Is this builder doing sod wrong?

JawT

LawnSite Member
There's a builder in my area putting down sod on top of moved dirt. Is this normal? It seems to be causing problems.

They are grading the dirt, then just rolling out the sod. Despite a ton of daily watering and not mowing the grass for weeks, the sod is not taking well. Section edges and corners near the sidewalk and home can be pulled up. Sometimes in the middle of the lawn a section gets stuck on a mower tire and rolls over.

Anyway, we mow it. After about 3-4 cuts we get it down to 3.5-4" high.

Then, the lawn starts to yellow and dry out, and it gets noticeably thinner even though it's being watered 2-3x per week or more. The weather has been hot the past month, but this weak lawn look is distinctive to this neighborhood.

I think the dirt under the sod has no nutrients, and the underlying dirt is compacted. The compaction is stopping root growth and causing runoff problems. The property lines between houses stay constantly wet, for example. The builder/developer put storm drains every 2-3 houses down the line, but these don't seem to give the water anywhere to go.

Basically I think this sod company or builder is screwing up these lots.
Am I way off on this?
Is there probably more going wrong here?
Should these homeowners demand new, correctly installed lawns?
What should we or could we add to this soil?
When there's no prep for a sod install, is there any point to doing soil tests?

A major fert-squirt company applied phosphorous on one of the lawns yesterday. That seems like a waste to me. (?) With the runoff problems on these sites, I can only imagine most of that is going straight into the ecosystem.
 

OakNut

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Pittsburgh PA
What’s moved dirt?
iu
 

RigglePLC

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids MI
Sod on top of dirt--by that do you mean sod on top of subsoil--soil dug out for deep basements? Naturally this would be very low in organic matter. Deep yellow clay is common. There was probably very little organic matter nor oxygen in that soil for the last few hundred years. Gray color indicates anaerobic clay. Clay is not the best--but it holds fertilizer and water better than sand. No topsoil added?
What climate? What species of grass is sod? Good quality? Disease resistant? Weed free? Discuss the problems with the sod supplier. Maybe he will take a look where the section edges pull up--if you buy him a cup of coffee.
If you want to consult with a different and better sod farm--he will be happy to criticize the first sod job. You may need coffee plus a doughnut for this.
Maybe a soil test is in order.
I suspect that the sod will take off, if watered and properly fertilized, (according to soil tests). Correct any acid soil. Do not add phosphorus unless the soil test indicates a need for it.
Aeration would be helpful if soil is compacted. That is, if you cannot penetrate moist soil with a screwdriver.
 
Last edited:
OP
J

JawT

LawnSite Member
By “moved dirt” I mean subsoil, yes. : )
Dug out basements, yes. And the area is low compared to nearby neighborhoods, so a lot of drainage areas were added.

This is in Rochester, MI. We have a little less rain/snow than you guys get in Grand Rapids, I think. But it was a very rainy summer this year for us.

The ground around here is very sandy, does not usually hold water very well. I’ll post a pic of a few soil probe examples next time I‘m in that neighborhood.

I’m honestly not sure what species the sod is exactly, but it seems like a type of fescue. It does look dense and healthy, but I think it’s too soon to know if it’s disease resistant. That neighborhood did a lot of watering this summer and I didn’t see any evidence of fungus issues so I guess that’s a good sign. I’ll ask homeowners if they can inquire w the sod co or builder to find out the exact species, etc.

It is hard to push the soil probe deeper than about 2”, so yes I’d assume it’s compacted. I can’t see rolling a heavy aerator on these lawns this fall, so maybe we’d pitch that in the spring. We are using walk-behinds for most of the mowing still, due to the spongy loose sod layer.

Thank you for all your posts! I’ll see if we can soil test a few of them, and go from there.
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
By “moved dirt” I mean subsoil, yes. : )
Dug out basements, yes. And the area is low compared to nearby neighborhoods, so a lot of drainage areas were added.

This is in Rochester, MI. We have a little less rain/snow than you guys get in Grand Rapids, I think. But it was a very rainy summer this year for us.

The ground around here is very sandy, does not usually hold water very well. I’ll post a pic of a few soil probe examples next time I‘m in that neighborhood.

I’m honestly not sure what species the sod is exactly, but it seems like a type of fescue. It does look dense and healthy, but I think it’s too soon to know if it’s disease resistant. That neighborhood did a lot of watering this summer and I didn’t see any evidence of fungus issues so I guess that’s a good sign. I’ll ask homeowners if they can inquire w the sod co or builder to find out the exact species, etc.

It is hard to push the soil probe deeper than about 2”, so yes I’d assume it’s compacted. I can’t see rolling a heavy aerator on these lawns this fall, so maybe we’d pitch that in the spring. We are using walk-behinds for most of the mowing still, due to the spongy loose sod layer.

Thank you for all your posts! I’ll see if we can soil test a few of them, and go from there.
Meh

I just did 4 acres of sod for a cemetery
The spec from the US GOVERNMENT was to install the sod over a 70/30 gravel soil mix and the soil they wanted was only 7-12% organic matter.
Sounds strange
But the sod is doing fine
The nice thing about the way they had it put in is you can drive right over it with no muddy gushy
The installed it in 50 foot rolls with a skidsteer
Only really bad rain affected us

interesting spec but it seems to work

wait n see what happens
Most developers just need the grass long enough to sell the house
 

Freaky Fido

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Northeast USA
Pretty common in my area. The lawn looks good until the closing paperwork is signed (usually) and it's all downhill from there. You take sod that's professionally grown in ideal conditions and drop it on crap soil and it can't be sustained. It's not uncommon for developers to strip, haul off and sell the topsoil on new lots and then plant on the subsoil.
 

RigglePLC

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids MI
Most sod in Michigan is Kentucky bluegrass. Try to find out the exact varieties and mixture. Because then you can look up the disease resistance and quality ratings of the exact cultivars that were used. Modern varieties or old fashioned cheap seed--generic quality?
Here is an example of a premium mix of bluegrass and the varieties included. Seed is in short supply--prices are up in a major way. Hopefully your sod contains these or similar varieties.


If it is browning or peeling up at the edges--that is a sign that the watering was missing the edges or corners. Talk to a couple owners of small lawn care companies--let them look at it and suggest the best plan of action. Their experience and education will be helpful.
 

Crazy 4 grass

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Minnesota
Most sod in Michigan is Kentucky bluegrass. Try to find out the exact varieties and mixture. Because then you can look up the disease resistance and quality ratings of the exact cultivars that were used. Modern varieties or old fashioned cheap seed--generic quality?
Here is an example of a premium mix of bluegrass and the varieties included. Seed is in short supply--prices are up in a major way. Hopefully your sod contains these or similar varieties.


If it is browning or peeling up at the edges--that is a sign that the watering was missing the edges or corners. Talk to a couple owners of small lawn care companies--let them look at it and suggest the best plan of action. Their experience and education will be helpful.
This is the exact blend I overseeded with two weeks ago.
 

Top Forums



Top