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A Guide to Sod Choices: What are the Different Types of Sod?

One of the best ways to improve the curb appeal of your home and general appearance of your yard is to have a well-maintained lawn. But not every home comes with the perfect lawn, and many don't even have the proper grass for their location. Luckily, with the right sod, your lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood.

What Is Your Current Lawn Like?

Before you start your journey to the perfect lawn, it is important to think about the current conditions in your yard. A yard with no challenges typically does fine with primary grasses of the region. However, yards with shade, soil, or water issues often need the right species to flourish.

  • High-traffic lawns: If your grass receives heavy foot traffic, you need sod that both recovers quickly and works in your area. Blends of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are recommended in the North, while Bermudagrass is recommended in the South.
  • Low-input areas: When your yard has areas that are difficult to supply with fertilizer or water, it is a challenge to keep your lawn healthy. Buffalo grass is a great remedy for this and works well across the majority of North America.
  • Salty sites: Coastal regions and other areas with a higher salt content in their water generally need a sod capable of withstanding those conditions. Seashore paspalum is the ideal choice in these regions, as it is incredibly tolerant to salt.
  • Shaded sites: Shady yards come with the risk of not enough sun for your grass to prosper. Fine-leaf fescues offer the most shade tolerance and can be used just about anywhere. If you are in the South, most St. Augustine varieties (barring Floratam) have high shade tolerance as well.

Most seed companies have mixes that have been selected for specific types of yards, which often perform better under the right conditions than a single species would.

Where You Live Makes a Difference

The type (or types) of grass that works best for your lawn is directly affected by where you live. If you live in the Northern Zone, which is in Canada and the Northern U.S., you need grasses that withstand cold winters and mild summers. Primary grass choices in the Northern Zone include Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. In the Southern Zone, where winters are mild but the summers are hot, you need grass that stands up to higher temperatures. Varieties of Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustine are ideal choices.

The Transition Zone, attributed to areas with extreme temperatures in both summer and winter, is more challenging to maintain. Grasses that thrive in one temperature range tend to do poorly in others, so it is difficult to find the right sod. The recommended choice for the Transition Zone is tall fescue, as it has high tolerance in the face of cold and heat.

Types of Sod

The different types of sod are divided into cool season and warm season grasses.

Cool Season Grasses

Certain grass-types are better suited to lower temperatures. Some cool season grasses include:

  • Fine fescues: Highly tolerant to shade and able to go long periods without water, fescues are able to withstand even the most extreme temperatures. Fine fescues include chewing fescue, creeping red fescue, and hard fescue.
  • Kentucky Bluegrass: A popular choice that is found all over North America. It is known for its longevity and its bluish hue. Kentucky bluegrass does not grow or die too fast, making it easy to maintain.
  • Perennial ryegrass: This grass does well in cold temperatures and stands up to heavy traffic. Perennial ryegrass is highly resistant to disease and stress and, unlike annual ryegrass, does not need to be re-established each year.

Warm Season Grasses

Some grasses flourish in warmer climates. Some warm season grasses include:

  • Bermuda grass: One of the most popular choices for warm weather areas, Bermuda grass is renowned for its ability to survive in high heat and drought conditions. However, it is also an aggressive grower and has been known to infiltrate nearby flower beds.
  • Centipede grass: Ideal for lawns with more sunlight than shade, centipede grass is a low-maintenance sod choice. It performs well in acidic and low-fertility soils.
  • St. Augustine grass: Though this is a popular warm season grass, it is more difficult to maintain than others. But if you put in the time, St. Augustine grass hardy and strong in the face of the heat.

How Much Does Sod Cost?

The cost of sod is determined by a variety of factors, such as your location, the type of sod, the amount you need, and the dealer you purchase through. That being said, here is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you might pay for your sod:

  • The average cost of a pallet of sod is between $120 and $400, with most homeowners paying around $260 per pallet.
  • Going by square footage, prices range between $0.30 and $0.80 per square foot of sod, with most customers paying around $0.50 per square foot.
  • Overall, you can expect to pay between $2,485 and $6,620 for an average-size lawn (about 1/5 of an acre).

If you plan of having someone lay the sod for you, you need to budget for that cost, as well. It varies from contractor to contractor, so don't be afraid to shop around.