area down to a depth of 3 inches.

A man using a hand cultivar to loosen soil before laying new sod next to existing grass.
Using a hand cultivar to loosen the soil in the rectangle area next to my existing grass where I will be planting new sod.

Once you’ve loosened the soil, rake it until it is somewhat level. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect at this point.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Lay Compost

Boost your new sod’s performance by pouring a layer of compost, such as Brut Super Soil, into the rectangle area. This will provide an instant boost when your sod begins to take root, resulting in green, vigorous new grass that blends with the existing lawn.

A man using a shovel to lay compost into a rectangle area before laying sod next to existing grass.
Using a shovel to pour fresh compost into the area where I recently loosened the soil.
  • Pour compost in stages, raking to spread it.
  • Fill rectangle until freshly poured compost is 1/4–1/2 inches below the level of surrounding topsoil.

Pour the compost a little at a time, raking to spread it evenly as you do so. Keep a close eye on the surrounding topsoil. The loose compost should come up to about 1/4 below the surrounding soil.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Tamp Compost

Use your tamper, or simply stomp, to level and compress the newly laid compost. Don’t worry, this tamping won’t be enough to inhibit root growth. It will, however, prevent soil settling that can lead to sunken spots in your yard.

  • Tamp down the compost and topsoil in the rectangle.
  • The level of the tamped material should be 1/2 inch below the surrounding topsoil.
  • Add or remove compost as necessary to obtain a level surface 1/2 inch below nearby topsoil.

The goal is to create a level, firm surface 1/2 inch below the surrounding topsoil. You may need to add or remove some compost to get it just right. Because your new sod has about 1/2 inch of topsoil attached to it, this step is essential for creating a seamless, level lawn.

Fertilize the Composted Area

The compost will provide your new sod with a ton of nutrients, but it doesn’t hurt to give it additional nutrients to encourage stronger and faster rooting. A liquid fertilizer like Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer can easily and quickly be applied to the area before sod installation.

A man applying liquid Scotts Turf Builder Starter Fertilizer to a composted area before applying sod next to existing grass.
I like using a high-quality liquid fertilizer to give the composted area an additional boost before laying sod.

Getting roots to take hold is one of the telltale signs of successful installation. I personally never skip this step, especially if I’m replacing sod during extreme heat.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Lay New Sod

Unroll your new sod in the level, tamped rectangle. Try to line up the edges with your composted space as much as possible, but don’t worry if it’s not a perfect fit. The next step will solve this problem.

Man laying a piece of sod that still needs to be fit properly.
Laying a piece of sod that isn’t fitting quite right yet.

Laying sod in a specific space can feel like finishing a puzzle. Take your time and you will eventually find the right fitting for your new strip of sod.

Trim Sod to Shape

Use your shovel, utility knife, or sod knife to cut the sod to exactly fit the rectangle you’ve excavated. Any gaps between the existing lawn and the new sod will not magically disappear. They can persist for a long time, making for an uneven lawn.

  • Cut sod to fit the rectangle with your shovel or knife.
  • Fill the rectangle as seamlessly as possible. There should be no gaps between the sod and existing grass.

Whenever possible, use one larger piece of sod instead of several small ones. Small bits of sod dry out easily and may wither.

Water, Water, Water

New sod dries out fast, and the smaller the section of sod, the faster it will dry out. In order to prevent this, water your sod patch twice per day for the first 2 weeks, then gradually reduce watering.

  • First 2 Weeks: Water 2 times per day for 10 mins each watering session (morning and afternoon).
  • Week 3: Water once per day for 15–20 mins.
  • Week 4 and Beyond: Water new sod at the same rate you water your existing lawn.

By keeping the sod moist during the initial two weeks, you prevent shrinkage that can cause gaps in your lawn. Keeping sod well-watered also encourages rooting and ensures the survival of your new grass. It’s best to install an automated watering system, like this one, to ensure your sod takes root and your lawn thrives.

Hassle-Free, Automatic Sprinkler System
Automatic Irrigation System | Easy to Install | Rain Bird
  • Waters your lawn automatically the whole season.
  • Eliminates constant hassling with hose and sprinkler adjustments.
  • Sprinklers retract into the lawn for a clean, uncluttered appearance and easier mowing.
  • Wind-resistant Rain Curtain nozzle technology reduces overspray and saves water.
  • Avoids overwatering with easy-to-set schedules that help you meet the moisture needs of your yard.
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Do You Need to Rototill Before Laying Sod?

If you are laying a large area of sod (more than 250 square feet) then a rototiller is the best tool for loosening and preparing the soil prior to sodding. In smaller areas where you are laying sod next to existing grass, the work of loosening soil can be accomplished with a rake and shovel.

Add Nutrients to Your Soil Before Laying Sod

Sod benefits from nutrient-rich soil that eases the transition from sod to an established yard. To accomplish this, add a nutrient-rich soil amendment as a leveling agent over your topsoil. This can be in the form of compost, but some like to add fertilizer for even better results.

  • Use high-quality compost to level and fill the area before laying sod.
  • Mix in balanced starter fertilizer, like Howard Johnsons 12-12-12, for an added boost.

If the first couple inches of soil contains an abundance of nutrients, your sod will establish itself faster and remain green and lush.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Can You Walk on Freshly Laid Sod?

It’s best to stay off new sod as much as possible. For the first 2 weeks, sod is very vulnerable and has yet to take root. Foot traffic can cause a lot of damage. Remain off it at all times.

Wait at least 2 weeks before walking on or mowing new sod, in order to protect your lawn.

Can You Lay Sod Next to Existing Grass?

It’s entirely possible to lay sod next to existing grass, patch dead spots, or replace whole sections of your yard with new sod. Just follow these tips:

  • Cut a rectangle in or beside your existing grass.
  • Dig the rectangle out to a depth of 1–1 1/2 inches.
  • Loosen the soil in the rectangle.
  • Add compost, tamp, and level the rectangle to 1/2 inch below the surrounding topsoil.
  • Lay sod and trim to shape.
  • Water sod twice per day for the first 2 weeks after it is installed.

By removing grass where you plan to lay sod, then preparing, leveling, and adding nutrients to your soil you set a great foundation for your sod. In no time at all, your new sod will blend perfectly with your lawn.

When can you mow new sod?

When Can You Mow New Sod?

When to plant Buffalo grass seed in Texas

When to Plant Buffalo Grass Seed in Texas