Northern California state outlinePicture of a patch of sod in Northern California

The Ultimate Guide to
Sod Installation in Northern California

In this article we'll explore the optimal sod varieties for Northern California. We'll also delve into their associated costs and the ideal times for laying to ensure growth.

cool season

Considering the climate and seasonal variations in Northern California is crucial for successful grass growing. Choosing grass types that thrive under these conditions and planting them at the right times of the year will help ensure a lush and vibrant lawn.


Northern California boasts a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters, which presents unique considerations for grass growth. The key is to select grasses that are sturdy enough to withstand the high heat of summer and the chill of winter, while also being able to tolerate dry and wet periods.

The optimal time to lay grass in Northern California is in the spring and fall seasons. These periods provide a milder climate that is conducive to the establishment of strong grass roots, before the extremities of the summer heat or winter cold set in.

In terms of grass zones, Northern California generally falls within zones 7-10. These zones indicate the range of temperatures the region experiences throughout the year and are useful for determining the hardiness of grasses that are suitable for the area.

The higher the zone number, the warmer the winter temperatures are. However, remember that local variations in microclimates can affect grass growth, so always consider the specific conditions of your location.

What are the best sod types for CA?

In the world of landscaping, not all grasses are created equal. Each thrives in a specific climate zone: cool, warm, or transition.

A geographical map highlighting Northern California located in the cool season region of the United States
Northern California is a cool season state and falls in the region higlighted above

Northern California, with its cool season climate, prefers a particular set of grasses that relish the lower temperatures. The following sods are the easiest to grow and maintain in Northern California:

While it's possible to grow grasses meant for other regions with proper care, attention and timing, these are the most common grasses in Northern California for residential lawns.

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Recommended species for shade

Frustrated with patchy, sun-starved lawns? We've got the solution — shade-loving grass varieties.

The top dog? Tall Fescue. Native to Europe, this hardy fellow is tough as nails. Can handle almost any soil type, stays green longer, and isn't a water hog. Plus, this character can manage with a meager 4-6 hours of sunlight. Tall Fescue's motto might as well be 'the less sun, the better'.

Next up is St. Augustine. Got shade? No problem! A Southern California import, St. Augustine's a beach bum at heart. It loves its moisture, all right. Requires around 5 hours of sun time and roll out the welcome mat for thicker, coarser turf. Be prepared to handle extra mowing and maintenance.

Now, let's give it up for the underdog — fine fescue. The cousin to Tall Fescue, it loves cool conditions. Doesn't need much sunlight. 4-5 hours will do. It's like the vampire of the grass realm, just without the fangs and the broody demeanour.

But wait, there's more. We've got Ryegrass. This one's is a neat freak — enjoys well-drained, fertile soil. Can thrive in around 6-8 hours of sunlight, making it a valued guest in moderately shady lawns.

Our final contender is Kentucky Bluegrass. Don't be fooled by the name. It’s as green as they come, this one. Can handle moderate shade, needing around 6 hours of sunlight. Known for its striking green hue, dense texture, and high durability, this grass variety can turn any lackluster lawn into a vibrant garden party.

Remember, folks. Every lawn has its own personality - some sun-soaked, some overshadowed. Pick the grass variety that fits yours. Keep the climate, soil type, water availability in mind. Just like the perfect pair of jeans, there's an ideal grass for every Northern California lawn. Go find that match!

A picture of a shade tree over a lawn in Northern California
Shade tree over a lawn in Northern California

Recommended for full sun or partial sun

When selecting sod for your lawn, it's crucial to consider the amount of sunlight the area receives. Grass varieties have different sun exposure requirements to thrive and maintain their health and appearance. Understanding whether your lawn area gets full sun or partial sun will help you choose the right sod variety.

Below are some sod options recommended for either full sun or partial sun conditions in CA:

Grass TypeSunGood to Know
Tall FescuePartialTall Fescue is adaptable to a range of conditions, including partial sun, and is known for its deep root system and tolerance to drought.
Kentucky BluegrassFullKentucky Bluegrass prefers full sun and is prized for its fine texture, rich color, and ability to recover quickly from damage.
Perennial RyegrassFullPerennial Ryegrass thrives in full sun and is known for its rapid germination, fine texture, and bright green color.
Fine FescuePartialFine Fescue is well-suited for partial sun and is appreciated for its fine texture, shade tolerance, and low maintenance requirements.

What varieties stay green year-round?

As with anything agriculture related, there is some nuance to this question. There are many grasses that can stay green year round in but it depends heavily on your location within Northern California as well as any microclimates that may exist.

The following grasses have the ability to stay green year round in Northern California:

Grass TypeCaveats
Tall FescueIt typically stays green throughout the year in milder climates, given that it isn't overly stressed by heat or drought in the summer.
Kentucky BluegrassIt can retain its green color for much of the year when well-maintained, though harsh winter temperatures can push it towards dormancy and a browner hue.
Perennial RyegrassIt can stay vibrant and green throughout the year in many climates, unless conditions are extremely cold or dry.
Fine FescueIt keeps its green color throughout the year in ideal conditions. If the winters are particularly harsh, it may lose some color.

What is the best time to lay sod in Northern California?

Since it is considered a cool-season location, the ideal time to lay sod is in early spring or early fall. These periods offer moderate temperatures, leading to less stress on the sod and providing optimal conditions for root establishment before extreme temperatures of winter or summer. Avoid the summer, as high heat can stress the sod.

As you can see in the image below, you'll notice the most shoot growth (the grass above ground) and root growth in the spring and fall for cool season grases:

A graph showing the growth of cool season grasses throughout the year
Plant cool-season grasses during the Spring and Fall for best results

Find reputable companies for installing sod in CA

Here are the top problems you'll face when trying to get sod installed by a landscaping company:

  1. They're hard to get ahold of on the phone or you'll reach out online but won't hear back.
  2. It's hard to pin them down for a specific date. Because you can only bring sod from the farm when there's decent weather, this causes some delays at times. It also has a short shelf life, so it's important to get it installed within a day or two of delivery.
  3. They're not transparent about pricing. You'll often get a quote that's way higher than you'd expect.

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Cities in Northern California

Neighboring States