Sod refers to the precut strips of turf grass laid out on prepared sites to provide an instant lawn. Sod works in areas susceptible to erosion and foot traffic. A sod lawn starts virtually weed free and installs any time during the growing season, weather permitting. These advantages come at a hefty price as sod costs much more than grass seed, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Use the best cultural practices to maintain new sod and protect your investment.
Use a sprinkler to water the sod daily. New sod requires 1 inch of water per week after installation, according to the University of New Hampshire. Place an empty coffee can 6 feet from the sprinkler to get an idea of how much water the area is receiving. Pick up the sprinkler and move it to another area when it looks like the can is holding an inch of water.
Check root development eight to 10 days after installation. Tug leaf blades upward with both hands. Sod that resists lifting means the roots are beginning to establish. Sod that lifts easily indicates delayed root development, possibly because the soil is too wet.
Water less frequently after roots have established. For example, provide ½ inch of water twice a week. Allow time for the sod to become secure enough to mow.
Mow the sod when leaf blades reach 3 inches in height unless otherwise specified. As a general rule, remove no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time, so set the lawnmower blade to a 2-inch cutting height.
Apply fertilizer in September of the first growing season if the sod was planted in spring under drought conditions. Spread 1 lb. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft. of lawn space. Otherwise fertilize established sod after the first growing season to boost color and promote growth in damaged areas.
Aerate firmly rooted sod to reduce soil compaction and improve drainage A core aerator punches holes in the ground with tines and removes plugs of sod and soil. The resulting holes allow air and water to penetrate the soil. Make an initial pass with the aerator, then make an additional pass at a right angle to the first pass.