How to Care for Newly Planted Sod

Caring for Newly Planted Sod

Whether you’re looking to repair a portion of your lawn or plant a whole new lawn to revive your landscape, sod can be a great solution. Compared with seeding, which can take months to establish, sodding a lawn is as close to instant gratification as you can get with landscaping.

But, although simpler and faster than growing grass from seed, sod can be pricey. For a typical quarter acre lot, you can expect to spend close to $15,000 for a professionally installed, brand-new sod lawn. So, it’s important to know how to protect that investment and give your sod the best chance at success.

Luckily, caring for your sod is fairly simple. With regular watering and lots of monitoring and patience, you’ll have a strongly rooted lawn within a few weeks to a month.

Sod Installation

One note before getting into how to care for your sod: Proper preparation and installation of the sod is critical to its success. What you do before you lay the sod matters just as much as what you do afterwards. A professional company should use a rototiller to break up the soil, do a soil test, and add soil amendments such as compost, fertilizer or lime in order to create the right conditions for sod.

It’s definitely possible to DIY, but it’s a tough job. Each pallet of sod, which covers 450-500 square feet, takes one person about two hours to install. If you have a quarter-acre lot, that’s over 40 hours of time – and you really need to install sod within 24-48 hours of uprooting it. For big jobs, it’s just not possible unless you have a lot of help. For smaller jobs though, it could make sense to do it yourself as long as you take necessary steps to prepare and amend the soil.

Watering

The main thing you need to do to ensure a successful sod planting is to keep the sod evenly watered. Moist soil conditions encourage grass to take root and stimulate new growth. In most climates, watering deeply once per day in the morning should be enough to keep the soil damp.

However, if you’ve planted the sod in the summer, you may need to water twice daily in order to keep the soil from drying out. Watering early in the morning before the sun gets too hot will allow the roots to take in water before the heat of the day begins and evaporation starts. You could also consider using an automatic sprinkler system.

Water is critical for sod’s health, but be sure not to get it too soggy – it’s definitely possible to over-water and cause the roots to rot. The grass will start to turn yellow if it’s getting too much water. Over-watering may also cause grass to develop a fungus. Watering in the morning, as opposed to the evening, can help ensure that the actual blades/leaves of grass dry out and the moisture only remains in the soil and roots where it is needed.

If you want to get really precise about your watering, you can use a soil probe to test the depth of the water and ensure you’re getting water 4”- 6” into the ground. Thorough, infrequent watering to the proper depth helps roots to develop more strongly than multiple light, shallow waterings throughout the day.

Mowing

In general, you’ll want to wait at least two weeks to mow your new grass. But during times of the year when plant growth is slower, you may need to wait as long as four weeks. In order to figure out when is best for you to mow, check your grass height and start mowing once your lawn grows beyond 3.5” tall. It’s best to rely on checking the height and conditions rather than just mowing at the 2-week or 3-week mark.

To test conditions for mowing, walk on your lawn and tug on some pieces to feel how firmly rooted the sod is. Wait a little longer to mow if blades of grass with roots easily pull out, or if your feet are sinking into the lawn.

You’ll have to reduce the amount and frequency of watering in the days leading up to mowing. Be careful not to mow wet, soft, or loose sod because your mower will tear up the lawn. For best results, use a push mower as opposed to a riding mower, since it is lighter-weight and therefore gentler on the sod. You should also cut it on a high enough setting that reduces the total height of the grass by no more than one-third. (This is a good rule in general for keeping your lawn healthy.)

While caring for new sod may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually pretty straightforward. In general, sod, like all plants, wants to take root and grow – you just have to provide the right conditions to support it. Give sod the patience and attention in the short run and you’ll be off to the right start for a healthy lawn to enjoy forever.

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