Sod is, without a doubt, the fastest and most convenient way to create a grass lawn from scratch. Most homeowners opt for sod because it doesn’t require the same amount of patience as grass seed.
In essence, the results from sod are instantaneous! But you will still need to maintain your new yard as it adapts and takes root.
In my opinion — and many lawn experts agree — the single most important part of caring for fresh sod is providing plenty of moisture. Without adequate moisture, your sod’s growth will be seriously stunted. It could even die off if not given the right amount of water during the first few weeks after installation. To prevent such issues, I recommend exactly how often to water new sod, and give some troubleshooting tips below.
- Preparing The Ground For New Sod
- How Often To Water New Sod: Schedule
- How Much To Water New Sod
- How Long Does New Sod Take to Root
- When To Fertilize New Sod
- When To Mow New Sod
- FAQs How Often To Water New Sod
Preparing The Ground For New Sod
Laying sod is hard work but well worth it once you see the lush green results. And the better you prepare the area prior to sod installation, the better those results will be.
Think about this, you’ve ordered a few pallets of sod to be delivered, well that rolled turf has been sitting for a while and has dried out slightly. This has its pros and cons. The pros…the weight of a pallet of sod is significantly reduced, making it easier to handle. The downside is that you are going to have to soak the sod and have very well-prepared ground, allowing the turf to take root as soon as possible.
Prepping the area for new sod should include removing all weeds and debris from the top several inches of soil. Manually loosening the topsoil will encourage healthy root development as the grass becomes established. Adding organic matter to the soil will also improve the consistency. You may also want to test your soil pH level and adjust with amendments like lime or sulfur as needed.
There’s no better time to amend the soil in your yard than immediately before laying new sod. If you don’t already have an idea of your soil’s makeup, then take a soil sample so you know your soil composition and whether it needs an amendment to correct the pH or nutrient balance.
My preferred pre-sod fertilizer is regular-aged compost. It not only adds nutrients to the soil but also improves the soil’s consistency and water retention. Of course, you can use any complete fertilizer if you’re otherwise happy with your soil’s quality.
Watering the soil is a very important step in any new sod project. At the very least, you should water the soil immediately before laying down the sod so it has a moist surface to adhere to. For even better results, however, I like to water deeply several times leading up to the sod installation. If it rains during that time, even better.
How Often To Water New Sod: Schedule
Your sod’s watering needs will quickly change as it grows roots and adapts to its new home. You should expect to water immediately the day your sod is installed and several times a day until the grass is ready to be mowed.
After this adjustment period, you can drop down to watering just once a day until your new lawn is fully established.
Your sod’s first watering should occur within 30 minutes of installation. According to Mississippi State University, one person should water the already laid sod as the other installers continue working.
If you’re laying the sod on a cool, mild day, you may be able to get away with watering up to an hour after it’s installed. With that said, I don’t think it’s worth the risk of letting your fresh sod dry out.
When laying sod on dry or lightly watered soil, you should expect to apply 3 to 4 inches of water immediately after installation. This amount of water will thoroughly soak the sod AND the soil underneath it.
If your sod was installed in the morning or on a particularly hot afternoon, I recommend checking the moisture level later in the day. Water again if the sod seems to be already drying out.
First Two Weeks After Day One:
For the first couple of weeks after installation, your goal should be to keep the new sod consistently moist. This will require watering several times per day as the grass grows into the soil below.
While you don’t want the sod to dry out, it’s equally important not to oversaturate it. Split your sod’s irrigation needs into several waterings throughout the day to prevent flooding and run-off.
How often you need to water fresh sod is ultimately determined by your climate, the time of year, and the weather forecast. Since you never want new sod to dry out, it’s important to keep an eye on your lawn and water more frequently if it is particularly hot or dried out.
The best time of day to water sod is in the morning and early afternoon. I recommend spacing out your lawn’s irrigation sessions within this window.
Watering in the very early morning is a great way to get your sod prepped for the day without worrying about excess evaporation from the sun. I wouldn’t apply water later than about 4 PM unless the day has been particularly hot and sunny.
After Two Weeks
Two weeks after your sod is installed, you should switch to watering just once per day. After at least a week, slowly taper this schedule until it meets the typical needs of your chosen grass species.
New sod should not be walked on. If you must step on your new lawn, be sure the surface is dry to prevent indentations and other damage.
Most sod will be ready for mowing after the first two weeks. Withhold water for a couple of days before mowing for the first time so that the ground is not too soft underfoot. Resume watering daily after mowing.
Your sodded lawn will naturally require more water during the hot summer months compared to during the rest of the year. Be sure to take the time of year you’re installing sod into account when planning your watering schedule.
Natural rainfall can supply a surprising amount of water to your new lawn. I recommend investing in a simple rain gauge so you can track how much extra water (if any) is needed.
How Much To Water New Sod
Watering fresh sod is not about meeting a certain quota of inches per week but about making sure the ground is consistently moist. Because there are so many factors that affect how quickly your lawn dries out, prescribing a specific amount of water for new sod is nearly impossible.
The best thing you can do is to follow the advice given here and adjust as needed by monitoring your sod and how it responds to its environment. As long as you know the signs of under and overwatering, supplying the correct amount of water to new sod is easier than you might think.
How do I know if the sod is getting enough water?
In my experience, the best way to know if your sod needs more water is to go out and touch it! If the grass or the soil beneath it is dry to the touch, it’s time to give it a thorough soak from a sprinkler system.
Another common sign that fresh sod is underwatered is a blue hue to the blades. Note that some turf varieties are naturally blue-green, so don’t panic if your new sod is always slightly blue in color.
Newly laid sod often shrinks as it dries out. Increase your watering frequency if you notice the sod pull away from itself at the seams.
Can you overwater your new sod?
Yes, you can, and overwatering new sod can be just as detrimental as letting the grass dry out. Young grass is at particular risk of “drowning” in too much water because of its extremely shallow roots.
New sod should never be soggy or muddy. If you notice puddles forming in low sections of land, that’s another clear sign that your lawn is overwatered.
How Long Does New Sod Take to Root
With the right growing conditions, fresh sod can take root in as little as two weeks. However, only shallow roots will have a chance to grow within the first couple of weeks. I suggest giving the new grass at least 6 weeks to develop a deeper root system before assuming it is well established.
When To Fertilize New Sod
I recommend waiting four to eight weeks before applying fertilizer to new sod. According to the University of Florida, this gives the grass enough time to develop a substantial root system that can efficiently take in and utilize nutrients from the soil. Applying nitrogen-rich fertilizer too soon after installing sod is liable to burn the grass.
Sod that is installed when dormant — i.e., in late fall or winter — should not be fertilized until the start of the next growing season.
When To Mow New Sod
Most sod will be tall enough to mow approximately two weeks after installation. If you mow any earlier than this, the grass may not have time to develop strong enough roots to survive the cutting.
Before mowing your new sod, be sure that the grass and soil are moderately dry. If you mow over damp sod, there’s very good chance footprints or tire tracks will be left behind on the lawn’s surface. I also recommend raising your mower blades to the highest setting (at least 3 inches tall).