While installing sod gives you an instant perfect lawn, there are a few precautions you need to take to keep your new grass looking its best.
Sod is fragile until it has formed deep roots in the ground, and it will require special care to thrive.
How soon should you expect your sod to take root once it has been installed?
Sod will begin to form shallow roots in the first two weeks following installation. With proper care, deeper roots will develop within six weeks. Help the sod take root faster with proper watering and fertilization.
Keep reading to learn more about preparing your soil for sod, the best time for installation, and how long it takes for the sod to take root.
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How Do You Prepare The Soil For Sod Installation?
Proper soil preparation through fertilization and aeration is the most important first step to installing a sod lawn.
Adding nutrients like sulfur, lime, and compost will ensure your soil will sustain healthy sod growth.
The soil needs to be aerated, so it is loose enough for the sod to form long healthy roots.
A deeper root system will give your sod more stability and aid in grass growth.
Once the soil has been appropriately fertilized and aerated, you need to ensure the surface is level.
Any dips or contours in the yard will cause water to pool in those areas.
Level the ground surface easily by using a wide rake, and carefully inspect the entire area where the sod will be installed.
It is wise to add a bit of moisture to the soil before the sod is put down, but it is important not to over-water.
Overwatering will cause the soil to become muddy, making sod installation messy and difficult.
Plan to water the soil one or two days before laying the sod.
This ensures the top layers of soil are moist while giving the water time to drain.
When Is The Best Time To Install Sod?
Sod may be installed during any time of the year, but the most optimal time for installation is during the cooler autumn season.
The soil will still be warm enough to support healthy growth, and the cooler air temperatures will put less stress on the roots.
Laying the sod at least six weeks before the start of cold weather will ensure the grass forms long enough roots to survive during winter.
The key to successful sod installation is making sure it receives enough water.
Sod needs to be thoroughly watered for at least 45 minutes right after it has been installed.
The first two weeks are key to root establishment, and the sod should not dry out.
Installing sod in the summer months is challenging because of its constant watering needs, and it is not recommended.
It is also vital to have your soil ready to install your sod the day it is delivered.
Sod can survive on a pallet between 24-36 hours before it dries out too much, and one pallet of sod will take 1-2 hours to install.
Budget an ample amount of time to install your sod, and hire a lawn service to do the job if you are not comfortable doing the installation yourself.
Once sod dries out on a pallet, it will be extremely difficult for it to take root in your soil, and it is more likely to die.
How Long Does Sod Take To Root?
Sod roots come in two main phases: shallow and deep.
The timeline for each is different, and there are different things to watch out for.
If you’re looking for how grass reproduces naturally, check out the article at the link
When Does Sod Develop Shallow Roots?
Your new sod will start to develop shallow roots within the first two weeks after installation.
During this time, it is essential not to let the fragile roots dry out.
If your sod dries out any time during the first two weeks, it will be very difficult for it to recover, and you won’t get the lush lawn you had hoped for.
The first week after installation is when it is the most critical when it comes to irrigation.
Shallow roots make it easier for the sod to become dislodged from the ground, so you want your grass to establish a strong root system from the very beginning.
Plan to set aside 15-20 minutes for a watering session at least twice per day for the first week.
After the first week, reduce daily watering to once per day.
The soil should always contain moisture, but it should not be soggy.
If the roots of the sod are constantly too wet, it will eventually lead to root rot.
The best times for watering are during the mid-morning hours and in the evening before the sun starts to set.
Never water your sod in the middle of the day.
Sunlight will be magnified through the water droplets and cause burns to the new blades of grass.
Watering your sod after nightfall is also not recommended because the excess moisture at night may cause mold or fungus growth.
To encourage healthy root growth, add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer after sod installation.
Here are some tips for adding nitrogen to your lawn naturally.
Be sure to use the correct type of fertilizer for the season, and maintain a steady routine of fertilizing every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
For most types of grass, the growing season starts in April and ends in October.
Peak growing times vary with warm-season and cool-season grasses, so fertilize accordingly.
When Does Sod Develop Deep Roots?
With proper fertilization and a steady watering routine, your sod will begin to develop deep root systems within six weeks of installation.
To encourage this deeper root growth, gradually reduce the number of watering sessions after the first week of installation.
Decreasing the time between watering sessions forces the roots to push deeper into the soil in search of water.
Since you are decreasing the number of times you water the sod, it may take between 30-45 minutes to saturate the entire lawn.
Deep roots are vital to the health of your lawn because they give the grass more stability and allow the plant to retain more nutrients from the soil.
Once you have established a consistent watering routine, the roots will fully develop within 30-45 days after installation.
After six weeks have passed, test your sod’s root system by gently pulling on a small corner of your lawn.
If the corner pulls up easily, this indicates the roots are still very short.
If there is a lot of resistance, your grass has grown healthy roots.
Confirm the roots of your sod are well established before mowing your new lawn for the first time.
When Should You Mow Your Sod For The First Time?
When you have determined your sod is firmly rooted and your grass is at least 3″ inches high, it is finally time to mow your new lawn.
It will take at least 5-7 weeks after installation for your sod to be rooted enough to mow safely.
Wait at least 48 hours after a watering session to mow your lawn.
If the grass is wet, your lawnmower may pull the new sod out of the ground.
Mowing wet grass will also cause the blades on your mower to become dull, causing an uneven cut.
Be sure only to cut one-third of the length of your grass.
3″ inches is an ideal height to set your lawnmower blades to on the first mow.
Cutting your lawn too short will make it more difficult for the grass to maintaining healthy growth, and you will end up with bald or yellow patches.
Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Sod Lawn
There are a couple of tips to help keep your sod healthy and looking its best.
Use a Lawn Roller After Installation
Use a lawn roller on your sod right after it is installed.
A lawn roller removes air pockets between the soil and the sod and helps to facilitate more robust root development.
Since the sod and soil will be closely fused after using the lawn roller, the roots will grow faster and be more secure.
Avoid Heavy Objects or Excess Foot Traffic
To keep your new turf from being accidentally uprooted, it is crucial to wait until the roots are fully established before regularly using your new lawn.
Do not allow heavy items such as planters or wheelbarrows to stay on the grass, and minimize foot traffic from people and pets as much as possible.
Shallow roots make the sod very fragile and more likely to get ripped up from the soil, and heavy items on top of the grass will prevent it from receiving sunlight and water.
Regularly Fertilize and Aerate the Soil
Continue to fertilize your new sod throughout the growing season by using a slow-release grass fertilizer high in nitrogen.
You can learn more about what nitrogen does for your lawn here.
It is also important to regularly aerate the soil to prevent it from becoming compacted. Compaction will prevent deep root growth.
Aeration also allows fertilizer, water, and other nutrients to penetrate the roots of the sod more easily.
Aerate your new lawn within six months after installation, and then once or twice per year for maintenance.
Check out our full guide on how to aerate your lawn (with helpful tips and tables).