A sod cutter is a tool which is used to cut sod, as you might imagine from the name. There are a number of situations in which this tool can be useful, and many landscapers keep one on hand. These tools are also stocked in hardware stores, and sometimes they are available through tool libraries or companies which specialize in equipment rental. When you plan to work with a lot of sod, purchasing a sod cutter can be well worth it.
Before delving into the fascinating world of sod cutters, it might help to understand what sod is, and why one might want to cut it. Sod, also called turf, is grass and the dirt closely bound to the grass by the roots. Viewed crosswise, sod consists of a rich brown layer of soil, a thin layer of upper roots, and then the grass itself. Many yards are made from turf, which is available in thick rolls for instant manufacture of lawns.
People cut sod when they fit rolled sod into place in a new lawn, or when they need to rearrange a lawn to accommodate changes in the landscaping. Using a sod cutter is also strongly recommended when sod needs to be temporarily removed, to preserve the integrity of the sod. They are also used to cut sod for grass roofs.
The most basic type of sod cutter is simply a square shovel which has been sharpened. To use it, people mark out the section of sod they need to cut, and then chop it with the shovel, plunging the shovel straight down, lifting it up, and selecting a new spot right next to the initial cut. Once the sod has been cut, the cutter can be levered underneath to lift it up and start a roll. If the section of sod is extremely large, several chunks may need to be removed, as sod is very heavy and it can be hard to work with a lot of sod as a result.
It is also possible to find a specialized sod cutter, which has a beveled, serrated edge, designed to be rocked back and forth along a line of sod to create a straight cut. The design reduces resistance when the sod needs to be pulled out, and makes it easy to wedge the tool underneath the sod to manipulate it into a roll.
Mechanized sod cutters are available for large jobs. These gas or electric machines have several blades which cut the sod as the user walks the cutter around a lawn, and sometimes the machine rolls up the sod as it cuts. These machines are generally only used by landscaping professionals.
If you plan to reuse sod after you remove it, it should be kept moist and covered with burlap or another breathable material in a cool, shady place. Small chunks of sod should be carried with the grass facing up; rolls are usually formed dirt-out. If you aren't reusing the sod, it can be discarded with other lawn waste.