View Full Version : Laying sod in spring

01-30-2001, 06:11 PM
Early in the spring I will have a small area of about 1000 ft. sq. to sod. The homeowner put sod down 2 or 3 years ago and then killed it by draining part of his pool and backwashing the filter onto it. There are 3 oak trees in this area and the roots are shallow.

The question up for debate is : What should I do about the dead turf ? Should I rent a sod cutter and peel it up ? and if so, will the tree roots effect the performance of the machine ? OR will core aerating the heck out of it and then an inch or so of topsoil be better since under the old turf layer there are tree roots and I will have to put down top anyway ?

Thanks for your opinions.


01-30-2001, 06:24 PM
Opinion is right.Ive never run into that.
It seems like what you want to do should
make a good grass soil as you would have
loose soil 5-6 inches .MIGHT NEED TO WATER

Starling Lawn
01-30-2001, 06:38 PM
use a sod cutter and a very sharp shovel.you can add soil after the old grass is removed.aerating this over and over will kill you.

01-30-2001, 06:40 PM
I would use a sod cutter. They can take just the turff away if its adjusted correctly. Sod cutters are nice to work with in this kind of situation.


01-30-2001, 07:53 PM
First off be carfull of adding topsoil over the root system of oak trees, this can kill them or cause stress that can damage them. 2" might be ok but 5"-6" your going to have trouble! It might have been a combination of the back wash and low sun light from the oaks that caused the thinning of the grass and add into that oaks don't like to compete with other plants and you have a very thin lawn.

01-30-2001, 07:56 PM
If the pool chem and oak trees are to blame, I say, use any soil you have lime the sh*t out of the dead turf, then throw your new soil, and sod. why dump all that organic material when you can turn it to soil?
Also the post on tree roots is key, I have done houses in new sub's where heavy equipt ran over the dripline and alas! a dead tree. Maybe get the property steward to consider acidic shade plantings instead of turf.

[Edited by powerreel on 01-30-2001 at 07:05 PM]

01-30-2001, 08:14 PM
I have told them that the sod is likely to thin again, but they want grass. They are understanding to the situation of the oak trees. I don't think tilling is an option with all the oak roots. They are mostly small, but i don't want to damage the trees. I have never used a sod cutter so I am not familiar with the time it will take.....any thoughts? I think that that is the way to go, along with a couple of inches of soil and then sod (and lime underneath !!!)


01-30-2001, 08:27 PM
LIME + OAK trees = DEAD TREES oaks are a acid loving plant you sweeten the soil too much and you got nothing but headaches, If THEY want grass then think of adding just an inch or 2 of topsoil and put down the sod ask for your money as you leave. Make it their problem.

01-30-2001, 09:14 PM
paul, thats solid advice.The best thing is NO grass and acid ,shade plantings. Less water and better on your IPM program

[Edited by powerreel on 01-30-2001 at 09:09 PM]

01-30-2001, 09:44 PM
I would run a tiller over the area to be removed several times real fast. This way you don't dig into the ground very much and you also up-root most of the grass. Then rake as muck of the existing dead grass off. Next put down 1-2" topsoil and sod. Being under Oaks there will be a problem with the trees competing with the sod for water. If the lawn is irrigated there shouldn't be any problem but if it's not irrigated the sod will begin to thin and die, as before mentioned. Another solution, which I haven't tried but see alot of im my area, is to sow some shade tolerant fescue in a small diameter around the trees to fill in the green. Around here you can drive around now while warm season grasses are dormant and there are still lawns with green circles of 15' diameter aroung trees.

01-31-2001, 08:15 AM
Thanks for the advice.

Paul--I wasn't even thinking about the trees. Thanks for pointing out that the aoks are acid loving.

Does anybody have suggestions of what else to put down besides turf ? This is an area in a backyard close to the house and around a pool. They want the sod layed so in the spring they won't have mud around the pool and everywhere else from getting in and out. They also have a very destructive dog. None of this is news to them, and after talking I don't feel that the conditions a year from now will reflect on my reputation.


01-31-2001, 08:58 AM
Ahh, jeff, it will reflect on your rep, but not the way you'd like. Paul is exactly right - in two years your sod job will look like it looks today. If someone insists on grass in a shade situation, the only recourse generally is to seed twice a year. Young grass takes a while to realize it is in an inhospitable growing area, so constant seeding will keep grass there - unless the dog keeps it a quagmire.

