Sod is living and growing, and like most plants, it needs soil and water to live. When the sod rolls arrive at your yard, install them immediately for the best results. The length of time sod can live in rolls varies from several hours to a few days, but where there is time between delivery and installation, you increase your chances of killing some of the sod.
Preparing the area for sod can take a few days, depending on what shape the yard is in. In general, you must remove the old grass, fix problems with grading such as areas that typically puddle after watering, remove debris such as large rocks and sticks, and add fertilizer or soil additives. Many people like to rake the soil and go over it with a roller to provide an even surface for the sod. Because there are several steps involved when you get your yard ready for sod, plan your sod delivery for after the yard is prepped and ready, not for when you're about to start the yard preparation. That way you can install the sod the same day it's delivered.
Factors Affecting the Sod
The length of time sod rolls can sit after delivery before you install them depends on several factors. If the sod was actively growing when it was cut, it can begin to show signs of stress in as little as 12 hours; dormant sod might be fine for up to three days. In the heat of summer, sod rolls don't last as long as they might in the cooler, less humid months of the spring and fall. Large rolls need to be installed immediately in most cases, while smaller rolls might last two to three days without being installed. You often don't know exactly when the sod was cut or what shape it was in prior to cutting, so it's best to start laying the sod as soon as it's delivered.
When you can't install the sod immediately upon delivery, place the pallets in cool, shady areas when possible. Taking the top layers of sod off the pallet helps keep the grass from heating up inside the rolls; place the top layers on a tarp beside the bottom layers. Unrolling the sod enables you to water it, which is essential if you plan to wait more than 24 hours after delivery to complete the installation. Unrolled sod doesn't live more than a few days without proper root-to-soil contact, as it experiences after installation, but keeping it moist typically gives you a couple of days between delivery and installation.
What Not to Do
The nitrogen in the growing grass causes the inside of sod rolls to generate heat, effectively killing large sections if left in rolls too long. Don't cover the rolls while you're waiting to install the sod because the cover helps hold in the heat and kills the sod faster. Also, don't water the sod while it's still in rolls. This can make the overheating problem worse.