Sod cutters are going to become much more popular over the next few years, so it’s about time we stopped seeing them as tools restricted to the sheds of professional landscapers.
In this guide we’re going to shake off some old myths about lawn care, and big up the benefits of getting rid of your vast fields of grass.
Best Sod Cutters and Sod Cutting Machines for 2023
9. KisCutter Sod Cutting Machine
10. Edge-R-Rite II Bed Edger
As we come together as a species and realize that our impact on the planet has created a true emergency for wildlife, we need to look at our own domestic spaces, and think of ways to grow plants and habitats that actively benefit the earth.
I know it sounds weird, but sod cutters are an exceptionally good place to start!
Why Should I Get rid of My lawn?
OK, so grass, if you let it grow long, leave the weeds in place, and allow native plants to self-seed into its edges is hugely beneficial to wildlife.
It provides hiding places for small mammals in winter, and feeds insects with pollen through spring and summer. In autumn, birds use the dry straw to build nests, and some species of solitary bees even tunnel into the soil.
So grass can be great for wildlife, but when we look at our collective impact on the environment, the easiest way to understand the damage we do is to look at our local area from above.
Notice the overwhelming colors of green and gray, dominated by tarmac and grass. That’s a monoculture; a habitat that supports some species very, very, well, and ignores the rest.
Loose brick paths, and a mix of shrubs, fruit bushes, and herbaceous plants that flower at different times of year, provide food and homes for all sorts of creatures.
If enough of us dig up sections of lawn, we create highways for wildlife to thrive in our suburbs.
Sod Cutter Buyers Guide
What is a Sod Cutter?
Sod cutters are the most efficient way to dig up lawns, cleanly removing roots and top growth without compacting the soil beneath the surface with heavy handed tools like spades.
There are loads of different types of sod cutters, but the two main differences are whether they’re manual sod cutters, or sod cutter machines.
We’ll cover the differences between them in more detail later, but essentially, there’s a very, very, big difference in price, and an even bigger difference in efficiency.
Regardless of the tool you use, they all use the same basic method of removing turf, by neatly removing sections. A sod cutter’s blade is usually angled so you can dig into the sod and pull or kick the cutter along beneath the surface.
This removes sections of sod, and if you’re careful you can even plant that sod roll elsewhere.
What to Look For When Buying a Sod Cutter
Before you buy a sod cutter, you need to know how much lawn you want to get rid of. If you’re looking at creating a path through an existing lawn, then stick to a manual sod cutter.
You’ll need to put more effort in but you’ll save a fortune. If you need to remove a full lawn, then there’s no choice. You need a sod cutter machine.
You can buy or rent sod cutter machines though, and renting sod cutter machines is widely available and they’re incredibly easy to use after a bit of practice.
There are some traditional sod cutters still on sale, which are middling in price and effort, and if you want to lower your carbon footprint while cutting out a large area of lawn, they might be the choice for you.
Let’s have a look at the different types of sod cutters below.
Types of Sod Cutters
Sod cutters come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no one set design for them, so it can be a really confusing market place when you start looking.
In the next few sections I’ll talk about each different type of sod cutter, and explain exactly what it should be used for.
Sod Cutting Machines
Sod cutting machines aren’t widely manufactured, so there’s only a few brands out there that are truly worth putting your trust in. For professional gardeners, you absolutely need one in your kit.
It’ll save you hours or time, and over the next few years, lawn removal is going to become more and more popular, so you’ll save thousands on rentals.
For domestic gardeners, if you ever need a turf cutter, it might be better to rent one, because you’re unlikely to use it more than once or twice, and they do tend to cost thousands, rather than hundreds.
Sod cutting machines can remove vast areas of sod, and because they’re largely push propelled, they’re incredibly fuel efficient. They work by vibrating a blade from side to side underneath the turf.
The blade is connected at the edges and this creates neat strips of turf.
Manual Sod Cutters
There are two key types of manual sod cutters but in our Best Manual Sod Cutters review section below, I’ll explain a few more specific nuances between them.
The most common types of manual sod cutter though are sod cutting knives, and sod cutting shovels.
Sod Cutting Knife
A sod cutting knife is essentially an angled sickle. You can use standard sickles too for sod edging, but for new paths through lawns, and for heavy duty weeding, sod cutting knives with a right angle between the blade and the body of the knife make the job much, much, easier and give a far neater finish.
Sod Cutting Shovel
Sod cutting shovels are really useful tools for the garden, and even if you don’t plan on removing any lawn at all, I’d still suggest buying one as they’re super-efficient weed diggers for garden borders.
The manual sod cutters in the reviews below are the most versatile tools, which slide easily under turd or topsoil and pull, or push, along to slice the weed roots.
All you need to do then is to leave the weeds to dry out in the summer heat and you’re done. The kick type sod cutters are the most popular manual sod cutters because they have a useful guide to prevent uneven cuts.
Tools like this make neat edges, and level topsoil easy to achieve, and while they take more effort than any other option, they’ll save you a lot of money compared to sod cutting machines.
How to Cut Sod
How to Use a Manual Sod Cutter
Using manual sod cutters requires quite a lot of effort, whether you’ve bought a push sod cutter or a pull sod cutter. The basic principle is to ensure that the main cutting blade is buried at least 2” below the soil surface, and make even cuts level to the surface of the soil.
