Getting new sod is a great experience whether you do it yourself or have it professionally installed. The grass will look oh so healthy and is just begging for a game of croquet. Sadly, many new sod installations barely make it to the end of the season due to improper care. Freshly installed sod requires extra maintenance, and without proper care, you’ll be screaming “Oh my Sod!!”
This mistake is made sadly too often. New sod must be traffic free until its roots get into the soil. Park your mower away and get ready to walk the dogs more, ‘cause the new grass needs to get comfortable. The time for establishment will vary based on climate, grass type, and soil quality, but it’s typically 2-3 weeks.
Grass needs a special watering schedule in these first few weeks so it feels welcome in its new home. Unlike for established lawns, new sod needs to be watered briefly and infrequently. Just remember the guideline of 2-3: water for 2-3 minutes, 2-3 times a day, for 2-3 weeks. This schedule is just a guideline, and you’ll need to keep an eye on your grass and soil. You don’t want the under-sod soil to become saturated (poking in a bamboo chopstick can help you check this). If the grass turns tan, dark blue, grey or any other color than green, chances are it needs more water.
Almost, but not quite. At this point, you can go ahead and switch to a normal watering schedule. The last step is proper and gradual mowing. Whether your grass is brand new or decades old, you always want to follow the 1/3 rule. You never want to mow off more than 1/3 of the blades’ height (exceptions for Bermuda grass.) Cut your sod too low and it will be its last mow. Cutting more than 1/3 will trigger the grass to focus on foliage growth and neglect root growth; and new sod already has puny roots.
This might make things difficult if you’re aiming for optimal mowing height, but there’s a nice work around. Simply mow every other day towards your target height while maintaining the 1/3 rule.
Before you fire up the mower, the blades need to be sharpened. Dull blades will tug grass, and this can be a death sentence for your new lawn with its shallow roots.
It sure is! Grass is a living organism just like you and me; it needs to be treated as such. In the case of sod and plugs, the grass was literally ripped away from its home and forced to live in a strange new place; it needs some extra TLC for a safe transition. After the first three weeks, you’ll still want to keep a close eye on your lawn and quickly identify and locate any problems. Moderate foot traffic is fine in the first year, but I wouldn’t host any rugby practices on your infant lawn.
The first year is the toughest, but after that it gets much, much easier. When the grass comes back the following spring, it will be far better acclimated and comfortable in its new home; it won’t need as much attention.