How to Remove Sod (And Reuse It)

Transplanting Sod

So, you have decided to take on a landscape project that will reshape the look and feel of your property. Congratulations! But before you bring your new landscape design to life, there are a few important decisions you have to make first, especially when it comes to your lawn.

Whether you’re planting a new garden, prepping for a hardscape, or considering a major landscaping project, it’s essential to consider how your project will impact your existing lawn. Whether your lawn consists of sod or grass you have grown from seed, you have probably invested significant time and money in lawn care and maintenance over the years. So before you rip up your lawn and throw away years of time, effort, and money, let our sod installation experts explain how you can properly remove sod and reuse it. 

Table of Contents:

Reasons to Remove Sod

Patches of dead grass in lawn

Whether you are interested in growing your own food by planting fruit trees or your existing lawn looks brown, bare, or thin, removing sod that is no longer needed or doesn’t look very good can revitalize your landscape. But there is no sense wasting good, healthy grass if you don’t have to. If you’re planning on planting a garden, learning how to remove sod correctly will prevent turfgrass from sprouting up through the soil and mulch. It will also help your garden by preserving the beneficial insects and microorganisms in the soil. As you can see, there are several reasons why learning how to remove sod properly is a good idea. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the process.

There are many different sod removal techniques and choosing the proper method depends on the type of grass you have in your yard. Bermuda grass, Kikuyu grass, St. Augustine, and other perennial grasses are harder to remove. If you’re unsure which type of grass you have, the lawn care experts at The Grounds Guys® can identify it for you and explain the best way to remove it (or remove the sod for you).

Different Ways to Remove Sod

Power sod cutter on lawn

The best way to remove sod depends on your personal preferences and the amount of time and effort you want to invest

The following are some of the most common ways to remove sod: 

Remove it by hand: Manual sod removal is time-consuming and labourintensive, but it works. However, if you’re looking to get rid of the grass completely, you'll want to ensure that you completely remove all the roots, because some grass types have deep roots that can grow back later if not removed.

A powered sod cutter: Want to avoid back-breaking work and save time? Using a powered sod cutter is the answer. It's much easier than removing sod manually by hand, and it will save you time. A powered sod cutter can cut deep into the soil to remove all the grass and roots. Of course, this tool may be a bit much for smaller residential yards, so consider using a walkbehind sod cutter for smaller areas

The Best Tools for Cutting Sod 

Shovel for sod removal

Like with most projects, the first step requires gathering the right tools for the job. Cutting and transporting sod is no different. To ensure the job is done properly and efficiently, you’ll need the following tools: 

To cut the sod, use the following

  • A long hose: The hose should be long enough to reach the existing and future location of the sod.
  • A sharp spade or edger: These tools are ideal for cutting through a thick layer of sod and dirt.
  • A wide shovel or pitchfork: A wide shovel or pitchfork can be used to pry up the sod from the ground.
  • A sprinkler: Your sprinkler will serve double duty in prepping the sod for transplant and watering the sod once it’s placed in its new location

To transplant the sod, use the following:

  • A stiff-tined or metal rake: You can use this to scrape and level the surface where the sod will be transplanted.
  • A high-quality lawn fertilizer: This should be applied to the sod after it has been relocated.
  • A lawn roller: This will ensure the sod roots contact the ground beneath them. A heavy rain barrel with some water can serve as an alternative.
  • High-quality topsoil: To level the ground and provide beneficial nutrients for the newly relocated sod, add top soil as needed. 
  • Grass seed: To fill any gaps after laying the sod and to help enhance overall growth of the transplanted sod. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Sod

Understanding how to remove sod carefully is crucial to ensure your sod grows healthy and thrives once it is relocated. Follow our instructions to prep, cut, and transport your sod carefully.

Step 1: Water the Grass

Sprinkler watering lawn

A few days before digging up the sod, thoroughly water the lawn you plan to remove so that the soil will be easier to work with. After drying out for a few days, you will end up with moist—not soggy—soil that stays intact but isn’t too heavy.

