Ask A Lawn Sodding Expert
Owner Ben Schneider, The Sod Installation Guy, and his team answer common questions about new lawn care in the People Ask: Lawn Sodding Q&A.
Q&A on New Lawn Care
Once you’ve installed sod in your lawn, new lawn care is crucial to ensure its health, lush appearance, and longevity. Understanding the best practices for taking care of your new lawn such as watering, mowing, fertilization, and weed control will ensure you can establish a healthy foundation.
Questions & Answers from Peak Sodding
When should you mow your new sod?
New sod should not be mowed until it is well rooted. We recommend waiting 4 weeks after installation.
- For the first mow, raise your mower blade a notch higher than the desired/recommended height for your sod variety and bag the clippings.
- 4-5 days later, drop the mower blade to the recommended height and bag again.
Then you can skip bagging for the rest of the season as long as your mowing frequency matches the recommended frequency for your sod variety. If you miss a mowing period, repeat steps 1 and 2 above.
After my new sod is installed, what do I do for weed control?
New sod is very sensitive to chemicals, so weed control can be tricky. And it is very important to know the difference between a pre-emergent weed killer and a post-emergent weed killer. Pre-emergent is spread all over the lawn to stop weeds while they are in their germination period, and timing is everything! Post-emergent is used once the weeds have appeared and kills the weed through chemical contact with the leaves. Post-emergent is applied directly to the weed, not spread all over the lawn like pre-emergent. We do not recommend using a pre-emergent weed killer in the first season. If you have applied a pre-emergent, you must wait at least 6 weeks before installing new sod. Pre-emergent will cause the tender roots of new sod to form clubbed ends and the sod will fail to root into the soil.
Pre-emergent is applied in late winter to early spring, and again in the fall. For new fescue installed in the fall, do not apply pre-emergent until the early spring application. For warm-season grasses installed in spring, do not apply pre-emergent until the following late winter or early spring application.
Post-emergent weed killers can be applied once the new sod has rooted well. The rule of thumb is to wait until you have mowed a newly sodded lawn 3 times before applying a post-emergent weed killer.
Always apply these chemicals according to the exact directions! An excess application can kill your lawn! If the weeds are few and far between, hand weeding is the best practice. Frequent mowing, keeping the lawn to its ideal height, will also help suppress weeds, and will often prevent them from producing seeds for the next year.
How do I handle bugs in my new grass?
Not all insects are bad. In fact, most are beneficial, so it is important to identify insects before setting out to kill them. Bees are at serious risk due to the broad application of pesticides in our society. I highly recommend following IPM (Integrated Pest Management) protocols when considering insect control.
In the greater Raleigh area, there are a limited number of insect species responsible for lawn damage, so please capture and identify any insects you suspect of harming the lawn before applying pesticides. NCSU and the state Cooperative Extension Service are great resources, as are local lawn experts. Specific chemicals kill specific insects, so identification is critical if you are considering pesticides.
How can you ensure a healthy root system with a new lawn?
Healthy roots require freshly harvested sod and loose, nutritious soil. We have all seen sod for sale at the national big box stores. Unless you arrive on the day it is unloaded, there is no telling how long it has been there. A reputable sod company like Super-Sod will sell the fresh sod for one day after harvesting, and then any left-over sod is discounted, and they inform you of the day it was harvested. We buy our sod from reputable sod growers and have it delivered no later than the day after harvesting. We prepare your soil properly, loosening it 2-3 inches deep and amending it with a 50/50 mix of topsoil and compost. We then apply a 5-10-30 fertilizer to encourage root and stem growth. We then instruct you on proper watering and care. If you have concerns, we respond quickly to provide direction and helpful information.
How long does it take for new grass to become established?
New sod will take 1-2 weeks to begin rooting, and 4-6 weeks to become firmly rooted. However, it will take about a year for it to become deployed and rooted, so you must be careful to follow care instructions closely in the first year of growth. There is a fun little poem that explains plant growth, and it pertains to grass as well as any other plant – The first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, the third it leaps!
