How to Install and Care for Your New Sod
Proper soil preparation is important to the establishment of your sod. Ideally, the soil should be tilled to a depth of about 6 inches and then raked out to level any high or low spots. The tilled area should then be lightly rolled with a lawn roller to firm up the soil so it won't settle after watering the sod. Of course, many people lay sod with little or no preparation and often have no problems. It depends on your site conditions.
Install your lawn immediately upon delivery. During hot weather, (90 degrees or above) the sod should be installed within 24 hours or it may spoil. Sod is a living plant that requires ground contact and moisture to survive.
Begin installing sod along a good straight edge such as a sidewalk or lot line of the property that has a string stretched from one end to the other. Lay two or three rolls of sod along the straight edge. Then go back to the start and lay another roll along side the first roll you put down. Cut this roll in half and follow this 1/2 roll with a full one. Continue this brickwork or stairstep pattern for the whole job. Doing it this way is faster and keeps the seams from lining up, which looks nicer.
Butt and push edges and ends against each other tightly without stretching. For trimming, use a sharp, stiff bladed knife, such as a linoleum knife. When you finish an area, go over it and look for small holes or seams that are wider than they should be. These can be patched with small pieces of sod from your trimmings. Avoid leaving narrow strips at outer edge as they will not retain moisture. On slopes, place sod across the slope and if you are laying sod on a steep slope, the sod may have to be staked. To avoid causing indentations or pockets, avoid repeated walking or kneeling on sod while it is being installed or just after watering. After installing turf, roll the entire area to improve sod/soil contact and remove air pockets.
Watering must be started immediately after the sod is installed. Ideally, watering should begin as soon as an area large enough to put down a sprinkler is ready. This way you can get started watering while the rest of the sod is being installed.
It is essential that enough water is put down the first time to thoroughly soak the sod and the soil under the sod. You can check the moisture content by lifting a flap of the sod and sticking your finger into the soil. It should be moist at least 2 inches deep. By giving the sod a heavy first watering you will rid the sodded area of air pockets which dry out the sod.
Pay special attention to the corners and edges of newly sodded areas, they tend to dry out sooner and they are hard to water properly. You may have to hand water these areas.
If a newly sodded area accidentally does dry out, it will probably turn brown. It is not dead, and will green up in about two weeks with proper water application.
After the first watering, water enough to keep the soil under the sod moist, but not muddy. In cool weather this may mean watering only every 3 or 4 days. In very hot weather, you may have to water daily. Do not allow the sod or soil underneath to dry out between waterings.
In about two weeks the sod should have begun to knit to the soil underneath and the watering can be lessened to once or twice per week depending on the weather conditions. Water anytime the sod has a dry pale blue gray color or if the grass does not spring back after walking on it.
It is important to know that frequent shallow waterings are NOT good for your lawn. They cause the root system to grow near the surface. For the best results, water less often and be sure they are deep waterings. Over time the roots will follow the water down into the soil and you will have lush healthy turf.
Caution: During first three weeks, avoid heavy or concentrated use of your new lawn. This gives the roots an opportunity to firmly knit with soil, and insures that the turf will remain smooth.
Mowing Your New Sod
About two weeks after installation, your new lawn may need mowing. It is important to let your lawn dry out for a day or two so it firms up before going over it with a heavy machine. Make sure that the mowing height is set at about 3 inches. Letting your lawn grow a little longer is good for the grass because it encourages a strong root system. Never mow shorter than 2 inches and never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade at any one mowing. Using a mulching mower is a great idea. It returns the clippings to the lawn so they can decompose and provide added nutrients.