Considering adding a nice thick, green blanket to your yard?
You’ve come to the right place.
Before you jump in, take your time reading through this post, because it will help save you money, effort, and a lot of hassle.
Here’s a Quick Overview of This Post
- Important (and basic) Questions to Ask Yourself Beforehand
- Step-By-Step Walkthrough for Planting St. Augustine Grass Sod
- Money-Saving Ideas for Hitting Your Budget
Best Times to Plant St. Augustine Grass in Texas
Just before winter, when the small slice of Mother Nature’s skin which you are entrusted to care for is likely to begin to chill…
(Actually…) you want to plant at least 6 weeks before the first freeze. This is for the root system, which needs ample time to develop prior.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Planting St. Augustine Grass Sod
Before you begin a project that could cost over $1,000 (even with self-installation), pause and ask yourself some questions.
The largest cost of adding St. Augustine sod to your yard will ultimately come down to how large the area you want to plant is, so let’s start there.
1. How many square feet is the area I want to plant my sod?
This question will help you determine the size of the investment you’re making, both the time it will take you to complete the project, and the financial cost.
In our case, we only wanted to cover a portion of the backyard, and the sum total square footage came back at roughly 450 SF (the area was 30′ X 15′)
How Many Pallets of Sod Do I Need?
In general, a pallet of St. Augustine Sod should provide around 450 square feet of coverage.
In our case, the delivery charge for one pallet was $140, and two pallets went down to $80.
We were on the fence about planting a little extra here or there, having spare pieces, etc., and the price incentive for delivery was just enough to push us off the fence.
We went with two pallets.
2. When is the first freeze (or extreme heat)?
Plant 6-8 weeks out from the first freeze of winter.
(Take a look at average temperatures in your area)
Also, commence your project when temperatures have dropped below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help conserve water (high-temperature heat will evaporate thinly watered grass quickly).
In Austin, Texas, we chose late September to plant our grass.
But late March or April would have been great timing as well. We just wanted to enjoy the cooler fall weather outside this season, so we jumped on the project outside the typical “Spring Planting”.
3. Am I prepared for the expense?
If you’ve come this far, you are probably aware of the cost of sodding a yard, but just in case, I’ll go over the fundamental costs.
Details below, but all-in the project cost us about $750 (+ our time).
To calculate how much topsoil you need, and how much it will cost, you’ll take a few variables into consideration:
- How many square feet will I be laying sod on?
- What is the condition of the existing soil?
One “yard” of topsoil equates to roughly ~324 SF, spread at a depth of 1″ (inch), or a little over 100 square feet of soil spread at a depth of 3 inches.
If you have decent quality soil already in place, you won’t need more than 1″ of topsoil. But if the soil quality is terrible, laying up to 4 inches down wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Topsoil in Austin TX as of this past weekend (2019) costs between $25 and $55 per yard. I chose Thunderdirt from Geogrowers, which came out to $53.50 per yard, and I purchased 3 yards of topsoil.
Delivery was an additional $80.
The total for 3 yards of topsoil, delivered, was ~$250 after taxes.
St. Augustine Native Grass Sod
The actual sod itself can vary in pricing as well, but I paid $389.70 after delivery charges and Texas sales tax to the Grass Outlet.
Another way of looking at this…
How much is St. Augustine sod per square foot? (cost)
Including delivery, my order was $0.43 cents per SF.
($389.70 / 900SF) = 0.433
Here’s how that order actually broke down:
- $280 ($140 X 2) grass sod pallets
- $80 delivery
- $29.70 for taxes
Miscellaneous Tools and Equipment ($100-200)
- Gloves ($1.97 a pair)
- Shovel ($15-25)
- Metal rake ($20-30)
- Wheelbarrow ($45-75 OR rent/borrow one)
- Watering hose ($20-45)
- Sprinkler ($5-30)
A tack-on question is, “What equipment do I own or have access to for free?”
Many of these miscellaneous tools you likely already own or have easy access to.
(Fun Idea: Use this as an excuse to meet your neighbors)
If you hit it off, you can repay them by inviting them to your backyard party, or to roll in the grass with you…
4. Have I set aside enough time?
Beyond the time it takes to lay 3-10 yards of topsoil, rake, water the soil for compaction, lay the sod, align/straighten the edges (Tetris, anyone?) and excessively water it for the first time, you also need to consider the ongoing maintenance (+ associated watering expense).
Here’s a rough breakdown of the initial time investment on this project
(Note: there were two healthy, young whippersnappers working on this project, which equates to approximately 25 horsepower… just kidding, but double the times below if you are performing this yard operation alone)
- Researching Best Prices: 1-2 hours
- Ordering topsoil and sod: 30 minutes
- Groundwork (laying topsoil, raking, watering): 3 hours
- Laying Sod: 4 hours
- Watering Sod (initial): 1 hour
Sum total: ~10-hour project
You’ll need to profusely water your grass for at least 3 weeks. Shallow roots begin to form by ~2 weeks, but the root system will continue to remain fragile until week 6.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get some fresh rain (like we did… thanks karma) just after planting.
