How often should you water new sod? What you need to know

sod installation

If you need a new lawn quickly, sod is definitely the way to go. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap. Professional installation of just 500 square feet of sod, an area slightly smaller than two parking spaces, typically costs upwards of $750 for materials and labor. Even then, most landscapers can’t guarantee a healthy and flourishing lawn. If it dies, you have to pay even more to replace it. With that kind of investment on the line, give your lawn the care it needs to grow. All it takes is water.

What you will need to water your sod

If you don’t have an in-ground sprinkler system, you will need the following equipment:

  • Garden hose(s) long enough to reach the entire sodded area
  • Hose-end lawn sprinkler(s) of your choice
  • Several rain gauges
  • Hose “Y” or manifold splitter (optional)
  • Hose timer/automatic shutoff (optional)

Water brand new sod right away

As it grows in the field, lawn grass establishes roots about six inches deep into the soil. When the sod is harvested, however, it typically comes with a one-inch layer of soil and roots. Most of the feeder roots were left behind at the farm, and the grass will need to regrow its root system in your yard. Minimize transplant shock and encourage healthy roots by installing sod on well-prepared soil within 24 to 48 hours after harvest.

Wet the soil before laying sod

On sunny days, dry, hot, bare soil can burn the roots. This is doubly true if lime and starter fertilizer are lying on the soil’s surface. Avoid burning the roots by thoroughly tilling fertilizer and lime into the upper three inches of soil and watering the prepared soil ahead of installation. Doing so will cool the surface, dissipate any concentrated pockets of fertilizer, and provide a little bit of moisture for the new grass.

Water the newly laid sod as soon as possible

Immediately after installing the new grass, water it deeply. On large projects, start watering as soon as the first pallet or two are laid. Early, thorough watering promotes better root to soil contact, eliminates air pockets, and most importantly, begins to establish a moisture reserve that will prevent the sod from drying out. 

Saturate the soil after installation

Water the sod deeply to saturate the soil beneath. On heavy clay, water only to the point of runoff, but, for lighter soil, apply one to two inches of water immediately after installation. In either case, the soil should be wet three to four inches deep. To check the saturation, peel back a few of the sod pieces and dig down to determine the depth of moisture. Double back and rewater any dry zones several times to achieve adequate water penetration.

How often to water new sod

The first two weeks after installation are the most critical. One missed watering in conjunction with normal summer sun and heat can cause the individual pieces of sod to shrink away from one another, leaving a patchwork lawn. Inadequate watering also leads to dead zones, typically in the sunniest and most sloped portions of the yard. Avoid these common mishaps with a consistent 14-day watering schedule.

Week one

For the first week after installation, apply a quarter-inch of water twice daily. Water first in the early morning, between four and ten o’clock, then again in the late afternoon or early evening. This consistent hydration will help the grass produce new feeder roots, making for a stronger and more resilient lawn. At the end of the week, peel back the corners of a few pieces of sod and look for the short, white roots that should be starting to grow into the soil below.

Week two

During the second week, apply a half-inch of water once daily. Stick with the early morning watering schedule, but bear in mind that it will take twice as long as before. Applying more water all at once and letting it dry out later in the day will cause the young feeder roots to “chase” the moisture deeper into the soil. This adjustment also conditions the grass for better drought tolerance, encouraging it to seek out water at greater depths. At the end of the second week, the sod pieces should be knitting together and you should not be able to pull up corners.

After the first two weeks

Once your new sod has established deep feeder roots and the edges have grown together, adjust to a more normal lawn watering pattern. For the healthiest growth and appearance, ensure your lawn receives approximately 1.5 inches of water per week from a combination of rain and irrigation. If there’s no rain in the forecast, water the grass three times per week, applying a half-inch each time.

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