I just bought a house and have a 2000 sqf yard that is currently just dirt. I want to do the sod myself, but I am a bit unsure about how to prepare the soil. I have been trying to read online and what what I gather I need to add 6 inches of soil on top of my current soil. (I may be digging in place to make the area even.)

However, every place I read tells me a different thing. Some say I need to add sand, others say that I don't, and only need 3 inches.

I am guessing this is based on different areas. I am in the San Fernando Valley, California, USA.

My questions are:

  • What mix of soil should I add on top of my existing soil
  • How many inches should I add
  • Do I need to compress the soil after adding it and before laying out the sod
  • Do I need to add fertilizer to the soil before adding the sod
  • I expect to add palm trees to my yard, and they need to be deeper then 6 inches. Do I also need to dig to add the soil for the palm trees or will they grow in the existing soil.

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  • Have you calculated how much water will cost for that much grass; Do you need a permit to water in CA ? Patio stones and gravel don't need much soil preparation , or water. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:12

3 Answers 3


Well, you just dropped a million on a good house and now it will be surrounded by an excellent/good/satisfactory/poor/terrible landscape. Likely you will get as varied a set of responses from this forum as your online researches and be no further ahead. It's unfair of you to ask me to recommend, sight unseen, type of soil and so on, you might hold me responsible for the outcome. But...

Your speciality in this situation is the final use and appearance of the landscape, the vision of what it looks like when done. You know if and where a barbecue will be set up. Enclosure for dog to play and poop. Need for paths from location A to B. Where the trees go. Flower beds. Irrigation yes or no. Draw up a good plan.

Ask a local reputable landscaper to drop by to give you a quote. Show him your plans and impress on him what the landscape looks like. He/she bends down and examines the soil you have, sees problems with the way you have imagined it and suggests, politely, remediation before installation. The landscaper knows of sources of good soil and great sod. He has equipment that will save labour.

Finalize plans. Landscaper brings in soil one week and you spread it. Following week he brings quality sod and you lay it. He will be happy you are looking after it because he does not have to accept responsibility for the way it was laid, just the initial state of the soil and the sod. He does as much or as little as you agree up front. Clearly defined contract agreement makes for great cooperation.

Finally, have a nice cup of tea with the owner of the best landscape in the neighborhood and get some ideas.


A foot of wood chips inoculated with King Stopharia piled up for a full year will break town to good top soil. If you do it for 2 years you will get better top soil, and on the 3rd year it will basically be broken down fully, and along the way you'll get plenty edible of tasty mushrooms.

Look into the vegan athlete as he has a great food forest tutorial to do what you want to do.

Also look into one year revolution.


What a beautiful lot you have there! Personally, I would suggest you use as little grass as possible in your lot. If your looking for an area where you can sit in the grass is there any reason this area has to encompass the entirety of your yard? In any case, I would suggest you use something native to the California soil and not mess around with sod at all. You have all the time in your life to figure out which type you like the most, so... try a few different things. Find two suitable spots rough up the soil in those locations and try Purple Needlgrass in one area and Festuca californica in the other.

How can I explain this... what you need to do is experiment with your soil. IF your actually interested in being involved in your yard then you need to GET INVOLVED. Read, try new things mess around with different ideas. Whats the rush? You are learning something knew whats the point on short changing yourself?

Have I avoided answering the question... yes and no. Honestly, your question tells me one thing which is how little you know about grass. The type of soil and environment your dedication is all going to contribute/depend upon the type of sod.

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