What is a sod? - Tips for correct processing

What is a sod? - Tips for correct processing

the essentials in brief

  • A sward is best removed manually with a spade
  • A sod cutter makes removal a lot easier
  • A scarifier can be used to remove moss and weeds

What is a sod? - definition

Sward is the name for the closed vegetation of the ground by grass, moss and herbs, the cohesive growth of which forms a gapless plant cover.

also read

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  • Sprinkling the lawn - tips for watering the lawn correctly
  • How to care for your lawn in spring - tips and tricks

A few centimeters under a turf, the plump life of the soil pulsates. The plant cover serves earthworms, beetles and other organisms as valuable protection against adverse weather conditions or predators. Furthermore, a sward acts as a natural bulwark against erosion and rock weathering.

Remove or repair sward - 5 methods

Regardless of its varied tasks in nature, a sward is not always desirable or gives rise to complaints. The following table lists 5 common methods you can use to deal with a grass cover:

methodMaterial requirements
remove, ablateSpade, shovel, wheelbarrow
peelingSod cutter, mini digger or shovel
Milling and diggingGarden tiller, (€ 111.28 at Amazon *) spade, pass-through sieve
dig upSpade, sieve
repairScarifiers, rakes, lawn mowers

The following instructions explain in a practical and comprehensible manner how and with which tool you implement the machining methods correctly.

Remove sward - step-by-step instructions


There are many reasons why it can make sense to remove a sward. Frequent occasions are to create lawns or beds, garden sheds, (7.70 € on Amazon *) pond or sauna. The most cost-effective method dispenses with machine support and only requires a spade, muscle lard and time. The following instructions explain step by step how to remove a sward correctly:

  1. the best time is in late autumn
  2. Mark and cut off the area
  3. Pierce the green area with a spade 10-15 cm deep in a checkerboard pattern
  4. Slightly lift the earth with every cut of the spade (tilt the spade handle backwards)
  5. Lift up the pieces with a shovel and place them in the wheelbarrow

Well-loosened turf segments can also be separated from the sub-floor with your hands and placed in the wheelbarrow. Sections measuring 30 x 30 centimeters have proven to be effective in practice.


Compost the sod separately

The sward that has been removed is too thick to be disposed of on the normal compost. At the same time, you can compost the stripped lawn and reuse it as valuable soil in the garden. To do this, pile the sods face down in a separate pile. Sprinkle some algae lime or rock flour on each layer. (14.95 € at Amazon *) The grounding takes a few months. Before using in the bed, sift the soil to remove stones, root weeds and other debris.

Peeling off the sod - this is how it works

Don't you feel like doing some sweaty digging work? Then use a special device to remove the sward. A lawn peeler or sod cutter pulls the green plant cover off the ground with machine power. You can rent the device inexpensively in hardware stores, garden centers or from construction machinery rentals. How to peel off an old sward in an exemplary manner:

  1. Mow the area very short
  2. Align the sod cutter straight, parallel to the outer edge of the green area
  3. Put on protective goggles, set the cutting depth, start and lift the device
  4. Lower the device into the sward using rotating blades
  5. Stripping machine straight ahead over the sward in tracks
  6. important: cut edges are close together
  7. Switch off the device and set it aside
  8. Put on gloves
  9. Roll up the cut grass strips

Depending on the depth of cut and the length of the run, the disposal of the grass rolls requires a helping hand or a mini excavator.

video: Youtube

Till, sieve and dig up the sward

Peeling off a sward always raises the question: where to put the grass rolls? You can avoid this problem by milling and digging the green area. A garden tiller acts as a machine-operated hoe. The sward is crushed and can be worked into the ground. In connection with the digging, it is advisable to clean the soil from root weeds and stones with a sieve. Here's how to do it properly:

  1. the best time is in autumn or early spring
  2. Mow or scavenge green areas as short as possible
  3. Put on protective goggles, sturdy shoes and start the tiller
  4. Mill the turf lengthways and across
  5. Dig the soil 2 spades deep and 20 cm wide across the bed
  6. Throw the excavation through a close-meshed, openable sieve
  7. Fill the cleaned excavation of the second furrow into the first trench
  8. Use sieved soil from the first furrow for the last dig

To clear a small area of ​​sward, it is not absolutely necessary to cut it beforehand. Crush the sward with the spade and dig the ground in furrows. With the pass-through sieve you can clean the earth of all kinds of impurities.