What’s the recommendation for fertilization after my new lawn is installed?
Once your new lawn is installed you will need to follow specific fertilization instructions for the grass type.
1. Fescue should be fertilized with 16-4-8 in early October, mid-November, and early February. Never fertilize fescue in hot weather.
2. Zoysia should be fertilized with 16-4-8 in early May and mid-June.
Bermuda should be fertilized with 16-4-8 in early May, mid-June, and early August.
3. Centipede should be fertilized with 5-1`0-30 in early May. That’s it! Never use a high-nitrogen fertilizer on centipede or St. Augustine.
Never fertilize warm-season grasses in cool weather, or while they are dormant or approaching dormancy. You can use a top-dressing compost to replace one of the scheduled fertilizations of any grass if your soil quality is poor.
Should you aerate your new lawn?
A new lawn should not be aerated. It must be allowed to root thoroughly before the disruption of aeration. For a cool season lawn (Fescue) we recommend aeration each fall with over-seeding followed by a light application of compost. For a warm-season lawn, we recommend not aerating until year 3, and then aeration should be done every 2-3 years in the growing months (May and June are ideal) followed by a light application of compost or level mix.
Should you increase what’s recommended for watering a new lawn if the temperatures outside are 90+ when it’s installed?
Yes! In high temperatures, water evaporates much more quickly. When temperatures are above 85 degrees, we recommend 3 deep waterings a day for a new lawn for the first 2 weeks: early morning, lunch time, and late-afternoon or early evening. You can cut back to twice a day in the 3rd week, and once a day in the 4th week. Then water as needed. Never water at night because fungal diseases are more likely to spread and become problematic. Always water when the sun and wind can dry out the lawn before nightfall.
How do I handle weeds on my new lawn?
Weeds in a new lawn are challenging because you cannot apply chemicals right away. While preparing the soil for sodding can remove most visible weeds, it does not always remove all the roots, and it does not remove weed seeds. In addition, you cannot apply a pre-emergence weed killer to eliminate the seeds prior to seeding because it will damage the new sod roots. In the installation process, the soil is cultivated, visible weeds are removed, nutritious soil and fertilizer are spread, and then the new sod is watered frequently. Any weed seeds or roots in the soil enjoy these conditions just as much as the new sod does! Weeds pop up and the homeowner thinks the weeds came with the sod. This is usually incorrect. In these early days, the tender new sod cannot tolerate weed killers, so you must remove weeds mechanically by pulling them out. Once new sod has been mowed 3 times (after about 6 weeks), you can apply the correct post-emergent weed killer. Pre-emergence weed killers should not be applied until the second season.
Should you feed a new lawn with a fertilizer?
Fertilization should be done in conjunction with sod installation. Make sure to check with your installer to see if they did fertilize the new sod, and then proceed with the next standard fertilizer instructions for your specific sod. Here at Peak Sodding, we install using a fertilizer formulated to encourage root and stem growth. So, for example, if we installed your Bermuda in May, we took care of its May fertilization. You would need to fertilize again in mid-June and early August. Please remember that fertilization instructions are specific to the sod variety because each grass type has different needs.
Can you water your new lawn too much?
It is not easy to overwater a new lawn, but I have seen it happen! A new lawn requires frequent deep watering to get it started, and the temperatures dictate how frequent the watering needs to be. But there should never be standing water. Standing water leads to root rot. You should never water at night or you may get fungal diseases. In even the hottest times of the year, we recommend watering 3 times a day deeply – at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (6am, noon and 6pm). The noon watering may seem a waste because you will lose water to evaporation, but if new sod goes 12 hours without water in hot weather, it suffers. The grass will tell you what it needs if you look closely. The blades should be a juicy green. Graying blades that look thin are an indication of inadequate water. Sodden blades with any sign of blackening are an indication of too much water.