You’ve recently installed your new sod lawn and followed all the necessary installation requirements to ensure fast growth of your new turfgrass. You’ve also maintained a regular watering procedure since installation, applied a slow-release fertilizer, and are beginning to notice a significant amount of grass growth.
At this point, the next step in your journey to achieving a lush, dense turf is to mow your lawn. However, you’re not sure whether the time is right.
Mowing your turfgrass has multiple benefits for your lawn and overall curb appeal. For starters, a well-manicured lawn, with uniform-height grass has an attractive appearance. In addition, frequent mowing boosts dense growth, with fuller turfs being considered more appealing to the eye. And let’s not forget how mowing helps choke out weeds and keep off certain pests that thrive in long grass.
Despite all these advantages that mowing presents, you should only do it at the appropriate time, or else run the risk of ruining your newly-installed sod lawn. Mowing too early before root anchorage will result in sod damage, while mowing too late will most likely lead to weak and unhealthy turfgrass. In this blog, we go through when to mow a new sod, how to tell if the time is right, and the consequences of not mowing your newly-planted sod.
When to Mow a New Sod
- Initial mowing- depending on the particular type of turfgrass you’re growing on your lawn, it’ll take anywhere from 7-42 days for the sod to reach proper anchorage that can withstand mowing. There are various care routines that you can use to speed up the rate at which your newly-established sod takes root. These include: watering frequently after installation, minimizing foot traffic on the lawn for the first couple weeks, and applying a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer after sod installation.
- Regular mowing- after initial mowing, subsequent, regular mowings are best undertaken when daily temperatures are at their lowest: typically early mornings or late evenings. This is because mowing during hot weather stunts growth.
When mowing, follow the procedure below:
- Set the cutting height to about three-inches, as you only want to cut back about a third of the length of the grass blades with each mowing session. Setting lower cutting heights will take off more of the blade surface area, thus hampering photosynthesis and affecting plant growth.
- For the initial mowing, ensure the type of mower you’re using is not too heavy to avoid peeling back the new sod. An appropriate mower for such a situation would be a walk-behind power mower, which is lightweight compared to heavier riding mowers.
- Practice leaving grass clippings on the lawn to provide nutrients for the roots.
How to tell your new sod is ready for mowing
Remember, the last thing you want to do is to mow your new sod too early, as this will most likely result in grass damage. Mowing before the sod is well-established into the soil leads to peeling back of entire sod patches. You should- therefore- only consider mowing after the root system has been well-established into the soil. Remember, some sod varieties develop lush green growth just a few days after installation, which might trick you into thinking that your turf is ready to be mowed- when it’s not.
While sod may develop roots from as early as within the first couple days post-installation, these roots are typically too shallow at this stage to keep the sod from being peeled back by powerful mower blades. What’s more, depending on various factors like soil conditions and the amount of soil water available, the period it takes for newly-installed sod may vary anywhere from a week to six weeks. Which is why it’s important to gauge whether your newly-installed sod is ready for mowing by carrying out a root attachment test.
You can undertake the root establishment test for your turfgrass from the start of the second week post-installation. Try to uproot a few of the grass plants using only minimal force and observe the results. If most of the grass maintains a firm hold, then it’s ready to be mowed. On the contrary, if majority of the grass plants uproot with just a little application of force, you should consider waiting a while longer before mowing.
How to Care for New Sod after Mowing
- Water less often- after the initial mowing, your new sod will benefit from less irrigation. Normally, three watering sessions per day should be enough at this stage.
- Water when temperatures cool down- the best time to water your lawn grass post-mowing is when there’s minimal evaporation. That’s usually in the mornings or evenings. The low evaporation rate allows for more water to drain into the soil, consequently facilitating root growth of the grass.
- If you’ve already mowed your new sod a few times and the rot system is established, watering on alternate days won’t hurt. In fact, about a month post-installation, and after three or four mowings, you can comfortably scale down the watering frequency to once per day every three days.
What happens if you don’t mow a new sod?
If you don’t mow your new sod at the appropriate intervals, the most obvious effect is long, unsightly lawn grass. But that’s not only problem, as leaving your grass uncut also affects the health of the root systems. Here’s a detailed look at each of the above negative effects of not mowing your lawn grass:
- Unattractive lawn grass
Tall/overgrown lawn grass has an unsightly appearance, which is compounded by the inconsistent height of the individual grass blades. With continued lack of mowing, the seeding period comes in and the grass blades assume a weed-like appearance. Not only does very tall lawn grass water down your home’s curb appeal, but also puts you at risk of attracting legal fines from local authorities if you live in a city that requires residents to keep their lawn grass mowed/no longer than a given height.
Also, uncut grass will grow long and thin, and you’ll be more likely to end up with bare spots on your lawn, which are definitely an eyesore. By contrast, frequent mowing triggers production of new shoots and leaves to restore the grass’ photosynthesis capacity; with the new leaves and shoots resulting in a denser turfgrass appearance that’s visually appealing. High turf-density not only has an aesthetic purpose, but also a functional one, as denser turfgrass is typically more resistant to wear from high foot traffic, or other physical stressors.
- Unhealthy lawn grass
This occurs when you fail to mow your new sod at the appropriate time period, then attempt to rectify the mistake by mowing one-third of the total blade length of the grass. This causes a drop in the growth rate of the root systems, consequently resulting in weaker grass that’s more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
What’s more, failing to mow encourages the continued growth of weeds that compete for valuable soil nutrients with your turfgrass, consequently hampering the growth and health of your grass. You should- therefore- ensure timely mowing after planting your new sod to ensure the grass stays healthy.