A Sod Cutter How-to

Updated February 21, 2017

If you have a large expanse of lawn that you want to landscape, using a sod cutter reduces the manual labour time you need to lift the grass. A sod cutter works by inserting a blade into and under the grass and cutting horizontally to remove the grass in strips. Sod cutters are available to hire at local tool-and-machinery rental stores. It is important to know how to operate a sod cutter correctly in order to ensure your safety and the efficiency of your grass-removal project.

Check the ground hardness the day before you plan to use a sod cutter. Insert the shaft of a screwdriver into the ground to a depth of 3 inches. Water the grass if the screwdriver does not easily push into the ground in order to soften the ground ready for the sod cutter.

Choose a sod cutter that is appropriate for the size of job you want to do. Measure the area of the grass to remove using a measuring tape. Ask to hire a sod cutter for the square footage you need. A ride-on sod cutter may be more appropriate for large areas of grass rather than a standard, walk-behind sod cutter.

Snap chalk lines along the grass to the width of the sod cutter blade in order to use the lines as a guide for manoeuvring the sod cutter. Read the safety guidelines and instruction manual that comes with the sod cutter to completely familiarise yourself with the safe operation of the machine.

Choose the cutting depth of the sod cutter by changing the blade depth setting, according to your model type. Check that the sod cutter's gear is in neutral and the blade is above the ground and then start the machine.

Position the blade on the ground according to the directions for your model type. Choose a low forward gear. Apply the throttle and guide the sod cutter along a chalk line for a few feet.

Lift the blade to cut the end of a strip of grass. Disengage the throttle and place the gear in neutral. Repeat steps 5 and 6 to continue to remove sod strips in short lengths.

Lift the blade and disengage the throttle before choosing a different gear speed. Cut the sod strips in straight lines and turn the machine only while the blade is up.


Use a garden spade to remove turf close to garden borders to prevent the sod cutter from damaging your plant borders.


Wear steel-capped shoes, safety glasses and protective clothing while operating a sod cutter to avoid accidental injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk line
  • Garden spade
  • Steel-capped shoes
  • Safety glasses
  • Protective clothing
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About the Author

Residing in the coastal county of Devon, England, Jane Humphries has been writing since 2004. Writing for "British Mensa" nationally and regionally, Humphries has also held key roles within the High IQ Society. She received a Bachelor of Science, honors, in psychology with combined studies covering biology, statistics, economics, politics and sociology.