As landscapers, we love installing sod after completing a beautiful landscape project because it instantly transforms an entire project - from dirt to bright green grass - and you don't have to wait for your seed to grow.
But homeowners often underestimate the care that's needed once sod is installed to have an successful sod growth that lasts many years.
Here's a few quick tips on caring for your sod from our landscape professional, Paul Hynek.
Watering is the most important thing you can do for your sod and underwatering is the number once cause of sod death.
Sod is an investment into your property and, as landscapers, we want to help you protect your investment even after we've completed the job. It's important to understand how much water your sod is going to need, here's a guide.
On the first day of watering
After installation, start watering your sod within 20 minutes to saturate the sod roots and to promote root establishment. The sod needs to be saturated to the degree that you see standing water on top of the sod (usually 15 minutes per area) or if you were to step onto the sod you would 'soak' your feet - it should feel spongey. You can also lift a corner of the sod to see the depth of the moisture, making sure it reaches the roots and two inches of native soil underneath.
Smaller areas can be watered by hand with a hose and larger areas can be covered by a sprinkler. We recommend watering every three hours on the first day because of the sod's short root system, lacking the ability to draw moisture from deeper soil. You may need to reposition sprinklers every few hours to make sure you're hitting every area of the sod evenly and consider over-watering areas near buildings, driveways and sidewalks that often radiate the sun more and dry sod up faster.
Your first two weeks of watering your sod
After the first day, your new sod should be kept thoroughly moist throughout the day, running sprinklers 4-6 times a day for 10 minutes during the hottest parts of the day when moisture loss is highest (9am - 4pm), stopping by 5:30pm to reduce fungus growth. Avoid giving your sod a 'big drink' only one time per a day, because the roots are very short and cannot withstand receiving large amounts of water at one time - this may cause the sod to die as well.
To gauge whether or not you're giving your sod the proper amount of water, make sure that the sod is never soggy, or that you do not see any water standing under the sod for more than a few minutes after watering. If your sod shows signs of shrinking or turning brown then it is not receiving enough water or enough frequency.
During the first few weeks, we also recommend light use of the lawn to give your sod the best chance to secure itself to the soil. If any of your sod moves or comes up, just simply pack it back into the ground.
If you would like to leave the watering to the experts, Hynek Landscaping offers a fully automated sprinkling temporary watering service to guarantee your sod's establishment. Read more about Hynek Landscaping's Thirsty Earth Temporary Irrigation system, invented by Paul, for homeowners who wanted convenient watering for their new sod.
Watering sod weeks 3 and 4
You can start tapering your watering cycles during weeks three and four by reducing the frequency of watering cycles during the day to 1-3 times per day. You may also gradually start skipping a day of watering if the sod is staying green and healthy.
You can check to make sure the sod is establishing itself by lifting a corner of the sod and feeling for a resistance, which indicates the sod roots can handle a longer length of watering less times per a day.
The rest of the season
By week 5 and beyond, you want to encourage a deeper root system by offering longer watering times, less frequently.
Once your sod is established, early morning watering is ideal for your sod to have moisture it can use throughout the day and when the least amount of evaporation occurs. An established lawns need about 3/4 - 1 inch of moisture weekly depending on soil type, which can be supplemented by rainfall or irrigation.
Our final recommendation for watering is to watch your sod closely and be willing to adjust if your sod is showing signs of dehydration or stress.
When to mow your sod
You can expect to mow your new lawn about 14 days after your sod installation or when your grass exceeds 3.5 inches tall. It's important to keep a few key things in mind when you first mow:
- Reduce your watering to make sure you mow on dry turf to avoid leaving tire tracks or sinking marks.
- Do not remove more than 1/3 of your grass length per mowing cycle.
- It is recommended to mow your lawn more often and keep it at a height of of 2 to 2.5 inches.
During the first two weeks, avoid heavy or concentrated use of your new lawn. This will give the roots an opportunity to firmly knit with the soil.