The Q&A Archives: New Sod Not Thriving

Question: We just moved in to our home a month ago. The builder had installed sod in front and back of our home. We were watering every day for 15 minutes each area that our sprinkler covered. Our lawn is so dry in spots that I can still lift it up. The back yard is full of crab grass. Should we mow the lawn and can we spray anything to kill the weeds?

Answer: With this summer's drought, it's been hard to keep lawns alive, especially if your town enforced restrictions on water use. Hopefully the sod hasn't died completely. New sod needs a lot of moisture to get established on your soil. Ideally, you need to water enough so the soil 6" below the sod is moistened. This encourages the grass roots to penetrate deeply. Once established, lawns need about an inch of water per week. To measure, place a tuna or cat food can where the sprinkler's water falls.

Often the soil around new homes has been compacted by heavy machinery and lots of activity, and the topsoil may have eroded before the sod was laid. Have a soil test done to see if you need to add nutrients to help sustain the turf.

Even when you use an herbicide, weeds will keep growing back in an area that isn't well covered by a competing plant (in your case, a lush spread of turfgrass). Healthy, thick turf is the best weed prevention. The first step is to get the grass growing well. As you mow, fertilize and water to the grass's preference, the weeds will die off because the conditions for them to thrive (mainly, lack of competition) will disappear. It will also help to use corn gluten (a natural herbicide and fertilizer) next spring. Your county agricultural extension office (ph# 540-899-4020) is a great source of information about getting the lawn back in shape. Best of luck to you!

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