The Q&A Archives: How to take care of sod

Question: I just put some new sod in my backyard. What do I need to do next? My townhouse association only gave me 2 weeks to regrown turf grass.

Answer: Your newly installed sod will need nothing but water to keep it healthy and happy. Proper watering immediately after installation will ensure the turf gets established, and it will also have an impact on how well the lawn continues to flourish for years to come.

Begin watering new turfgrass sod within a half hour after it is laid on the soil. Apply at least 1 inch of water so that the soil beneath the turf is very wet. Ideally, the soil 3 to 4 inches below the surface should be moist.

Watering Tip #1: pull back a corner of the turf and push a screwdriver or other sharp tool into the soil. It should push in easily and have moisture along the first 3 or 4 inches, or you need to apply more water.

Watering Tip #2: make absolutely certain that water is getting to all areas of your new lawn, regardless of the type of sprinkling system you use. Corners and edges are easily missed by many sprinklers and are particularly vulnerable to drying out faster than the center portion of your lawn. Also, areas near buildings dry-out faster because of reflected heat and may require more water.

Watering Tip #3: runoff may occur on some soils and sloped areas before the soil is adequately moist. To conserve water and ensure adequate soak-in, turn off the water when runoff begins, wait 30-minutes to an hour and restart the watering on the same area, repeating this start and stop process, until proper soil moisture is achieved.

For the next two weeks keep the below-turf soil surface moist with daily (or more frequent) watering. Especially hot, dry or windy periods will necessitate increased watering amounts and frequency.

Watering Tip #4: as the turf starts to knit its new roots into the soil, it will be difficult, impossible and/or harmful to pull back a corner to check beneath the turf, but you can still use a sharp tool to check moisture depth by pushing it through the turf and into the soil.

Watering Tip #5: water as early in the morning as possible to take advantage of the daily start of the grass's normal growing cycle, usually lower wind speeds and considerably less loss of water because of high temperature evaporation.

During the rest of the growing season most lawns will grow very well with a maximum total of one inch of water a week, coming either from rain or applied water. This amount of water, properly applied, is all that is required for the health of the grass, providing it is applied evenly and saturates the underlying soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Infrequent and deep watering is preferred to frequent and shallow watering because the roots will only grow as deeply as its most frequently available water supply. Deeply rooted grass has a larger "soil-water bank" to draw moisture from and this will help the grass survive drought and hot weather that rapidly dries out the upper soil layer

Best wishes with your new sod!

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