Yes, We are Sod People

by Katy on April 2, 2012 · 14 comments

I try my very best to save money whenever I can. I bring my own lunch to work, I maintain an extremely minimal wardrobe of thrift-store clothes; and for the past three years, I have gone the frugal route and planted grass seed over my backyard lawn. I always make sure to plant it nice and early so that it doesn’t have to be watered until mid-summer. But sadly, we’ve consistently succeeded in establishing a healthy looking lawn, only to have it peter out over the winter.

Super frustrating. Especially since my sister spent hundreds of hours constructing a brick patio with retaining wall that is saddened to butt up against the capitol of Mudville.

So my husband and I finally decided to bite the bullet and plant sod. Yes, sod. That instalawn so preferred by realtors and clichéd Americans. Luckily, Portland, Oregon enjoys (hah!) an extremely rainy climate, so lawns here rarely need watering. So grass does not push my eco-guilt button. Add the world’s largest maple tree to the equation, and we don’t really have a lot of options for landscaping our backyard.

Here’s a handy before picture for your viewing pleasure:


And from another angle:

Mud-ville next to our fantastic retaining wall and brick patio.

 Awesome, right?!

Unfortunately, my back has been consistently hinky lately, so this was a project for my able-bodied husband.

Again, more pictures:



Rolls of sod, ready to go!


The soil was so saturated with rain, that my husband ended up using a trowel to smooth and compact it before laying the rolls of sod.


And . . . done. Notice anything different? I convinced my husband to remove the slide from our treehouse. No one has gone down it for at least two years, so it was time for it to go. (Of course, I'll sell it on Craigslist.)


After. The sod is still pretty muddy looking, but otherwise I have high hopes for this year's lawn. We planted it early enough to benefit from the rainy season, so it should establish well before next winter.

The planting of our sod is a good example of how it’s good to try the cheapest option before laying out the big bucks. Sure, planting grass seed was a bust, but it could just have easily have succeeded.

The total cost of laying the sod was around $220, which included the rototiller rental, the sod, the delivery of the sod and the bags of lime and fertilizer. We bought from a locally owned business, who contracts with small-scale local growers.

I am now very excited to enjoy some shady backyard entertaining, even if it’s just the four of us. I am however a bit sad to have lost my spray painting area, but I guess every project has a downside.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Katy April 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

And by the way, we had six rolls of sod leftover at the end, which I put on Craigslist for free. And after one flaky no-show, someone came to pick it up this morning.



Carolyn April 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Hope the sod works out in your wet climate! Here in Michigan, sod can be difficult to grow during dry summers. If not, you can always go to mulch and hostas or selectively prune the big tree. The green grass looks lovely!


Holly April 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Your new grass looks fantastic. Almost instant gratification! For you anyway, maybe not your husband. Your retaining wall is sweet!


Stephanie April 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I live the AZ desert and grass definitely pushes my eco-guilt button. I think it’s crazy that people have huge lawns here….just money down the drain. But I missed having a lawn. We got fake grass which was astronomically expensive. But…it never needs water or mowing and it’s always green!


Kim April 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

It really looks great, Katy! I agree that sometimes a splurge is in order.
I laughed about your slide removal. When I saw the first pic you posted I was secretly hoping the slide would go bye-bye, considering how polished that area of your yard was going to look after some sod was unrolled 🙂

Kim from Philadelphia


Jean April 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

You tried and tried with the most economical method–so if you don’t succeed, go with tried and true! This looks great and I am as green as your grass with envy. A few years back we had to replace a sewer line and you can imagine what the yard looked like after the backhoe left. My better half is great at planning a project but not so much on follow through (in his defense he is self employed and loath to admit that he doesn’t have the time he would like to for home projects) so now I have more weeds than actual grass. I should not only have bought the sod, but also paid the landscape guy to install it. You live and learn–and so I think you made a great investment here, one you can look at and appreciate every day!


Katy April 2, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thank you. I’m just so happy every time I look out the back window. I find to strange to think that we’re all done with landscaping our yard.



Jo H. April 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Very nice indeed.


Practical Parsimony April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm

That was awful! At least I grow weeds, even if not much grass. Now, if you walk on it, you can make holes in and between the sod strips. The people down the street rented something with a roller that mashes the sod down. Do you think that the tree is taking all the nutrients from the soil? Your patio is beautiful. Now, the whole yard is beautiful.

I “sacrificed” a torn sheet to spray paint on. You can get something cheap at goodwill like a king-sized sheet to paint on. Hang it dry and fold it up for next time. I lost a big room upstairs to rain. That’s where I put seeds to germinate. And, with a sheet I could spray paint when the weather was too bad to go outdoors.


Katy April 3, 2012 at 6:22 am

We’ll stay off the sod for awhile to let it establish, which should be easy, as there’s no reason to be on it this time of year. We do have tarps, but the only large spot left now is the brick patin, and I love it too much to accidentally get any wayward overspray on it.



Paula in the UP April 3, 2012 at 6:39 am

It looks fantabuluos!!! We have never had to be “Sod People” but we re-purposed grass/sod from an area we were digging out for a flower bed and filled in where we had an old veggie garden. We we’re pleasantly surprised how well it fill in!! Our eventual plans for the back yard is to lay a patio and a fire pit……..someday!!


Katy April 3, 2012 at 7:23 am

That sounds great! I love the idea of fire pits, but this asthma-girl can’t actually abide by them.



Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land April 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

My parents are frugal, too, and I remember when I was a little kid they took out the swimming pool from the back yard at our new house and put in sod. Maybe it wasn’t the most tightwaddy, but it sure was cheaper than maintaining a swimming pool!


FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist April 3, 2012 at 8:11 pm

You can spray paint on the grass…it’ll be gone the next time you mow. Just maybe don’t do it right before the big backyard party:)


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