Watering New Sod: Best Time, How Often and How Much Water

If you desire a beautiful lawn with healthy turfgrass that’s well-rooted, you need to maintain proper watering practices for your newly-laid sod. The most appropriate watering strategy for a new turf depends on various factors such as the turfgrass species/variety, the region’s climatic conditions, and the soil conditions in your lawn. We discuss these and more in the sections below.

How much water does new sod require?

The amount of water needed to keep new sod healthy and thriving depends on various factors, the most significant of which are highlighted below:

  1. Type of turfgrass- some turfgrass species need relatively more water than others for root establishment in new sod. For instance, newly-installed tall fescue sod has less water requirements compared to bluegrass.
  2. Climate/weather conditions- if the weather in your region is generally hot and sunny, such as in the southern states, your new sod will require more water; compared to if the same sod variety were to be grown on a lawn in a region with a cool and cloudy climate.
  3. Lawn landscape- if you have other trees and shrubs already growing on your lawn, you’ll need to water the lawn more than usual to enable your new sod to establish its roots despite the increased competition for water in the soil coming from these plants’ roots.

Frequency: how often to water new sod

The type of soil on your lawn should determine how often you water your new sod. For instance, sandy soils which have poor water-holding capabilities should be irrigated more frequently than loam or clay soil. Heavy clay soil- meanwhile- requires less frequent irrigation than sandy soil, but more frequent irrigation in comparison to loamy-clay soil.

This is because water soaks into heavy clay soil at a much slower rate, such that applying excess water in a single session leads to inefficiency due to excess runoff water. A more efficient approach would be to water in small amounts over one-hour intervals to allow for more water to soak into the soil.

How to water your new sod [Steps]

  • Start irrigating your new sod approximately half-an-hour post-installation. Thereafter, maintain a twice-per-day watering schedule for the rest of the root-establishment stage (first two weeks or so).
  • As you water your new sod, ensure that it soaks into the soil below by soaking up the entire root zone. Your average rooting depth- which you can easily measure with a soil probe- can guide you on how much you should soak your soil.
  • If possible, use a sprinkler system to water your new sod, instead of hand-watering; as the former method ensures uniform irrigation all over the lawn.
  • Avoid stepping on your lawn as you water, unless root establishment has already been achieved, as this may damage your new sod.
  • Once root anchorage is achieved, reduce your watering frequency, but apply more water each time you irrigate your sod. This will help to boost deep root growth for improved drought-tolerance of your turfgrass. To check for root establishment, you can lift the edges of your sod strips and observe for presence of roots and how deep they go.

Best time to water new sod

You should begin watering your new sod as soon as you finish installing it on your lawn. Thereafter, daily irrigation at least once per day is recommended to facilitate root anchorage. Usually, this is about until two weeks post-installation.

In terms of ‘time of day’, early-morning or late-evening irrigation is recommended, as this is when evaporation is least likely to occur. Irrigating during the middle of the day when the weather is warmer and less humid causes increased evaporation, hence, inefficient water use.

How long should you water new sod?

The duration of time spent watering your new sod should depend on your soil moisture levels and general weather conditions in your region. For instance, due to increased evaporation, you need to irrigate new sod longer in hot and windy weather compared to in cold weather.

In well-draining lawn soil, you typically want to irrigate until the soil is soaked to a depth of about six inches. However, you should water just long enough to avail enough water for root establishment, but avoid overwatering. Excessive irrigation leads to waterlogging, which inhibits root development of new sod.

To tell if you’ve been watering your new sod way longer than is necessary, check for tell-tale signs like spongy sod, muddy/soggy soil, and root decay. To check for root decay, lift the edges of your sod and note how easily it lifts. If you can’t lift the grass, it’s because proper root establishment has already taken place and your turf is healthy and well-watered. However, if the grass lifts easily and the roots have a soft texture and brown coloring, you’re probably overwatering your new sod.

To avoid overwatering newly-installed sod by watering for too long, you can occasionally lift up the edges of the sod as you continue watering to check for how deep the water has already soaked. To do this, drive a screwdriver into the ground and note the length at which there’s increased resistance to penetration. Remember, you want to water your new sod until the soil beneath it is soaked to a depth of no more than six inches. The table below also shows how long you should water depending on the stage of development of your new sod.

New sod that hasn’t yet established (first 10-14 days)Keep watering until at least the top half-inch of the soil is soaked
New sod that’s already established (after 14 days)Keep watering until the top one-inch is soaked

References

  1. https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/e2911.pdf

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