Repairing mossy sward


Removing a turf means a deep, destructive intervention in the underlying soil life. Hobby gardeners who are close to nature strive to repair the green area in question. The plan has the best chance of success if it is a mossy lawn. For this purpose, moss and weeds are combed out with a scarifier. The motorized device works with rotating rollers that scratch a sward. That is how it goes:

  1. Rent scarifier at hardware stores
  2. Mow the lawn 2 cm deep
  3. Scarify lengthways and crossways
  4. Sweep away moss and weeds with a rake
  5. mow again

You can work on small lawns manually. You can do this with a hand scarifier, which you pull through the moss covered sward with force.

You then subject the scarified sward to a revitalization program. First, the green area should regenerate for about 14 days. When it is dry, regular irrigation promotes the recovery process. Then fertilize the area with a slow release fertilizer for lawn or finely sifted compost. Larger gaps in the green are quickly closed by spreading a thin layer of humus with lawn seeds and watering them repeatedly.

Reusing old sward - this is how it works

Nothing is wasted in a natural garden. This also applies to a sward that you remove, for example to create a vegetable patch. The most important prerequisite for successful recycling is good to satisfactory condition. Reusing a sward goes like this:

  1. Prepare new green space with permeable subsoil and fine crumbly soil
  2. Enrich the upper soil layer with a mixture of sifted compost and sand
  3. Mow old sward to 3-4 cm stalk height
  4. Cut deep into transportable grass tiles
  5. Lay out close to each other on the prepared surface, roll and blast through

Please fill the seams with a mix of humus, earth, sand and lawn seeds. In order for the sward to grow at the new location, regular irrigation is essential in the following weeks.

frequently asked Questions

What to do with old sward? How and where can I dispose of the peeled sod?

With muscle fat and free of charge, you can dispose of it by turning the sod, chopping it up with a spade and letting it rot in a separate heap. This creates new humus that you can use in the garden. In rural regions, farmers sometimes allow the distribution of peeled sward on fallow fields upon request. The regional recycling center accepts removed turf at a price of 10 euros per ton. If you are not afraid of the costs, hire a waste disposal company to park a container on your property and pick it up again.

The sward from the lawn comes off. What to do?

When the sward loosens, the lawn suffers from pest infestation. Voracious beetle larvae nibble on the roots and cause the typical damage. In the early stages, you can save the lawn by fighting the white grubs with nematodes. The nematodes are brought out of the watering can with water and parasitize the larvae. At an advanced stage, there is often only one radical measure that helps: peel off the sward and lay out a new lawn.

I removed the sward for my new raised bed. Can I use the sward that has been removed for filling?

If a raised bed is built on a lawn, the sward should be removed. The organic material is of course far too valuable to be disposed of. First, lay out a stable vole grid on the floor. As the bottom layer, layer thick branches and twigs up to a height of 30 to 40 centimeters, covered with a little garden soil. Now is a good opportunity to integrate the peeled sward into the raised bed filling. Mix the sods with chopped material, grass clippings and similar garden debris until a layer is 20 centimeters thick. This is followed by additional layers of manure, rotted leaves, coarse compost and fine compost.

We would like to have a specialist company remove a sward and prepare the soil for replanting. What costs can be expected?

For an area of ​​100 square meters, costs of 500 to 700 euros are incurred for the removal of the sward and expert soil preparation in order to create a lawn or a flower bed on it. In addition, there are disposal costs for removed turf, soil, roots and stones. This calculation applies to normal garden soil. Difficult soil conditions or a steep slope drive up the cost volume.


The disposal of worn sward in the container involves a high cost risk. Old sward must be separated from earth and stones. The separated earth is placed in a container for excavation. Stones are disposed of as rubble and have no place in the earth container. Dispose of the pure sod in the green waste container. Disposal of sod, earth and stones in one container is considered mixed waste with correspondingly high costs.