Step 2: Cut into the Sod

Shovel in dirt during sod removal

Using a sharp spade, shovel, or edger, cut around the perimeter of the grass you plan to remove. Then, cut the sod into manageable 30 cm by 60 cm strips. You just need to break through the top layer of soil, so don’t worry about digging very deep. Try to cut it straight down to make it easier to remove and use the sod elsewhere.

Step 3: Pry up the Sod

Landscaper prying up sod

Dig under one end of each piece of sod, and cut through deep taproots with a spade or pitchfork. Lift out the pre-cut piece and shake any loose soil back onto the ground.

Step 4: Roll up the Sod

Roll of sod

If your pieces are long enough, roll them up like carpeting. If you opted for square pieces, stack them near the spots where you plan to transplant the sod.

Learn more about: The Pros and Cons of Sod

Caring for Sod Before Laying It

Landscaper watering rolls of sod

Quickly replanting the sod will keep the grass’s roots from drying out and dying. In mid-summer, sod can show signs of stress in as little as 12 hours. For this reason, you may want to prepare the transplant location for sod before digging it out of the ground.

If dug-up sod must sit out for more than a day, remember that moisture is the key to its survival. Set the squares or strips of sod in a shady spot where the sun can’t dry them out. If several hours go by, unroll the sod so you can water it. This also allows heat to escape so the grass doesn’t die before you can complete the transplant. 

Prepping the Ground for Sod

Rake prepping ground for sod

Before you begin to transplant your sod, you’ll need to prep the new location. Before unrolling or unstacking your freshly cut sod, you must prepare the area. We recommend the following:

  • Clear away any debris like rocks or sticks from the area.
  • Pull any weeds and remove any large roots.
  • Fill in any holes with dirt and compress the soil.
  • Level the ground using a stiff-tined or metal rake.
  • Add some rich top soil to give your sod a good start.
  • Water the ground before placing the sod down. 

How to Transplant Sod into Its New Home

Landscaper unrolling sod

Once the ground has been prepped, lay or unroll the sod. Think about the sod like pieces in a puzzle—the tighter the fit, the better! Fill in any gaps with topsoil and a sprinkling of grass seed.

Consider using a lawn roller or another heavy object to gently roll over the transplanted sod. This helps the roots to contact the soil, which also helps to prevent mounding (spots where the grass is higher).

Caring for Sod After Installation

Hose watering freshly laid sod

Once the sod has been relocated, water it regularly. It’s best to keep the sod moist (watering it several times a day for short periods) for the first few weeks before transitioning to watering the sod 1-2 times a day, for 30 minutes each, in weeks two and three. After three weeks have passed, water the sod as necessary based on weather conditions and its overall condition and appearance.

Do not mow the sod for the first three weeks. When you return to mowing, cut it higher than normal to avoid damaging it.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Removing Sod

Lawn roller on freshly laid sod

While removing and transplanting sod is not an overly complicated task, it does require the proper tools and steps to ensure the best results. If you don’t have the tools, time, or desire to do the job yourself, you can always contact the experienced pros at The Grounds Guys professional to get the job done right. If you do have your heart set on a do-it-yourself approach, here are some common mistakes to avoid: 

  • Forgetting to properly prepare the soil before transplanting.
  • Under or overwatering the new sod.
  • Not helping the sod root properly.
  • Failing to fertilize and maintain the new sod properly.
  • Selecting and laying down the wrong type of sod for your region.

Ready to Remove Sod and Start Your Project?

Now that you have a solid grasp on how to remove sod, you’re ready to get started. However, if you still have questions or would rather not invest the time and effort yourself, contact The Grounds Guys nearest you for help. We’re the local experts when it comes to lawn care and landscape services.

Once the sod removal has been completed, the possibilities for your lawn, and the rest of your yard are endless. Let our professionals help with all your lawn care and landscaping projects. We provide free estimates and stand behind all our work with the Neighbourly Done Right Promise™, which guarantees your satisfaction. Contact us today, and let us help you create the lawn and landscape of your dreams.