The installation of sod is a popular way to establish a new lawn. Most of the warm season sod installed by Blade and Petal are the local favorites, Centipede, St. Augustin or Zoyzia. Of course there are other types of sod available for your lawn. These are just the most popular. When installed correctly on properly amended soil, in the appropriate sunlight conditions and where correct maintenance is provided, a sod lawn can be a valuable part of your landscape. There can be many potential problems in installing a sod lawn. Sod is often installed on top of soil that has had little or no preparation, for example. Inadequate consideration is often given to the sunlight requirements of each turfgrass species. Many new lawn owners are misadvised as to the maintenance requirements of various sod types. Some require varying levels of maintenance to perform at its best and to offer its best qualities. Blade and Petal Landscaping knows your lawn and how property install new sod. With a little planning, preparation and correct maintenance warm season sod (and other types) can be an asset to your property.
Site Selection and Preparation:
Survey the site before selecting the grass type and/or varieties that will dominate the sod you purchase. Most of the warm season varieties grow best in sites receiving full sunlight all day. There are a few varieties that will tolerate moderate amounts of shade such as St. Augustine and Zoyza. If the site is too shady you will need to consider another type of grass for best results.
If obnoxious perennial and/or annual weeds exist on the site it is best to consider controlling these (if possible) before the sod lawn is installed.
Drainage problems need to be addressed before installing sod. If excess water does not drain rapidly through the soil, the turfgrass will have a poor root system and will grow weak. In some instances you may need to consider installing a drainage system to move excess water from problem areas in your yard to areas where the water will not cause a problem.
Be sure to grade the soil away from fixed points on your yard (i.e. your house, the sidewalk, etc.). You should do this with gradual, gentle slopes so that water will be directed away from your home and off your property.
The need to acquire topsoil is not a necessity when installing a sod lawn. Often existing soil is suitable for sod or can be improved to make it suitable. The soil is tested for soil pH and nutrient levels. The test results will direct in how to improve the existing soil. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for best results. Limestone is used to increase the soil pH and should be mixed with the top 6 inches of soil before the soil is final graded. If not testing the soil, certain “rules of thumb” in regard to additions of limestone and fertilizer. Add 50 lbs. of dolomitic limestone per 1000 square feet. Starter fertilizers in 1-2-1 or 3-4-1 ratios (i.e. 10-20-10 or 18-24-6) should be added at the rate of 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. The limestone and fertilizer should be mixed with the top 6 inches of soil. Most soils benefit from additions of organic matter. To improve a sandy soil, work about 1-2 inches of organic matter into the top 4-6 inches of soil. Another method is to thoroughly mix 1 inch of heavier soil with the top 4 inches of sand. A better alternative is to add both organic matter and heavier soil rather than one or the other. If a heavy or “clay-like” soil needs improvement, then work organic matter into it. Do not add sand into a clay soil, since this will cause it to pack harder than before much like concrete. Organic matter sources vary. Using 4 large (6-cubic foot) bales of peat or 2 to 3 cubic yards of well-rotted manure or cultivated peat. Similar amounts of finished compost could also be considered. These volumes would be evenly spread across 1000 square feet and mixed with the top 4-6 inches of soil.
If topsoil is needed, it would be applied to a level of at least 4-6 inches of good topsoil, even though it is expensive. Consider this as a least amount since a 6-inch layer of loose soil settles to about 5 inches. Turfgrass roots will occupy approximately 5 or 6 inches of soil. If the topsoil layer is too thin the turf may actually be growing in the pre-existing soil. When purchasing topsoil, have adequate time to have the soil tested for pH, nutrients and physical analysis. Soil grade changes have the potential to damage and kill existing trees on your property. If topsoil is added over the roots of existing trees it is imperative to take the appropriate steps necessary to prevent damaging and killing trees. A simple “well” constructed around the trunks of trees is not sufficient.
Sod should be installed on top of finely graded soil. After installations of all drainage systems, added topsoil and or soil amendments and have rough graded the area it is time to final grade. The soil should is raked to produce a smooth surface. This firms the soil and allows any remaining small humps and hollows to show in the soil, which should be corrected at this time. A mixture of soil granules and small clods of soil is preferred over a soil with a very powdery surface. A single trip with a light roller over the soil in order to firm the soil and to show any small humps and hollows which may need correcting.
Installing the Sod
With proper irrigation, sod can be installed almost anytime during the growing season when the ground is not frozen. When possible, sod is installed in the late summer to early fall. As with seeding, this time of the year is usually very conducive to the environmental conditions needed for rapid establishment. Although possible, it is best to avoid installing sod during very hot, dry and humid conditions of mid-summer. The frequent watering needed to establish new sod during this time may encourage diseases such as Pythium blight, which can be devastating to a lawn. The sod pieces can not be dried out or wilted. Also the pieces are at least 1 inch thick. If the sod must be freshly cut and healthy. Do not leave the sod stacked in piles. If not installed immediately, lay the pieces out in a shady location. For best results the sod should be laid as soon after delivery as possible, preferably no more than 36 hours after it is cut. The soil should be flat and moderately moist. If needed, water the soil ahead of time very lightly. This improves the ability of the sod to survive and knit in faster. Lay the sod strips on the prepared soil tightly together, edge to edge, with staggered joints like bricks in a wall. Fill cracks with soil if necessary. Immediately soak the newly laid sod thoroughly. As soon as it is dry enough to walk on, lightly roll or tamp the sod to give a good contact with the soil beneath. This is necessary to remove any air pockets that will interfere with proper rooting. Watering Correct watering after installing the sod is critical to its survival. The idea is to keep the soil under the sod moist as well as the soil that comes with each sod piece. This does not mean constantly wet and soggy. Usually 1 inch of water every 2 to 3 days applied in the early part of the day will be sufficient to keep the soil moist. Measure 1 inch of water by placing several straight sided coffee cans in the sprinkler output pattern. Check on the moisture conditions from time to time by lifting the corners of the sod pieces. If the sod/soil seems excessively wet by the second day then delay watering until the third day. Water only as frequently as necessary to keep the soil/sod moist, not soggy and wet. It is most important that you do not over-water and avoid saturating the sod/soil since this will prevent the sod from re-rooting and cause the roots to rot. After the sod has knitted (rooted) to the soil (from 1-3 weeks) it is important to change the watering schedule. Watering should be done thoroughly to soak the root zone (top 4-5 inches of soil) but infrequently. Providing 1 inch of supplemental irrigation every 4-7 days (depending on soil, temperatures and rainfall) should be adequate for most lawns. There is no need for daily watering of a sod lawn. Mowing Normally a newly installed sod lawn will probably require mowing 4 to 7 days after it is installed. Avoid over-mowing; consider a length of approximately 2 inches for the lawn. Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade when mowing the lawn. It is not necessary to remove or pick up grass clippings after mowing if you mow the lawn as frequently as is necessary. Grass clippings do not cause thatch layers. Fertilizing The lawn will probably require fertilizing approximately 4-6 weeks after it is installed. Apply a complete fertilizer with a ratio of 2-1-1 or 4-1-3 at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Lightly water in the fertilizer after it is applied.