Let me be a bit blunt when talking about watering newly laid sod. Like noses, everyone’s got an opinion on this practice.
Let me start by saying that keeping the newly laid sod consistently moist is the key to success and that the time of the year the sod was laid is extremely critical in determining those times and frequencies. It’s the frequency of that watering/irrigation where all the different opinions come in.
Here are some recommendations and random tips for watering new sod, based on the time of year of installation, from several sod installing experts I’ve known in the business for years. I hope this helps you keep your eye on the ball and without over-watering it.
But before we start, never try to do this by hand. Hand-watering just cannot provide the necessary uniformity. People do not have the patience of time, nor do they have “the eye” to actually measure what is being applied.
Watering with Installation from January-March
Apply 1 inch of water, or until “squishy”, the day grass is installed. Then apply 1 inch every 5-7 days. When you can no longer pick up corners of your sod pieces, reduce watering to 1 inch every 2-3 weeks.
A good rule of thumb is if you can stick your finger into the ground and mud sticks to it, then you do not need to water. However, if the ground is hard and you do not feel any moisture, then turn the water on. Be sure to adjust for rainfall.
Watering with Installation in April
Once daytime temperatures consistently exceed 80 degrees, watering requirements must be increased to 1.5-2.0 inches on the day you installed your new sod or until your sod is “squishy. Then apply 1/2 inch of water every other day for 2 weeks. When you can no longer pick up corners of your sod pieces, reduce your waterings to 1 inch a week. Ideally you would do this in two 1/2 inch waterings to prevent runoff.
Watering with Installation from May-September
Water new sod 1.5-2.0 inches, or until “squishy”, the day the sod is installed. Then 1/2 inch of water every other day for 2 weeks. This next part depends on daytime temperature – if the grass is wilting and stressed, then short 30-minute waterings on a daily basis may be necessary in the evenings. When you can no longer pick up the corners of your sod pieces, reduce your waterings to 1 inch per week. Ideally you would do this in two 1/2 inch waterings to prevent runoff.
Watering with Installation in October – December
Water newly installed sod 1.5-2.0 inches, or until “squishy”, the day the sod is installed. Once the daytime temperature consistently stays below 80 degrees, then watering requirements must be reduced, so as to not promote Brown Patch, to 1 inch every 7-10 days, then every 2-3 days for 1 hour. When you can no longer pick up corners of your sod pieces, reduce your waterings to 1 inch every 2-3 weeks.
Determining Inches of Irrigation
How do you determine that 1 inch .5 inch or 2 inches? Just do the old empty tuna/cat food can test. You should actually do several empty cans to determine the uniformity of your irrigation systems or practices. Start the irrigation and go out every 10-15 minutes and see where you’re at. Some systems can dole out that 1 inch in as little as 10-15 minutes, while some may take as long as 20-30 minutes. Once you get a handle on the timing, you can then make those adjustments to your irrigation system and just your overall irrigation practices.
Other tips from the trade
One of the ultimate “Insider Secrets” that we’ve talked about on GardenLine for years, when installing new sod, is to apply soil amendments one time in the middle of the first few weeks with products like Molasses or Humates or a blend of both.
Likewise, you could also apply liquid soil activators to enhance the microbial activity of the mud that the grass was harvested in. It’ll break it down quicker to a more friable soil, and thus allow the roots to establish quicker and can reduce all that ‘watering’ activity above. The granular applications are a one-time deal. The liquid soil activators are encouraged weekly or bi-weekly for 2 months.
If you see runoff happening too quickly, usually within the first 10 minutes of irrigation, then pause the irrigation cycle for 30 minutes to 1 hour and finish it off in stages if you have to.
Lastly, please do this early in the mornings. It’s when there’s less wind usually, and thus less evaporation.
Okay! One More Final Thought!!
None of this is sacrosanct! You can determine your own frequencies and timings, if you’ll make good notes and constantly test that moisture depth with something as simple as a long screw driver, and tugging on the corners of the pieces of newly laid sod to see if they’re actually rooting themselves in. That is all!!!