You could try rough bluegrass, Poa trivialis, if it is available in your area. This is usually just a weed grass, but around here we can get a good stand of it in some shady areas. Price is usually double a good bluegrass seed, because poa triv is just a weed to most. Only problem is that it can be affected by disease &/or heat easily in summer, very shallow rooted. One of my best lawns (viewed from the road) has 20 oaks and hickories on a one acre plus lot, and grass is 2/3 Poa trivialis and annual bluegrass. The Poa annua surprisingly grows in the darkest part of the property, and has only died out heavily once in the last 12 years.

Also, for other groundcover, pachysandra is a good shade plant, and it prefers an acid environment.

[Edited by GroundKprs on 01-31-2001 at 08:00 AM]

01-31-2001, 08:59 AM
How about cement, gravel or something that can't die? You know what it's going to look like in a year if you put sod down. Maybe you can talk them into extending the deck on the pool to make it more of an entertaining area. Or maybe you can mix some pavers in and only put smaller amounts of sod. If it is near a slope you can put in a retaining wall and make a planting area. Seems like if you want to make these people happy and help your reputation you're going to have to think "out of the box" on this one. If you come up with a good idea that the poeple like, price is usually secondary. Especially if you tell them that it is a long term fix.

01-31-2001, 12:00 PM
Good thoughts from everyone. I will take all advice into consideration. I asked for advice now so I would have time to get a game plan together by spring.

Thanks to all.


02-01-2001, 01:27 AM
If shade is that that much of a factor, I would choose a shade loving or tolerant turf Some sort of fescue always does well in shade - especially in your area. Also an occasional top coat of lime will certainly help. If done in moderation, this shouldn't affect the tree. If you REALLY want to make sure it's done right, work up the ground first, take a few soil samples to take to your local cooperative extension service, and have them tested. Lawrence Stone or Ray (Kirby) can probably give you the best advice on what to do, how much lime to apply per your results, and how to maintain this. Good luck!

02-01-2001, 01:57 AM
First, I would find out if there was any way possible to raise the canopy of the trees to allow more sunlight. Next I would check pH level of soil by lab testing and adjust accordlingly. I would bring in top soil/dirt and spread to 2-3" and test pH of new soil. I would seed lightly 2-4 lbs K31 seed and place sod. Have them water the sod with a good soaking of water within 1/2 hour of installation. Water daily, or more often, keeping sod moist until it is firmly rooted (about 2 weeks), then begin less frequent and deeper watering. Lift random pieces of sod to ascertain that you are watering enough to wet the soil below the sod.

Once soil test are returned apply powered lime at rates indicated by the test. I'm not sure tilling, sod cutter, or other aeration devices will be an option with such a shallow root system. Don't want to buy new Oak trees!

02-01-2001, 03:58 AM
How about building a brick paver patio around the pool area even close to the trees? By using a rotten grainte base stone, sand and installing bricks you'll have a place the dog can't tear up and they can use for entertaining.

02-01-2001, 11:03 PM
Would you normally till in the 2 or 3" of new topsoil. I know you can't in this instance because of the roots. Also, do you need a fertilizer license to apply lime?

02-01-2001, 11:20 PM
If possible sure, but not with shallow roots. Check with your local ag. extension on the Lime question, I wouldn't think so.

02-02-2001, 12:19 AM
Why not talk these people into building a bench around the tree. You could build the seat and a foot rest and take up a large area that would normally be dirt anyway. Sod out from there and maybe you'd have enough sun to keep the grass growing. Around a pool it would be an ideal place to put one anyway.

02-02-2001, 12:39 AM
Most pools are kept at a PH of 7.2 to 7.8, the draining of the pool and damage after that is caused by the chlorine, so the hard part is tofigure out the bset way to improve the grass around the trees , Lime won't help because oaks are a acid loving plant and release acids into the soil allowing them to asorb higher iron levels, this they need for their leaves. tring to keep the levels ok for grass are going to hurt the trees in the long run. GroundKprs has the best solution to your problem if they demand grass other possibilities include salt tollerant sod which includles Poa trivialis this is a very tough grass that can withstand heavy useage and chemicals.