Do It Yourself or Use a Professional to Sod or Seed Your Yard

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Professional lawn installation
Whether or not you’re a fan of cold weather, one thing most folks can appreciate is the break it gives us from yard work. Minimal mowing, no weeding, zero watering—the winter months have that going for them.
But if you’ve been ignoring a failing lawn since the fall, it may be time to ask yourself: Do I need a new lawn?
Immediate Gratification—Is It Worth the Cost?
When you invest in a new lawn, is it best to find a professional turf company to install it? If you love grabbing a shovel and getting your hands dirty, maybe doing it yourself makes sense—the steps to prep the soil for seed or sod are fairly simple. “A lot of people want to install their own yard, but they just don’t have the time,” says Mary Kay Woodworth, executive director of the Atlanta-based Georgia Urban Agriculture Council. “They want to hire someone, but don’t know where to start.”
For some homeowners, the big decision is whether they want the immediate impact of professional sod installation or whether they have the patience to do the work themselves. If you go with a pro, in literally a day, you can drive off to work past a dirt expanse and come home to a bright green thing of beauty.
No matter what, success is almost always measured by what you do before the grass goes down. “Whether you do it yourself or have a pro install it, the most important part is the prep work,” Woodworth points out.
First, eliminate weeds and till in good topsoil or organic materials, like compost. If you want to go the extra mile, test your soil to see if it has a low or high pH (indicating that the soil is highly acid or alkaline) or is depleted of nutrients. Get advice from a local nursery about what problems can be alleviated by adding materials to help your lawn establish fast and stay healthy over time.
Pick Your Partner
Once the prep is done, it’s important to choose the best grass for the conditions in your yard, like how much sun 
a property gets and whether you mind brown grass for part of the year. Sure bets in the Atlanta region are Bermuda, Zoysia and Tall Fescue turfgrasses.
Bermuda, a thick grass that goes dormant and turns brown in the winter, must be sodded. It requires full sun and, like Zoysia, is a warm-weather grass (grows most in warm weather) that’s best installed in late spring or early summer.
Zoysia is a slow-growing, dense grass that is less drought tolerant than Bermuda. It’s usually installed as sod and, like Tall Fescue, can handle some shade.
Tall Fescue, a cool-weather grass that stays green year round, can struggle in the summer, says Clint Waltz, a turfgrass specialist with the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s best installed in the cooler fall temperatures.”
Taking Care of Baby
No matter who installs it, when seeding, you have to be vigilant about watering and maintenance for the first six to eight weeks. Once the turf is established, Waltz says it’s important to remember to water regularly (letting it dry out even once can be the kiss of death) and don’t subject it to too much traffic. “If there’s anything that will negatively affect grass,” he explains, “it’s over-wear.”
What’s This Gonna Set You Back?
Depending on the type of turf and your property’s terrain, prepping and sodding a 2,000-square-foot property professionally will cost $2,500 to $4,000, Woodworth calculates. Having it professionally seeded would be half the price. On the other hand, she estimates a do-it-yourselfer can install 2,000 square feet of sod for $1,500 to $2,500, including equipment rental.
If you go with a pro, start by talking to neighbors whose lawns you admire. When you collect estimates from professional installers, ask how long they’ve been in business, whether they’re licensed and insured, and if they have references to show they’re consistently good at what they do. Good contractors will break down costs in a contract so you can see where your money is going.
Grass varieties best for the Atlanta Region
You might also be interested in:
Time for a New Lawn? Yes, even in Winter
5 simple steps to prep your lawn for Spring
Add landscape color by remembering the 4 Ps
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