New sod needs to be kept moist and to be treated gently once it’s rolled out. If you have pop-up sprinklers, make sure they’re powered up and ready to fire up as soon as the sod is rolled out.
If you are running a hose-based sprinkler, lay out the hoses as you roll and try to organize the layout so you don’t have to run out and move the hoses and sprinkler; you don’t want to walk on your new sod for two weeks.
Soak It In: Application Day
Once your sod is laid out, you need to soak it within the first 60 minutes for at least 45 minutes during the first watering session. Once it’s been soaked in, get on a schedule of watering at 8 a.m. and at noon for 20 minutes each session.
On the first day, water one more time an hour before sunset to keep things moist overnight.
Season, sunlight, and temperature matter. Depending on where you live and the grass you’re putting in, a fall installation may be the best option.
Of course, in-ground watering lines will take special care if a freeze is a risk. Because you need to water twice daily for the first two weeks, do your best to get the new sod fully watered in before freeze season hits.
The First Two Weeks
For the first two weeks, water twice a day for 20 minutes each. The first watering should occur once the sun is up; 8 a.m. is a good start.
Your next round of watering should be around noon or 1 pm. Avoid watering directly before sunset. Wet roots, not fully tethered to the soil, can grow mold and fail to connect.
If it rains, carefully note the total rainfall. If it doesn’t rain for at least 20 minutes, supplement with your sprinklers. Be aware that, once the grass is wet and the soil below is moistened, the grass can get slick.
You may also find that the mud under the turf is slippery; the sod turf will feel like a skateboard on top of the base soil if you put too much pressure on the mud. You can also kill the roots if you try to walk on your sod during those first two weeks. No mowing!
During week 3 you can cut back to watering once every other day. On the non-watering days, you can start to mow. Avoid edging with a string trimmer at this time; you may actually cut too deeply and tear into tender roots.
If you’re getting close to freeze time and need to blow out your irrigation system, you can use hoses on your lawn by week 3. Do be sure to
- avoid dragging hoses over new sod seams
- coil up the hose as soon as you water to avoid sun stripes
- move the sprinkler head to water evenly in these last weeks
Talk to your supplier about any winter prep or fertilizer products that need to be added to your new sod. As a general rule, your new sod should be simply allowed to go dormant, but you may need to put a particular winterizer on it.
By week 4, you can cut back to watering every 5 to 7 days. Carefully inspect individual blades of grass to look for browning if you installed your sod in the spring; extreme heat will harm your grass and you may need to increase your watering schedule.
Week 4 is also the time that you want to start deep soaking your lawn. In the early days of your new sod, a 20-minute watering session was enough to soak damp roots down into the soil below; overwatering at that time could have created a flood zone between sod and soil.
Your goal during week 4 and moving forward is to wet the soil down at least 6 inches every 3 to 4 days.
Tools and Access
As noted above, you can’t mow your new sod for the first two weeks. Trimming should probably be avoided until the sod is established enough that it encroaches on curbs and sidewalks.
If you find that grass is laying down and growing over the edge of a curb, turn your string trimmer to the side and cut the grass back by cutting at the outer edge of the curb. Do not cut at the sod edge for the first year.
If you’re putting in sod, you may also be tempted to put in an ornamental tree at the same time. Don’t try to do both in the same year! Watering requirements for a young tree are quite different than those for new sod.
You’ll either under-water the sod or drown the tree. Let the sod get established and add a tree next year.
A newly sodded lawn will need care and fiddling during the first few months. If you sod in spring, keep an eye out for heat stress over the summer. If you sod in the fall, don’t let it go too late!