Proper Care and Maintenance of Your New Sod
Sod is highly perishable. When you buy new sod, it’s important to know its limitations. The two most crucial things come down to timing – timing and watering. To explain this I use the analogy of a ticking time bomb. Once sod is harvested and rolled up on a pallet it’s as if a “bomb timer” starts counting down at normal speed. Once it is unrolled and installed, it’s as if the wrong wire was cut on the bomb by our hero, and suddenly the timer countdown speeds up super fast. Although perishable on the pallet, it won’t suffer nearly as quickly as the installed sod. Installed sod can suffer irreparable damage without water in less than an hour during hot periods of the year. During cold periods of the year though, watering may not even be required.
If you are new to lawn care, or you just purchased from us, here are some tips on how to properly water and care for your new sod.
Sod left on a pallet on hot days will overheat and start to turn yellow and slimy. You can bring it back, but you paid for green and lush!
Embrace the Power of Water for a Healthy Green
Watering is the most crucial aspect of new sod establishment. Sod is highly perishable, so without proper watering, your new yard may brown or completely die. At certain times of the year, it is much easier to keep your sod fresh. During cooler seasons, the grass tends to stay more robust with less work. It’s possible to have a great lawn in the summer, but it requires more effort and due diligence.
Importance of Proper Watering
When you water your sod, make sure you apply enough. To determine when your sod is sufficiently watered, roll the sod back and look underneath. You will notice random areas underneath the sod where water is coming through. When the wet area is larger than the dry area, you’re about halfway done with the watering process. When the ground beneath the sod is completely saturated, you’re finished watering. The most common sign that you’ve watered your lawn enough is when the ground beneath your sod is “squishy.” Due to varying water pressure, types of sprinklers, and size of areas being watered, there is no hard rule for how long to water. Visually looking under the sod is the only way to be sure.
Watering New Sod
The best way to water your new sod is to start watering as soon as you have installed an area large enough to use a sprinkler or within 30 minutes during hot weather. Some sprinklers can be adjusted to water an area as little as 10 rolls. Once you turn your sprinkler on, do not turn it off. Move or adjust it to cover the new areas as you install the sod. Just be sure to water beyond the sod into landscaping, fences, etc and overlap as you go, otherwise you can end up with dry spots in your new yard. Even though in some situations you may not be initially soaking the sod, the important part here is to not let it dry out.
It’s important to check all the areas that your sprinkler is covering. Some sprinklers don’t get very much water near the base, others don’t get much water near the ends; look at all the areas your sprinkler covers and overlap to be sure. Even with an irrigation system we recommend this practice. Usually the zones of your system will not match the area as you are installing the sod. Once fully installed or if a zone is covered, you can use your irrigation system.
New sod should be kept watered for at least 2 weeks. This doesn’t mean you have to water daily, but it also doesn’t mean you won’t have to water twice daily. The first 3-4 days are the crucial days to water every day. Rain, temperatures, and wind all play into this factor. So, ask us when ordering your sod to get our recommendation for that time.
Tip: Do not install the sod faster than it can be watered. Usually this only happens when you have a lot of people installing sod and/or on hot days. In this situation take a break and let the sprinkler catch up.
Tip: Do not water by hand or with a soaker hose. These methods won’t water the sod evenly and will cause brown streaks.
Mowing and Fertlilizing
How soon do you mow after your new sod has been installed? The rule of thumb is 2 weeks. That is the point when your new sod will be well rooted and can handle light traffic without shifting or sliding. Just be sure the ground isn’t too wet and soft to be able to handle the traffic. Many times you can water less towards the end of the 2 weeks to allow the ground to dry. It can also be better to mow with a push mower and not a zero-turn as they can tear the sod if they spin. Be sure to cut off no more than 1/3 of the total plant height. Mowing more can turn your grass yellow and create too many clippings. Lower your mowing height only after mowing twice at a higher setting.
Should you fertilize your new sod? Usually a starter is recommended to help supply nutrients and food as it grows and establishes into its new surroundings. If you haven’t taken soil samples (recommended practice) to see what your lawn needs, use a basic starter. Only use the fertilizer in the fancy picture bags from your local garden center. They are more expensive than the generic AG grade 10-10-10, but they have bells and whistles added to be consumer and environmentally friendly. These features safeguard against over fertilizing and to prevent damage. They also slowly release the fertilizer which makes it last longer, so you use less, and is better for the plant and environment.
Tip: When you order your sod, you can ask when we fertilized the field last.
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Other Sod Maintenance Resources
To help keep your new turf in premier condition, see these links below. You’ll find helpful articles on many topics for developing a healthy lawn including pest control, watering, fertilizing, and more in the Mid-Atlantic zone. Of course, if you still have questions or concerns, you can always contact us. We will be more than happy to assist you with your questions and concerns.
- Virginia Cooperative Extension Resource for Lawns from Virginia Tech
- Virginia Tech Weed Identification
- The Lawn Institute
- Turfgrass Producers International
Also, feel free to download our watering guide for an easy PDF reference. Watering Guide