How to Keep Sod Lawns Alive After Planting
By: Julie Day
We’ve sodded our back yard four times now, and we can’t seem to keep our investment from turning into dirt. Can you offer any guidance about keeping sod alive? -Shawn
Sod lawns can be tricky – while you get this wonderful instant green lawn, it’s a fragile transplanted carpet that has to form roots fast before it withers! Here are some of the main killers of sod lawns, and some tips on how to keep yours going.
- Watering Sod: Improper watering is the number one culprit when sod lawns bite the dust. For the first couple of days, the sod and the first few inches of soil need to be thoroughly saturated with water, then kept moist until the sod roots attach to the soil. This kind of watering really requires daily sprinkling for 30 minutes to an hour (even twice daily in dry weather). Once the sod is rooted, watering can gradually be reduced to an inch per week, watering deeply.
- Sod Stress Management: Keep traffic to a minimum until the sod is rooted. Other than the sprinkling of starter fertilizer under the sod, hold off on further fertilizing for a couple of months. Also, hold off on weed control products for the first season. Mow frequently as needed, cutting no more than 1/3 of the blade.
- Disease: New sod is particularly vulnerable to fungus, though other diseases can strike as well. If the grass is discolored or gray, you may want to try an organic fungicide.
- Insects: Grubs in particular can cause a lot of damage to lawns. To find out if you have them, gently peel back the sod and look underneath for the white grubs.
- Soil: Sod will only grow if the soil underneath has been prepared properly, and it won’t adhere to compacted soil. Conduct a soil test before sodding to determine whether your soil has adequate nutrients, and make sure there are no contaminants (such as spills or debris) underneath the sod.
- Light: Make sure the type of grass you’re planting is suited to your sun/shade conditions.
- Fresh Sod: Ideally, sod should be cut and installed all in the same day. The longer it’s stored, the more it will suffer from heat, bacterial growth, and rotting. Talk to your landscaper to make sure the sod you’re getting is fresh and healthy.
- Sod Installation: Sod installation is more difficult than it looks. The ground should be loosened and leveled, then sprinkled with fertilizer and moistened before laying the sod. Sod should be firmly tamped with a roller then immediately watered as it’s installed.