Although many resources advise you to till your yard when re-sodding, there are drawbacks to tilling your yard before you lay new sod. Tilling can bring buried weed seeds to the surface of your yard, causing a new weed infestation after tilling is complete. Also, soil may settle unevenly after tilling, causing dips and bumps in your lawn over time.
Although tilling is beneficial for encouraging sod to take root quickly and develop a healthy yard, sandy and loamy soil types may not require tilling before sod is laid. If your yard conditions are right, you can skip the tilling process.
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Tilling Before Laying Sod: Pros and Cons
Tilling before you install a new sod lawn is common practice, but may not be best for your lawn. It provides several benefits, but also increases your workload and may cause a negative impact on your yard overall. Before you till, consider the following:
Pros of Tilling Before Sod
The benefits of tilling before you lay a new sod lawn are enough to convince many to include this step when laying new sod in their lawn. The top reasons for tilling are:
- Loosens soil, allowing sod to take root quickly.
- Creates opportunity to mix grass-boosting soil amendments (lime, fertilizer, compost) into topsoil.
- Tilled soil can be raked to change the slope of the yard.
- Especially beneficial for compacted or clay soils.
If you have a yard that’s in need of fertilizer or the soil pH needs to be balanced with lime, tilling these amendments into the ground provides a big benefit. Additionally, loose soil encourages sod to develop deep roots that make for a healthy, drought-resistant yard.
Cons of Tilling
There are drawbacks to tilling the ground before you lay your sod. The main reasons you may not want to till before sod installation are:
- Brings buried weed seeds to the surface, causing them to sprout.
- Tilled soil may settle unevenly, causing low spots in your yard.
- Cost: tilling requires renting or purchasing a rototiller.
- Not very beneficial for sandy or loamy soils that resist compaction.
Tilling churns the soil, loosening it. However, even the most expert operator may have a hard time maintaining a consistent tiller depth. Some portions of your yard may be tilled down to the recommended depth of 6 inches, while others may only be tilled to a depth of 3 inches. Tilled soil settles much more than untilled soil, so a yard that looks level after tilling may become uneven over time.
Do You Need to Rototill Before Laying Sod?
It is not always necessary to till before you lay sod. If you have healthy soil with high quantities of sand or loam, your lawn likely doesn’t need tilling before sod install. In this case, simply remove your existing lawn with a sod cutter, grade your yard, and add a few inches of topsoil in low areas. Then, you can install sod and fertilizer.
Tilling before you lay sod churns the soil, bringing long-buried weed seeds to the surface. If you till before sodding, you may encourage an abundance of weeds to sprout up through your new sod. Not only that, but tilled soil may settle unevenly beneath your sod, resulting in an uneven lawn with bumps and dips. If you don’t have compacted soil, it may be best not to till before you install sod.