Sod Refuses To Root - Knowledgebase Question

Brooklyn, NY
Question by wdegraw
June 27, 1999
Six weeks ago - in mid May - I laid approx. 200 sq. ft. of sod in the yard of my Brooklyn townhouse. However, the sod just hasn't taken root yet and each section will literally lift up like a doormat when lifted. (The soil underneath has always been arable and seems healthy still.) The yard is mostly shaded by a magnolia, a japanese maple and a dogwood tree but the sun light does manage to hit each segment of the lawn intermitantly throughout the day. The grass is rapidly growing and requires a regular mowing and I am watering the lawn - both to suggested degrees. Is it too early to start worrying and if not, what should I be worried about?

Answer from NGA
June 27, 1999


Usually, sod will start to root within a week or so and attaches itself pretty firmly (so it's not liftable) in four to six weeks. Without knowing how you prepared the soil ahead of time or how you initially laid and rolled the sod it is hard to diagnose what the problem is.

Ideally, the soil beneath the sod would have been deeply prepared with amendments and any fertilizers added as per soil test results and watered so that it was damp ahead of time, then the sod laid, rolled to assure good root to soil contact and immediately watered very deeply to about eight inches down. Next, you would water daily but lightly for about a week until it began to root, then back off slightly with the watering as the roots grow deeper. After a few weeks, watering would be about twice a week. Eventually it is tight to the ground and that is when you can walk on it or use it.

Watering can be tricky. You need to keep the roots and top layer of soil moist yet not turn the whole thing into a soggy muddy mess because saturated soil will inhibit rooting. On the other hand, so will dry soil.

It is also possible that you have literally pulled up the sod or hindered rooting by mowing too soon. Mowing new sod can be nerve wracking. It is better to let it grow very tall than mow too early! Mowing too short also slows rooting. Finally, if the grass ends up being very tall before you can mow it, then you have to bring the height down gradually by no more than a third at a time so as not to shock it.

If you are concerned about the quality of the sod, you might contact the supplier. If you have concerns about the soil in your yard, you might consult with your County Extension (566-0673) for information about soil testing as well as any special localized conditions affecting sod establishment.

Good luck with that lawn!

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