Sod is one of the most effective and popular ways to create a new lawn. While it’s most commonly used in new construction homes and major outdoor remodeling projects, some homeowners choose to lay sod in areas where they want to expand their lawn. It’s also a great way to address large dead spots in your lawn during times of the year when grass seed grows poorly.
Though since it’s grass, it does need to be mowed. Yet you don’t want to mow it too soon after installation, as it could damage the delicate roots of the grass and the sensitive balance of the fledgling turf.
As a general rule, you should wait at least two weeks before mowing new sod. This will give the roots the time they need to establish themselves in the underlying subsoil. Though simply passing a lawnmower over the sodded area isn’t the only thing you need to do to maintain and establish new sod.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the factors that go into mowing sod, like timing, the height of the cutting deck, and other important factors. We’ll also look at some of the other important details to help get your sod off to a great start during its first year.
- No walking for at least 2 weeks
- Fertilize before mowing
- Water before mowing
- Ready to mow
Keep Off The Sod. No Walking On New Sod
When sod is first installed, there is little to no connection between the roots and the underlying subsoil. When kids, pets, neighbors, and delivery people walk across the young sod it can disrupt the roots pulling them out of the soil. It can also compact the turf leading to a loss of aeration and make it difficult for the sod to absorb water.
It’s best to keep any and all foot traffic off of young sod for at least two weeks. Even after mowing, it would help to keep foot traffic off the sod for a full six weeks. Putting up warning markers might also serve as a reminder for kids and visitors.
Fertilizing New Sod Before Mowing
Proper fertilization is a critical component of getting your newly sodded grass off to a great start. There are spray fertilizers specifically formulated for sod sold in the garden section of most big box hardware stores. Giving the sod a good boost a day or so before the first mowing will promote good root growth as well as give the grass a nice boost for regrowth.
Watering Your Sod Before Mowing
Moisture is critical for vigorous grass growth. It’s especially important for establishing sod. Ideally, you want to water your sod right after installing it, and continue watering it at least once if not twice a day. Then it needs to be watered 3 to 5 times over the course of the first two weeks. You might need to water more if the seasonal weather is especially dry.
Watering the sod thoroughly the day before you mow it for the first time will also help the roots establish themselves. Depending on the type of fertilizer you choose, you might be able to fertilize and water at the same time.
What Are The Benefits Of Mowing New Sod?
Mowing new sod every two weeks does more than just keep it looking pretty. It also encourages the sod to grow thicker and fuller. Not to mention it also helps to choke out weeds and crabgrass. Properly mowed and maintained sod also helps discourage insects, grass spiders, and other pests. It also reduced potential problems caused by a soil fungus.
How High To Cut New Sod
Let’s say you resisted the temptation to mow too early and you’ve given your sod a solid two weeks, without kids, pets, or delivery people walking on it. With proper watering and fair weather, your new sod’s roots should have a reasonably firm grip on the underlying subsoil. If you are curious, you might want to try pulling up a small corner to see how the roots are doing.
The height to set your lawnmower’s cutting deck will vary depending on the prevailing weather pattern as well as the type of grass in your sod. If the extended forecast is calling for prolonged dry weather, and you don’t have a lawn irrigation system, you might want to leave the grass a little taller than you would for an established lawn. This will help retain soil moisture levels.
Popular types of grass like Kentucky bluegrass and fast-growing fine fescue can be cut down as low as 1.5 to 2 inches. Yet tall fescues and perennial ryegrass need more soil moisture for the blade mass and should be left between of 2 to 3 inches high during dry conditions.
Caring For Sod After The First Mowing Session
After the first two weeks and the first mowing, the roots of the grass should have penetrated down into the subsoil by a quarter to half an inch. This is the point where you might need to practice a little “Tough Love” by reducing the watering frequency.
This will encourage the roots to dig down deep. Just don’t get too tough. You’re not trying to simulate a drought. Ideally, if the weather is reasonable, you can cut the watering sessions back to every other day. Then after a month to six weeks, you can dial it back further to once every three days.
When Should I Water Sod?
If you have an automated sprinkler system or you are hand watering, setting up the watering session with a good soaking in the morning is best. This will let the water saturate deep down into the turf layers before the heat of the rising sun can evaporate it. If the regional weather is hot and dry, you might want to also water the sod again in the late afternoon to early evening. This will ensure that moisture stays in the turf.
If possible, you don’t want to water within two to three hours of sunset. Excess water in the turf can promote certain types of soil fungus and other pests that could damage young sod.