Grass seed vs sod — what’s best for your lawn?

 A hand spreading grass seed next to sod being unrolled
A hand spreading grass seed next to sod being unrolled

A thick green lawn is something to be proud of. Diligently mowing in stripes is a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon and will make your garden the envy of the neighbors. But when your lawn is tired, full of weeds and unsightly bare patches, it can become a bit of an eyesore.

Sure, there are ways to make your grass greener and ways to revive dead grass, but sometimes you need to bite the bullet and start again with fresh grass seed or sod.

However, figuring out whether to choose sod vs seed isn’t an easy decision. There are plenty of factors to take into account. So if you're undecided, read on as we explore the advantages and disadvantages of grass seed and sod.

Advantages of grass seed

A hand scattering grass seeds into the soil
A hand scattering grass seeds into the soil

1. Can be used to thicken or patch an existing lawn

Grass seed is a great choice for fixing bare patches in an existing lawn. Often you just need to rake out the dead grass, loosen the earth slightly with a rake or fork, then simply add the seed. Similarly, if your lawn is generally okay, but not as thick and lush as you’d like, overseeding is an easy way to improve it, here's how to overseed your lawn and when to do it.

2. Easy to sow

Sowing grass seed is pretty simple, especially if you’re just patching areas. If you're using it to create a whole new lawn, you will need to take extra steps like adding a good topsoil and choosing the right variety for your garden. Follow our advice on how to plant grass seed and get a greener yard.

3. Inexpensive

Grass seed can cost as little as $0.20 per square foot, so it’s a cost effective way to grow a lawn. And even if you choose the most premium grass seed, it’ll still cost less than a pretty basic sod, meaning you could create a lawn with a top quality grass variety for less.

4. Can be stored

Unlike sod, which has to be laid very soon after you receive the delivery, regardless of the conditions, grass seed can be stored until you’re ready to use it. Plus, any leftover seed that you don’t use can be stored for maintenance and repairs.

Disadvantages of grass seed

Fresh grass growing in a bare patch of soil
Fresh grass growing in a bare patch of soil

1. Takes time to establish

Depending on the time of year, germination can take up to 10 days. Then it’ll need 6-10 weeks to become fully rooted and established. In that time you’ll need to keep it well watered and avoid walking on the area, which is easier said than done if you have inquisitive children and pets.

2. Weeds can take hold during initial growth 

During the initial germination and growth stage, there’s a lot of bare earth. This means other seeds, like those from weeds, can easily be introduced and start to grow alongside your grass. The plus side is that once you can walk on your new lawn, these should be pretty easy to spot amongst all that fresh new grass, so it should be straightforward to remove.

3. It can be washed off sloped areas

Creating a lawn on banked or sloped areas can be very tricky with grass seed. Water can wash all the seed off the slope, wasting all your time and seed. For these areas sod is better, as it can take root quicker and help stop erosion.

4. It can be eaten by birds

Grass seed is a tasty snack for birds and some smaller animals too, which might mean you lose part of your lawn before it even gets a chance to germinate. In areas where this is a particular problem, you may have to install netting to protect the area.

Advantages of laying sod

Two people laying sod in a yard
Two people laying sod in a yard

1. Instant visual impact

There’s something very satisfying about rolling out fresh green sod over a patch of bare ground. This is absolutely the way to go if you want immediate impact. Especially in areas like your front yard, where the lawn appearance is tied to the appearance of your whole house.

2. Eliminate all weeds

During the process of preparing the ground for new sod, all existing weeds will get dug up. And unlike seed, the thick nature of the fresh sod will make it harder for new weeds to penetrate. This means it should stay weed free for longer.

3. Quick to establish

Not only does sod provide an instant lawn, but depending on the time of year and the quality of the sod, it could take root in as little as two weeks. And as soon as it has rooted to the soil underneath, you’re good to walk on it. If you’ve got small children or pets, this stage can’t come soon enough.

Disadvantages of laying sod

Rolls of sod piled up in a yard
Rolls of sod piled up in a yard

1. More expensive than seed

If you’ve blown the budget on hard landscaping or other planting, it might be difficult to justify the cost of laying sod. Depending on where you are and the quality of seed or sod you’re looking at, laying sod could cost $1 per square foot more than seed. This is quite a significant chunk of money if you’re creating a large lawn.

2. Ground requires proper preparation

If you think you can roll out your new sod over old, dead patches of lawn, think again. To create the best possible new lawn and give the sod the greatest chance of thriving, the ground underneath needs to have been properly prepared. All existing grass and weeds will have to be dug up, larger stones removed and depending on your existing soil, you may need to add a layer of topsoil. So while sod will indeed provide instant impact, the preparation stage beforehand can be quite lengthy.

3. It must be laid correctly for best results

To prevent gaps forming and ensure the sod beds in properly, it’s crucial that it’s laid correctly. While it’s not a difficult process, care must be taken to get it right. Walking on fresh sod is a no-no, so it needs to be laid systematically, taking care to stagger seams and butt pieces together closely.  If in doubt, read our guide on how to lay sod.

Both seed and sod have a place when restoring your lawn. Your choice will ultimately come down to time, budget, and how quickly you need to be able to use the lawn.

In the meantime, you might want to brush up on your lawn care knowledge by reading about these seven common lawn care mistakes as well as how much you should water your lawn.

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