Caring for Sod

Posted on May 29th, 2015 by John Foegley

Caring for sod is incredibly important if you want it to look great. Follow this plan for early and long term sod care!

Early Sod Care

  1. First day watering – Check your new sod a few hours after it has been laid by walking on it. If you make deep footprints, it has enough water. If the soil is firm, lift a corner of the sod to inspect. The soil on the back of the sod should be damp to wet. If it is not damp, water at least 30 minutes.
  2. Second through fifth day watering – Check your lawn at least one time per day or more than once if it is hot or windy. Walk on the new lawn and inspect it. If the soil is soft and you make deep footprints, or water has puddled in areas, it is too wet and you should stop watering for awhile and reduce the amount of future watering. If the soil is firm, lift a corner of several pieces of sod. The soil should be damp, not dripping wet or dusty dry. Areas where the grass has wilted or turned straw color have not received enough water. If cracks appear between the rolls, this indicates not enough water has been applied. Water more often to correct this. Under watered sod usually will turn green again in seven days or so if corrective measures were taken soon enough. Temperatures above 80 generally mean more water is needed, and below 60 mean less water is needed. In the cooler months of March, April, October and November, sod needs much less water.
  3. Further watering – After five days or so, the soil has soaked up water like a sponge and you must reduce your watering habits. Grass plant roots will not grow into waterlogged soils! Begin stretching out the time between watering. When fully rooted, most lawns need to be watered only one time per week.
  4. Mowing – Mow your new grass when it needs it. Follow Long Term recommendations for the month you are in. Arrange it so you do not water just before mowing to prevent the making of footprints.
  5. Fertilization – Do not apply any fertilizer for at least three weeks after installation. Then, fertilize by the program you have selected.
  6. Herbicides – Do not apply any crabgrass herbicides for at least one year after installation.

Long term sod care

  1. Mowing – From May through mid September, mow at 2 ½ to 3 inches high. From mid September through November, gradually lower the height of each mowing to a final height of 1 ½ inches. Mowing short all year long is bad for your grass.
  2. Clippings – Clippings should not be collected unless they are long and smother the grass. Clippings do not add to the thatch but do recycle nutrients to the soil.
  3. Watering – Most people tend to over water if they have an automatic sprinkler system without a soil moisture sensor. Lawns usually need to be watered only from June through early September. During these months, a lawn may need 1 ½ inches of water per week, depending on soil type, rooting depth and rainfall received. Water when the soil is dry 5 inches deep, not when a timer says so or when other people water. Water long enough to wet the soil 5 inches deep and wait to water again until the soil is dry down 5 inches. You can see this is watering deeply and infrequently. Ten or twenty minutes of watering daily on a healthy lawn is wrong and will cause serious problems. You can use a garden trowel or screwdriver to dig or poke in the ground to determine how dry the soil is. How long you water to wet down 5 inches depends on how much your system applies. Experiment with your system to see how much it applies. A lawn can be watered anytime of the day, but it is best to avoid watering in the late afternoon and early evening.


It is important to fertilize by a program, whether you hire the work done or do it yourself. Contact one of the many commercial applicators or visit one of the stores in the area that sell a fertilizer program. We recommend the following four step program:

a. May 15 4 # of 25-3-3 per 1000 square feet.

b. July 1 3 # of 25-3-3 per 1000 square feet

c. Sept 1 10 # of 10-5-14 per 1000 square feet

d. Nov 1 10 # of 10-5-14 per 1000 square feet.

Finding an exact match of the numbers on the bag is not essential. Just try to stay close. If you have extra high expectations for your lawn, it is a good idea to have your soil tested periodically to see if any nutrients are low. Ask your commercial applicator to test for you or call Red Hen and we will send you materials and instructions.

Red Hen Turf’s Sod Care Instructions