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checking in on the garden: how to install sod in the desert

How to Install Sod in the Desert

Do you remember a while back, I mentioned that we installed sod in our backyard? I even told you how we were able to train Jones not to use it as a toilet. Anyway, it was a huge project, and I couldn’t have guessed it would have turned out so beautifully!

We had grass in the backyard when we moved in, set up with a sprinkler system and timer. It was lovely, but I had never taken care of a yard like that before, and had NO idea whatsoever what the heck I was doing. Then, Joe broke the sprinkler system building a fire pit – that he now hates, go figure – and we struggled to remember watering, let alone being consistent with how much water to use. Needless to say, the grass got to be patchy and less pretty. Then we got a dog, and it receded further with the urine burns and constant romping of a puppy. We decided we were going to do artificial turf, and stopped watering. Of course, we didn’t do artificial turf after all, so we were stuck with a lot full of dirt for the dog to pee in, roll in, and track into our house while we drug our feet trying to decide what the heck we were actually going to do. It drove me NUTS.

Turf ended up being out of the question. Landscape rocks didn’t seem right. Bark would be eaten by Jones or scattered everywhere, pea gravel was also sort of a mess. Concrete was too hot to enjoy in the summer. And grass… it required so much water and care and effort! But we kept going back to it, and obviously, the beauty and element it brought to our backyard won out.

how to install sod in the desert

Choosing to install sod, especially in the desert, isn’t an easy task, by any means. First things first, we – and by “we” I mean “I” – had to pull all the weeds that had taken up shop after the grass went kaput. It was a job. Like, probably the worst part of the whole thing. I wanted to make sure to get to the root of the problem *ha! just snickered at my cheesy ass joke* so I used tools. Tools! Yep. Dug ’em all up. And it took a couple of weeks, after work for an hour at a time most nights and a few hours on the weekend. In the heat. Sweat rolling down my back and into my eyes. Guh. I shudder to think of it…

Next came ripping up all the old grass that grew along the perimeter of the yard.  And I thought the weeds were a bitch. Once all the unwanted foliage was out of the way, we – and by “we” I mean “Joe” – tilled the dirt two inches deep, adding the recommended fertilizer and gypsum. This was done two weeks prior to sod delivery, with an orange construction barrier keeping the dog off of the area while we rested. I don’t have a picture of that, so this will have to do:

How to Install Sod Before Tilling

That was taken while we were pulling the remaining grass out. After pulling weeds and grass, we were that much closer to installing sod. First, though, we had to level the dirt. Here are a few photos from the process:

How to Install Sod Leveling the Soil

Installing Sod: Yard Before

How to Install Sod Leftovers

I didn’t get a picture of the sod delivery, but the last one is what was leftover from our order. I definitely overestimated what we needed. Which was preferable to not having enough. And besides, I later posted this for free online and it was immediately snatched up!

Here is the yard immediately after sod installation – talk about instant gratification!


And here is our yard now, three and a half months later:

Installing Sod Yard After

Isn’t she pretty?? I’m so happy with our decision! I love playing with Jones in the grass, Jones loves rolling in it and luxuriating in the lushness, Joe loves cutting it too short every Friday and driving me bat shit crazy. We all win! HA! I’m teasing, though. I love that Joe is so eager to help take care of the lawn, when he wasn’t too keen on going the sod route to begin with. And for the next week, I’m rewarded with a lush, gorgeous lawn until he cuts it again.

Steps to Install Sod in the Desert

Steps to Install Sod in the Desert Printable

We ordered our sod from Green Valley Sod, and they are AMAZING. They answered countless questions, recommended a specific mulch (Kelloggs mulch topper FYI) and delivered our pallet of sod watered and on time. It sat overnight and was still plenty damp the next morning. Their website has all sorts of info, including watering instructions:

Saturate lawn immediately after installation (periodically for large yards – our space is only 624 SF). For summer lawns, water four (4) times a day for the first two (2) weeks, spacing watering times to end in the afternoon. Taper down to three (3) times a day in the third week, then once a day in the fourth week.

Click here for further watering instructions!

So how much did we save? Well, our quote for top quality turf was close to $8K. We ended up paying $661.73 to install sod instead:

Midiron Sod w/free delivery: $385.38

Tiller Rental: $72

Roller Rental: $17

Mulch & Gypsum: $37.52

Construction Barrier: $28.97

Hose, Sprinklers and 4-Way Hose Timer: $120.86

I can’t express how happy I am with our decision to install sod! It was relatively inexpensive, especially compared to installing turf. The sod is beautiful, took nicely to our well-prepped soil, is enjoyed by all. I mean, here you go:

How to Install Sod After

Let me know if you decide to install your own sod and/or if you have any questions! I’m happy to help and would love to admire your work 🙂

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