Sod History 101

Posted by George Bravos on

Sod History 101

The History of Grass Lawns

What is sod? 

Although sod in its modern form is relatively new, naturally occurring sods and grasses have inhabited and supported life cycles worldwide since they evolved into their plant form. Sod refers to both the ground or soil base and the grass blades and roots growing on top of that soil base. Otherwise, sod is established grass which initially occurred naturally as plant life developed. Later, it was cultivated and reproduced for purposes such as feeding livestock and for aesthetic purposes. More common terms include grass, turf, lawn cover and ground cover which can be different from sod (such as synthetic turf or mulch ground covers) but are often used interchangeably with sod. 

Naturally occurring sods included native perennial grasses in California and annual grasses in Europe. In Europe, naturally occurring sod was used in establishments for feeding livestock. Sod has also had other purposes such as being used to build turf houses in Iceland by Vikings. Historically, sod was a common staple of villages and small towns in Europe, necessary to keep healthy and sustainable life cycles and food chains. Sod was well established as a common and necessary staple in daily life and later began its course as a plant used for aesthetic purposes. Mostly, sod started being used on large European royal and wealthy estates for aesthetic purposes. Eventually, sod was specifically cultivated to decorate the perimeters of large, wealthy European estates. Sod for aesthetic purposes was cultivated differently than sod used for practical purposes in small villages in towns. With this transition, sod was now widely being cultivated for aesthetically pleasing and ornamental purposes. 

 Butterfly on grass or sod

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When European settlers migrated to what is known as modern-day America, they brought sod and its many uses with them. Sod continued to be used to feed livestock they also brought to the Americas, as well as for decorative purposes. As Europeans continued to settle the Americas, many factors contributed to the widespread use of sod beyond farming purposes. Around the mid-1900s, the combination of factors that created the perfect conditions for the wide-spread use of sod included the mass commercial production of nitrogen used for warfare in WWII (which would eventually be discovered as the perfect fertilizing agent for sod), the industrial revolution, development of marketing strategies, large demographic of veterans returning from war to their families, and the more widely accessible prospect of buying home properties. Picture this intersection of events - veterans returning home from war to their families, conditions set to facilitate buying a new home, picture-perfect lawns widely marketed and nitrogen being used for fertilizing products - it’s no question why sod quickly became an integral part of the average American household. With homeowners looking for something aesthetically pleasing to decorate lawns and also safe for children to play on and hold social events, sod became an essential part of life. Homeowners now had a lawn cover that was beautiful, safe, and easy to maintain. 

Ironically, little did European settlers know they were creating a product and practice that would help reverse the man-made global issues they contributed to. If aesthetics and having a natural area to play and socialize on aren’t good enough reasons for a new lawn, perhaps your lawn’s contribution to global sustainability will be. Here’s how sod helps: grass, like other plants, absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, having two critical effects on global conditions. Firstly, it reduces greenhouse gases. Secondly, grass can potentially absorb and purify other harmful toxins and provide your property with improved air quality conditions. Each 650 square foot of sod can provide regenerated air quality and the oxygen necessary for one person. 

Today, there’s an array of reasons to have a new lawn: whether you’re wanting that classic yard look our Bluegrasses and Ryegrasses give, an innovative ground cover that is water-conserving and sustainable like our Kurapia, a drought-tolerant and fast recovering lawn to enjoy for families with children or pet owners such as our 9010 Tall Fescue, or investing in a new lawn because of its contribution to reduction in carbon emissions and starting your negative carbon footprint, in any case, lawns are here to stay and have a multitude of benefits.

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  • Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge.

    Abbie Owens on
  • Nice I don’t own a yard but I read the whole article. Great information

    Savanna Summers on
  • Great information man, thanks.

    Marlon Cole on
  • Interesting and I don’t even own a lawn lol

    Iris Kane on
  • I’m impressed with the level of detail offered in this article. Nice job on presentation.

    Frances Mccartney on

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