Let There Be Sod!

After paying off our credit card debts last month we were going to tackle our next big project, mouldings!  But now that's been put on hold for a bit. We just couldn't wait any longer to get the at least part of our yard in working order.

It's been so warm lately and we just really wanted to be able let the little D run around in the yard without tripping and falling into the weeds. The final catalyst was when I found out that we'll be hosting couple of friends and their toddler boy next month in the downstairs apartment. I thought it would be nice to have a grassy yard for the boys to play in. So the die was cast, we need grass now, mouldings can wait, they are purely an aesthetic issue. We've been so used to living moulding-less that a few more months wouldn't hurt.

I did my usual research on Yelp to find landscape companies with good reviews to get some bids. I didn't have the slightest idea how much it would cost to get some sod installed. The bid I got from one company to clean our yard and install about 500sq ft of sod with basic irrigation was $1400. It was a lot more than I would like to pay, because I am a cheapskate. After watching some instruction videos on Youtube, we decided to do it ourselves. Installing sod does not require a lot of skill, it's just hard physical labor.

Like always, prepping the ground for sod is the important part and takes the most time. The dirt in our yard consists of a lot of clay and little pieces of rocks and construction debris and broken glass bits. The ground is also very uneven and super compacted and dry at this time of the year. It took us two days with help from my parents to finish prepping the backyard. We pulled out and clean up the over-grown weeds and filled five 30-Gallon paper lawn bags and two green bins on the first day. The next day, Justin rented an U-Haul truck to pick up a tiller at the Home Depot tool rental department. Justin and my dad took turns breaking up the dirt with a pick axe then used the tiller to break up the big clumps. Using a rake, we did the best we could to level out the ground and mixed in some soil amendment and starter fertilizer.

I ordered our sod from The Sod Shop because not only are they local but their price beat the big box stores.  A big portion of our backyard is shaded half the year by two giant walnut trees that grow near the back fence. So I chose a variety called Mellow Jade, it's the most shade tolerant sod they carry. Once the sod is delivered, it has to be used the same day.  The 550 sq ft that I ordered turned out to be about 60 sq ft too much for the backyard area. Not wanting to let the sod go to waste, we quickly prep an area of the side yard and laid the remaining sod there. Then we water the grass for what seemed like forever to help the grass take root. Now we have to water the new lawn several times a day and wait two weeks before walking on it. I can't wait to relax on the grass back there with a cold drink on a hot Oakland day!

U-Haul - $60
Tiller - $68
Water-Roller - $18
Sod plus delivery - $231
Soil amendment, sprinkler, fertilizer, water timer ~ $100
Total = $477

So we saved almost a thousand dollars by doing it ourselves. It's a good thing because will be going toward a new side gate and fence. We are using the same company that did our front gate, Borg Fence, to replace the old gate and fence that are about to fall over.

The wilderness that was our backyard. We went on a California native plant garden tour recently and we joked that our garden is a 100% native garden.
Some of the weeds that grew over six feet tall.  Most of them got chopped down by the tree trimmers because they were in the way. The people in the apartment behind us sometimes use the back fence to hang dry bed sheets and laundry. 
The whole family pitched in to clear up the yard including little D. Justin supervising my parents. haha...
The backyard looked like this at the end of the first day.
Little D rolling around in the dirt. He's gonna love it when we get the grass in.  
Five bags of yard waste and one and a half buckets of rocks and broken glass.
Justin used the rented tiller to break up the dirt. The soil was so nice looking that I almost felt like ditching the sod and turn to farming in the yard instead. We can grow so much food in this yard.
I covered up the freshly tilled soil with added amendments to keep it from drying out too much and from being turn into a giant cat litter box.  
Sorry for the blurry iphone photo. The delivery were showed up 30 minutes early. We were caught off guard and had to hussel to get the yard ready. Two pallets of sod delivered to our fron door. This stuff is so heavy, I couldn't lift one up by myself. Justin was the laborer for the day moving all 62 rolls to the back and laying them out with my help. 
First row of sod down, seemed like an easy enough job. 
About one thirds of the way through.
Not wanting to let the 60 sq ft of sod go to waste, we used it on the side yard.  It's an instant improvement. 
Here is a before shot of the backyard from 3 weeks ago. Notice the walnut tree branches were still bare. 
The sod project all done after three days of hard work! Now we just need to water the heck out of it for the next two weeks. 


  1. looks awesome!!!! I am with you... I dont have a big budget.. so if I can do it myself, I am not afraid of hard work.. I just want it done now!!! You will be so happy that you have one this. You will enjoy the yard so much more. Save some of that money for a lawn mower!

    1. Thank you!. I am really happy with the way it turned out. And yes, we will need to get a lawnmower soon. :)

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