Caring for Your New Sod
Your new lawn wasn't cheap, and it's care and treatment during the first few weeks after installation are critical to protecting your investment.
While sod includes two to three inches of soil for it's roots to cling to, it cannot contain enough nutrients or moisture to properly support the plants in that section of sod. It is essential that your sod's root growth is vigorous enough to take hold of your prepped soil surface and begin the up flow of nutrients and moisture in the shortest possible period of time.
A lawn is actually not a single plant, but rather, is composed of many thousands of live grass plants which mesh together and create their own thatch bed. This thatch bed helps the soil to remain moist for longer periods. Because newly laid sod has "seams" which allow air and sunlight to dry out the soil too quickly, proper inspection and adherence to the below watering guidelines must be observed.
Along with properly aerating and fertilizing your topsoil prior to installation, following the guidelines and procedures below will help to ensure that your turf crop is successful and truly barefoot-worthy.
Your sod must be kept thoroughly soaked for the first week to 10 days. It takes a lot of water to penetrate the sod and the soil below it. Let the sprinklers run until 1” to 1.5” is in that area. Use a cup under the sprinkler to find out how long it takes to get 1” to 1.5” of water in it. Every sprinkler is different, but it will generally take at least an hour in each spot (except on steep slopes). The edges of the lawn and parts along the walks and house are most likely to dry first, so make sure to water heavily and frequently in these areas. Steeply sloped lawn areas may slip if watered too heavily.
Important: All sod must be checked daily for watering needs. Generally, each area will need a thorough soaking every other day unless it is very hot – then you must water every day.
Your grass will always let you know if it is not getting enough water. If the sod begins to shrink and the seams open between the pieces of sod, the sod is drying out and needs water. If the grass looks grey and does not spring back up when you walk on it, the grass is wilted and needs water.
Starting your new sodded lawn during a drought can be a real challenge, so make sure to read about the new sod/landscape exemptions in Ft. Worth: http://www.fortworthgov.org/savefwwater/
After you soak the lawn the first time, it will be very soft. Do not walk on it or you will create big rips and holes in you new sod. Set your sprinklers so you can pull them to the next spot with the hose without walking on the grass. It is very important that you do not use the lawn or allow children or pets on the new sod for at least 2 weeks; or at least until it is firm enough to prevent footsteps.
Cutting & Continued Watering
When the grass grows to be about 3” tall (usually 1 week to 10 days after it is installed), you can then stop watering. Wait for the grass to get firm enough to walk on it. Then with a sharp lightweight rotary mower set to cut at 2.5” to 3” height, cut the lawn and water right away again. From his time on, the grass should be cut as needed, but never mow shorter than 2.5” and never remove more than one third of the blade of grass. Now you can reduce your watering to twice a week for the first month and then to once every 7 to 14 days. Be sure to continue watering and cutting just as long as the grass grows into the Fall.
Settling or Damage
If an area of lawn settles or becomes damaged by walking on it while too wet, pull back the sod in that area and fill the area with enough topsoil to level the area again; then relay the sod and treat the area as newly laid sod.
Fertilizing Sodded Lawns
There are many benefits associated with the use of fertilizer for your sod. The main advantage is to keep your lawn beautiful and healthy and to improve your lawns resistance to insect and disease problems. When your new sod is installed, fertilizer should be applied underneath the rolls to help the new root systems to become established quickly. Your new sod will require fertilizing approximately 5-6 weeks after it has been installed. Since each brand of fertilizer may be formulated with slight differences, be sure to read the label carefully before applying fertilizer to you new sod. If the fertilizer is applied incorrectly, the fertilizer may burn your sod. Make sure the fertilizer is appropriate for you new sod and applied at the correct rate. In addition, check the setting on your spreader to make sure the setting matches the recommended application rate on the fertilizer label. Your new sod may be fertilized every 5-6 weeks until late Fall. Once completely established, during a typical full growing season your lawn may require 4 to 5 fertilizer applications with possible weed control as needed.