It's also helpful to cut your lawn before you remove the sod.

How to Remove Sod for Replanting

by Nicole Vulcan

Getting the lawn you want can sometimes be a fussy business. For example, say you have a nice patch of grass -- also called sod -- in one area, but you want to move it somewhere else. Your neighbors might consider that a case of fussing around more than you need to, but it's your yard, so go for it. If you're removing a large patch of sod, you'll save your back -- and avoid sore muscles -- by renting a sod cutter.

Water the area with a sprinkler one day before you remove it. During the driest part of the year, you may need to leave a sprinkler on the area for 30 minutes or more to soak the roots adequately. In the spring, you could also just wait for the day after a good soaking rain. The soil should be moist but not sopping wet on the day of removal.

Test the depth of your sod by removing a small patch with a flat shovel. Press the shovel down to the dirt level, and then pull up on the shovel, removing the grass, roots and soil in that one section. Inspect how far down your grass' roots go. It's typically between 1 and 2 inches, and sod that has a root system of about 1 inch is easiest to remove and re-lay. Since you want to replant this sod somewhere else, you'll need to remove the delicate roots as well as the actual grass.

Set the depth of the sod cutter to 1/4 inch thicker than your root depth to ensure that you'll get the entire root system. The sod cutter should have a "depth" knob on it; turn it to the setting that represents your desired cut depth.

Sit the sod cutter in a corner of the area you want to cut.

Pull the cutter's cord to start it, then engage the lever that controls the blade.

Walk forward in a straight line, allowing the blade to cut into the soil under the sod. Stop after about 5 feet and turn off the cutter.

Pull up on the edge of the area you just cut to check that the cutter is cutting at an appropriate depth and not leaving the fibrous roots behind. However, you may have to cut through some deep taproots -- those are OK to leave behind. Ideally, you'll have a small amount of soil falling from the roots when you lift up on the cut sod. If the cutter is cutting too shallow, adjust the depth knob to make a deeper cut.

Turn the cutter back on, and continue cutting in a straight line.

Walk back to the starting point, and grab the edge of the sod. Pull it upward and roll it forward, as you would roll up a rug. Roll the entire piece, then put it in a wheelbarrow to move it to your new location.

Items you will need

  • Watering hose
  • Sprinkler
  • Flat-head shovel
  • Sod cutter
  • Spade


  • If you have just a small patch of sod to remove -- such as a patch that's only 2 or 3 square feet -- you can also use your flat-head shovel. First use an edger or spade to create a cut around the edges of the area you want to remove. Then press the shovel down into the soil below the roots, slide the shovel under the roots and carefully pull out the patch of sod.


  • To avoid injury, always wear sturdy closed-toe shoes, eye protection and long pants when working with power lawn tools.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

Photo Credits

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