The general advice for “How Much Water Does My New Sod Need?” is to have 1-inch of water on the grass, daily, for 21 days.
5. How Much Topsoil Do I Need For St. Augustine Grass?
This is contingent on the quality of the existing soil in your designated planting area.
If the soil has sufficient drainage, isn’t full of rocks, debris, tree roots, you won’t need as much topsoil
In our case, the yard was in pretty bad shape, so we opted for 3 yards of topsoil, with a 3″ depth.
Step-By-Step Guide to Planting St. Augustine Sod
Step One: Research
Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far in the blog post– because you’re doing exactly what we recommend… research
Look diligently into the project before you begin.
Research cost, consider labor and time, and then– if everything adds up for you– you’re ready to move forward.
Step Two: Order Your Materials (and obtain necessary equipment)
Most grass sod will need to be ordered a few days in advance, especially if you’re planning to make this a weekend project.
Sod companies do sometimes deliver on weekends, but many of them don’t, and you may end up paying a premium if you wait until the last minute.
Topsoil companies are the same way. You need to call them and place your order at least 48 hours in advance if you want to play it safe.
Step Three: Clear the Area for Planting
If you have too many rocks, roots, or stumps in the ground, you’ll need to do more prep work here.
We pulled up about a wheelbarrow’s worth of dead roots and a dozen 10-lb-rocks.
The last thing you want is to spend $500 on topsoil + sod pallets only to have dead patches in your yard because you were too lazy to spend 20-30 minutes clearing the soil of debris.
Step Four: Prepare the Ground Work (lay topsoil, rake to an even spread)
Best Garden Rakes
Make sure your grading is appropriate. You don’t want standing pools of water in your yard, especially if you have pets, so make sure that the water will drain properly.
This is another reason to consider purchasing a little extra topsoil– to improve any slope you may need for runoff.
Step Five: Water the Topsoil for Compaction
You can also rent (or buy) a lawn roller, but watering the soil is considered sufficient (and it’s wayyyy less work).
Get the soil nice and wet, so that any air bubbles or pockets are eliminated.
You want the roots to snug themselves into the soil, and not hit pockets of air, as they spread outward.
Step Six: Lay the Sod (and step all over it!)
How to Lay St. Augustine Sod (the simplest, most efficient way)
My personal method…
- Find the longest edge of the polygon, and start by creating the first line of sod rectangles on that edge
- Carry 2-4 squares of sod at a time (depending on how far your pallet is from the ground you’re planting)
- Be sure to line up the edges of each rectangle of grass, so that the roots have easy access to crawl around.
St. Augustine is called “Crab Grass” for a reason… it crawls outward across the top surface level of the ground and sprouts up.
To do this efficiently, your goal is to remove the obstacles.
Again, a lawn roller comes in hand here, but if you have some heavy boots, you can also just walk around squishing the grass into the soil
Step Seven: Water Extensively!
The grass sod we purchased was cut the day before, so we didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety that we needed to get the grass down and watered (although we still did this within 8 hours of the sod’s arrival).
But many grass companies won’t deliver the day after harvest.
So in MOST cases, you need to get that sod down ASAP and flood the yard with water to revivify the life of the grass.
Tips to Save Money
We’re big fans of doing things on a budget here at YardSurfer, so I’m going to conclude this post with a few ways to save money on your sod project.
1. Rent or Borrow One-Time Use Equipment (Don’t Buy)
Wheelbarrows can be rented from your local Home Depot, or borrowed from a friendly neighbor.
I rented mine, which cost $12.99 at the time of this post.
There was also a $25 deposit, in case I damaged the equipment, and the rental was only for 4 hours.
If I had taken longer than 4 hours, the 24-hour charge would have kicked in, bringing the sum to $17.
2. Consider Planting in the Fall Season
If you plant in the Spring at the right time (before it gets too hot), you’re also fine here. But the cooler weather of the fall allows the water to soak into your grass, soil, and root systems before evaporating.
3. Only Buy What You Need
I’m happy with the choice we made to purchase two pallets of grass sod, even though we really only needed one because we had an alternative spot for “extra”.
But if I were really trying to be conservative financially– we could have done just fine with 1 pallet and saved $140.
4. If You Can– Consider Planting Grass Seed
To conclude this post, I recommend for all of you major-budgeters to at least check out our article on planting grass from seed.
In the end, it can save you a ton of money– but only under the right conditions.
Check it out here.
And please, comment below if you have any tips, ideas, or experience of your own.