If you want a smooth, neatly manicured lawn fast, laying down sod rather than starting from seed is an efficient way to go. But be careful; sod is delicate and quickly turns brown if not cared for correctly. Watering new sod properly is important to its survival, as is waiting to fertilize new sod. Knowing the right time for fertilization can help you achieve the beautiful lawn you desire.
First Steps for New Sod
The ideal time for laying down sod is in the spring. As soon as your sod is down, start watering it twice a day for the first week and once a day for the next three to four weeks. Each watering session should last about 15 minutes, which results in a good 1/2-inch soaking. Keep in mind you want plenty of water so the new sod roots in the soil.
To minimize evaporation, avoid watering during the day, particularly during the summer. The best watering time is early morning before the sun gets hot. Avoid watering in the evening; wet grass overnight increases the chance of fungal disease.
After one month, the sod should be rooted. Cut watering sessions back to one-half hour two times per week for two weeks. After that, water once a week for 45 minutes to soak sod with approximately 1 inch of water.
Don't mow new sod until it grows 5 inches in length. When you mow, don't take off more than 1 or 2 inches at a time.
How and When to Fertilize
Fertilizing sod helps make your grass green and healthy, but new sod needs time to establish roots first. Wait until at least six to eight weeks after laying sod to give it fertilizer.
Stick with slow-release fertilizer to minimize the chance of overfeeding, and avoid fertilizers with a high nitrogen content for your first feeding. A root-establishing, granular turf fertilizer such as 5-14-42 helps sod get established. Use a broadcast spreader to apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Follow your product's label carefully, and water your sod well after the application.
Wait another six to eight weeks, and then follow up with a high-nitrogen, granular turf fertilizer such as 20-10-10. Broadcast the fertilizer at a rate of 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, and water your lawn well.
If your sod was put down in fall, wait until spring before you first fertilize. As months grow hotter, step up your watering again. Never allow your lawn to dry out -- or you'll find yourself having to lay down new sod and start the entire process all over again.