If you stray from the level cuts your finished result will be bumpy and need digging over or raking to achieve a fine and level finish – especially if you plan to lay a path in its place.
Also, if you cut anything less than 2” of soil, your lawn will quickly begin to regrow from the roots you leave behind.
How to Use a Sod Cutter Machine
Sod cutter machines need some serious power behind them. While some sod cutters are self-propelled, it’s not quite as straightforward as cutting the lawn.
They will try to pull themselves forwards with barrel style tires at the front, and guide wheels at the rear, but you need to give them the extra push to cut through roots and compacted soil.
Because sod cutters are pushing against more force than scarifiers or lawn mowers, make sure to check fuel efficiency on any new model.
Some rely heavily on the user for force, which will save you money, but add to effort. Other sod cutter machines guzzle gas but are effortless to use.
Safety Guidance for Sod Cutters
Sod cutters, particularly sod cutter machines, have incredibly sharp blades. Some sod cutters are smooth blades, and some are serrated, but both are equally dangerous if mishandled.
Ensure any machines are turned off before going near the blades for maintenance, and drain any fuel before maintenance to prevent accidents.
If you are aware of rocks and large stones in the soil beneath your lawn, wearing shin protection is a good idea, as manual sod cutters can flick up out of the soil if they hit large stones.
How to Remove Sod and Dispose of Cut Sod
When you’ve finished cutting away your lawn, or cutting a path through your lawn, you need to put your cut sod somewhere. Thankfully, cut sod is a very useful material for the garden.
You can mound it up to create a privacy mound, which is becoming one popular way to save on skip hire costs, but my preferred method is creating a sod pile. It might sound lazy, but it’s a brilliant way to create new moisture-retentive top soil.
How to build a sod pile:
- Lay a 3ft2 of turf next to your compost heap (leaving breathing space between the two), with the grass facing upwards.
- Place a second layer, with the grass facing down.
- Repeat these layers (grass up > grass down > grass up > grass down) until you’ve piled up all your cut sod.
- Leave it undisturbed for 18 months.
- After 18 months the grass in the center will have rotted and created a layer of compost, between the soil, and the soil will be filled with worms and microorganisms which can be scattered around the garden or used to fill pots.
Best Manual Sod Cutter Reviews
Best Sod Cutting Machine Reviews
Our Top Picks for the Best Sod Cutters for 2023
Top Rated Sod Cutter
The Blondberry Kick Type Sod Cutter is efficient, as long as you’re willing to put the effort in. Just make sure you get the blade kicked down into the earth before you start, and the rotating level guide will do the rest of the work. Then just push, kick and walk.
You’ll be taking up paths and laying new patios in no time with this traditional style sod cutter, manufactured to modern standards.
Best Value Sod Cutter
If all you plan on doing is creating a new path, or extending your borders, the sensible choice of sod cutter for the budget conscious gardener is the Truper Tru Pro Forged Sod Lifter.
It’s essentially just a bent garden home but thanks to its heavy-duty blade it can withstand huge amounts of pressure as you cut and lift small sections of lawn.
Considering most domestic gardeners are only ever going to use these tools once or twice in their lifetime, it makes sense to keep costs down too.
One weekend’s work might save you thousands of dollars, as long as you’re willing to put some serious effort in!
Premium Choice Sod Cutter Machine
Machine Sod Cutters are definitely the more expensive choice, but for professional landscapers it’s worth the investment. Taking up lawns is going to be a huge part of your job description over the next few years, so invest in a good machine now, and keep it going.
The KisCutter Sod Cutter is a really well built sod cutter, and is sold by a few retailers for less than most machine sod cutters too, so it’s a real bargain as well as performing at the top end.
Sod Cutter FAQs
How deep should you cut sod?
Whenever you’re removing sod from a garden, you should remove at least 2” of soil. It might be heavy work, but by removing 2” below the surface you remove the grass roots to prevent any regrowth.
For commercial sod cutting, when planning to sell sod on, shallower sod is ok as it will root quicker in the customer’s garden.
Do sod cutters work?
If you plan to remove a large area of lawn, you need a motorized sod cutter. Motorized sod cutters are far more efficient and produce neater cuts over large areas than hand tools.
Using hand tools to remove sod risks leaving roots in place, and grass will quickly regrow.
Can I use a spade to cut sod?
It’s possible to remove sod with a garden spade, but you will end up with incredibly uneven surfaces where you remove the sod.
Depending on the desired outcome it can be a money saving option, but can often lead to re-sprouting grass roots, and compacted soil where you plan to dig new beds and borders.
Time to Decide Which Sod Cutter Best Suit Your Needs
There is no excuse for suburbs filled with garden, after garden, after garden, of lawns and fences without beds or borders. Even brick paths provide habitats for more diverse wildlife.
So whether you’re considering a full refurbishment of your garden, or a few little changes, consider the benefit a sod cutter might have on your space, and on your local wildlife.
The best sod cutters on the internet are compiled above, and we’re pretty confident we’ve shared the details of how and why you might use each type of sod cutter, but comment below – especially if you’ve got ideas for how to improve our suburban ecology.