After laying the pipe and attaching the sprinkler heads in place, it’s time to grade the yard. This simply means to make the area where the grass will be perfectly flat, and sloped in the direction that you want. Ideally, the grass should be mostly level to the naked eye, but in reality slope slightly away from the house. This will ensure that while sprinkler water will soak in without pooling in places, heavy rainstorms will not flood the yard or flood a patio and wash away your outdoor dining furniture. The best way to accomplish this is with several very long pieces of string, a string level, several stakes, and a landscaping rake or other large straightedge.
Drive the stakes in at various intervals around the edge of the yard, and run the string across the yard between them. Use the string level to determine how much the yard is sloping, and then use the rake to make the dirt underneath even with the string. If the yard is especially large and starts out with significant unevenness, a larger straight object, such as a long piece of lumber or old extension ladder can be dragged around to even things out. Getting the yard this flat and even might seem like overkill, but it makes mowing the yard for the next few decades much easier, and looks better.
When the time comes to lay the actual grass, there are two main options: sod or seed. Sod is faster – the yard goes from bare to a full lawn in a matter of hours. If doing the sod yourself, be sure to lay it in the early morning so that the full sun’s heat does not stress it, and water a lot the first few days. Don’t let kids play on the grass until the roots have had time to work themselves down into the actual soil. If spreading seed, the process will take longer before the yard is established, but will be cheaper and easier. Be sure to keep off the yard entirely for several weeks or the grass will not grow in well.
Generally, sod should be laid in summer, when days are long and the grass will grow quickly. For seed, planting times are generally either in spring or fall, depending on the climate.