Can you lay sod over chips and dust? I’m not going to say that I did this correctly, but as dumb luck (and a lot of rain) would have it – my lawn took without having to remove the gravel!

If you have kids then you know (perhaps better than others) the transitional nature of things. Toys come and go, activities change as they mature, and even larger investments like playgrounds and swimming pools fall by the wayside.

It saddens me to say that our swimming pool – an 18′ x 52″ Intex pool that we took up and down each year – no longer holds any appeal to my girls, and with Daddy not living here, the chore of maintaining a pool holds no appeal to me either. This year we (the girls and I) decided to send our pool to a new home for someone else to enjoy and take back our eyesore of a yard.

laying sod over chips and dust

Yup, from October to late May this is what our yard looks like (although some snow hides it in the winter).

Ugly right?

Certainly not something I want to look at all summer long, so I bit the bullet and decided to try sodding my back lawn.

I did a bit of research and most articles I read said that any gravel/chips and dust should be dug out prior the Sod Installation. The truth of it is – I HATE DIGGING. I’ll build just about anything you want, clean toilets, pick up dog poop – any other chore that is less-than-pleasant, but digging is where I draw the line. Maybe I should look into working with someone similar to Greater Brisbane Gardens experts so I don’t have to do any digging in the future if I want to take on more ambitious garden projects.

I went online and polled my FB and IG readers to see if any had suggestions on how to lay sod over top of the 2″ of chips and dust that we had levelling this section of the yard for the pool. Most came back with “you have to dig it out”, a few said “rent a tiller and blend some soil into the chips and dust”…

Only one person said “screw the digging, just lay the sod over top.” (and she will forever be my best friend)


I looked into roto-tiller rentals, and while they aren’t expensive – about $35 for four hours – getting one to and from my yard would involve renting a trailer or paying extra for delivery and then I’d have to hope and pray that I was strong enough to control it. More work and expense than I was ready for.

I decided to take a $250 risk (the cost of the sod), and see if laying sod over chips and dust would work.

laying sod over chips and dust

I raked up a bit of the chips and dust and moved some of it towards the slides to try and create a more gradual slope to the yard, but for the most part, the gravel stayed about 2″ thick over the 19’x19′ area I needed to cover.

laying sod over chips and dust

laying sod over chips and dust

I made so many almost-mistakes with this project it was ridiculous. First off sod is supposed to be installed within 24-48 hours of being delivered; I didn’t get to it until 4 days later. Fortunately we’ve had a really wet Spring here and the rolls didn’t dry out. Unfortunately, wet rolls of sod are heavy as hell.

My Step-Dad and I lugged 62 bags of topsoil to the backyard and poured one bag out about every three feet. This gave us a layer of soil approximately 2″ – 3″ thick over top of the chips and dust.

Again, 62 bags of soil don’t make for a light load either.

laying sod over chips and dust

We spread the soil with a rake, then tamped it down with our feet, before rolling out the sod over top.

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laying sod over chips and dust

After all that work, in the rain, all we could do was hope that the grass would take.

laying sod over chips and dust

So what do you think? Do you think laying sod over chips and dust worked?

I’m not going to promote our half-assed technique here as anything more than dumb luck – but as dumb luck would have it:

laying sod over chips and dust

After almost a month, and rain every second day – the sod looks fantastic!

laying sod over chips and dust

I’ve mowed it twice in the last week, and while it’s not quite as lush as the rest of the yard, if it needs cutting that often, then you know that the roots have established themselves and you are in the clear.

laying sod over chips and dust

I don’t want this article to be all DON’TS, so I’ll close with the proper way for laying sod over chips and dust – as recommended by professionals.

  1. remove as much of the gravel/chips and dust as you can
  2. use a roto-tiller to till a thick layer of fresh soil in with the remaining chips and dust
  3. lay a 1″ layer of compost over the soil – this will give the roots a nice, rich base and will help to keep the sod from drying out
  4. rough grade the soil and compost and try not to walk on it once it is even – footprints will create pockets where the grass roots won’t be able to reach the soil.
  5. lay your sod in even rows, knitting together the ends so that there are no gaps or areas where the grass will dry out. Pull the end of one roll tightly to the next and then push together with your hands for a tight fit.
  6. stagger your seams; you don’t want straight lines where the rolls have ended, instead lay the next row so that the centre of the roll lines up with the seam from the first row.
  7. do not use a lawn roller over freshly laid sod.
  8. water daily for the first week and every other day the next week. The weight of the water will help to settle the sod into the soil.
  9. don’t fertilize new sod until after about 6 weeks.

laying sod over chips and dust

This is today’s view – almost a month after we laid all of the sod. I don’t think we would have had this luck had it not been raining so much over the past four weeks, so I’m grateful for small miracles.

Not too shabby for a single Mom eh?

I don’t want to do it again, but I’m pretty stoked that I’ve proven (to myself) that I can do almost anything!

Have a great one!

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