I've Got Sod... Now How Do I Water It?

Newly installed sod has very important watering needs! Proper watering immediately after installation will ensure that your sod gets established and also has an impact on how well the lawn continues to flourish for years to come.

When to Water New Sod

Begin watering your new sod as soon as possible after it is laid! Wait no longer than 30 minutes, particularly during hot weather! Sod has a short shelf life in hot weather and will die quickly without water. In cooler weather sod will last longer but it's still best to err on the side of caution and always water as soon as possible. It's important to be prepared on the day of your install.

What You Will Need

  • Be sure to have at least one hose and sprinkler available for each spigot on your house. Better yet, buy a "Y" adapter for each spigot so you can run two hoses and two sprinklers from each spigot. Be sure there's enough hose to reach every area of your lawn. You can find these items at any hardware store. Make sure they're readily available to the sod installers.
  • Or, if you have an underground sprinkler system be sure it's functioning correctly and the controller is accessible to the installers. They'll help you get the system started and assist you in programming the controller. It's still a good idea to have a hose or two available to hand water as necessary.

How to Water Sod on the First Day

Adequate and timely water on the first day is critical! It will take a lot of water to thoroughly saturate new sod as well as the soil below it. The ultimate goal is to thoroughly saturate both the sod and the soil to a depth of approximately 4 inches and keep it that way for 2-3 weeks. You'll know it's adequately wet because it'll be too soft to walk on without sinking. More importantly, if you see any areas of the lawn turning grayish green... and then brown... you're not watering those areas enough. Any browning indicates lack of water.

Sure, it would be nice if you could snap your fingers and soak the entire lawn immediately. Unfortunately, full saturation will require hours or even a day or two of heavy watering. How you go about it is important. When the sod is first laid (particularly in hot weather), you need to be careful to ration out the water evenly across the entire lawn. The idea on the first day is to not allow any area to be without water for more than about 30 minutes at at time. Therefore, make sure that all the sod is getting at least some water on a frequent basis. The best way to accomplish this is to water each area briefly and then move on to another area. Or, better yet, use multiple hoses and sprinklers to water several areas simultaneously. When in doubt... WATER. It's nearly impossible to over-water new sod. If you have an underground sprinkler you may even want to run it some overnight to get a jump on day two.

Maintain this frequently rotating water routine throughout the first day or until the sod and soil below are becoming soaked. Once that's accomplished you can begin to slow things down and water for longer periods in a given area.

How to Water Sod After its Initial Saturation

Once the sod and soil below are thoroughly saturated it becomes a matter of keeping it wet for the next 2-3 weeks. Your new sod needs this time to grow roots into the soft, wet ground. You'll find that once sod is thoroughly saturated it doesn't take nearly as much water to keep it that way.

But don't relax just yet. Even though the sod and soil below are sopping wet, the blades of grass will still dry and burn out fairly quickly since they're constantly exposed to sun and wind. This exposure can be fatal. Your sod still needs frequent, but lighter, waterings spaced out during the day to keep those blades cool and moist and green. This is known as syringing. You won't be using as much water as you did in the first day or two but you'll still need to water regularly. For example, with an underground sprinkler you now should be able to cut back from watering more or less constantly to running just 3 cycles a day... mid-morning, noon and late-afternoon. With new sod it's very important to water periodically throughout the heat of the day. Always keep an eye out for browning from lack of water.

Watering Tips

  • Check often to ensure that all areas of the lawn are being hit by the sprinklers, particularly the far edges and perimeter. Often you won't notice that an area is being missed until it starts to turn brown and die. It's better to get water on the driveway and house for the first several days than risk missing an area. Especially on breezy days, you'll be surprised how much your sprinklers can miss their intended target.
  • Pay particular attention to edges of the lawn (especially exposed edges) and any areas that abut concrete or your house. Reflected sun and heat from these surfaces can quickly dry out and burn sod. It's a good idea to give these areas additional hand watering for the first several days.
  • Slopes will tend to dry out faster than the rest of the lawn and will likely require more frequent watering.
  • Avoid hand sprinkling because it generally doesn't provide the necessary uniformity. Most people don't have the patience, time or "eye" to adequately measure what is being applied across a large area of lawn. The exception to this guideline would be the need to syringe the surface of the grass to cool it, or to provide additional water near buildings or other heat-reflecting surfaces.

How to Water and Care for your Established Lawn

It's been 2-3 weeks now and your sod's roots should be knitting into the soft, moist soil. You should notice that when you pull on the grass it doesn't want to lift. Now you can begin a more normal watering and maintenance routine. For irrigation the rule of thumb is to make sure your lawn receives approximately one inch of water per week. That one inch can come from rain or your sprinklers or a combination of both. If you're not sure how much water is being applied, spread several tin cans around the lawn and measure how much is in them after you water. It's best to water an established lawn early in the morning when temperatures are cool and winds are low. It's also recommended to water deeply and infrequently rather than a little each day. This will encourage deep rooting.

When fully established your lawn should not require irrigation more often than 2-3 times per week even under the worst heat conditions. Daily watering of any established lawn is wasteful and should never be necessary.

    NOTE: If you have an underground sprinkler, please avoid the "set-it-and-forget-it" mentality. Don't be a water waster! Remember, water requirements for turf vary throughout the year as the weather changes. In spring and fall your lawn will require much less water than in July and August. Adjust your sprinkler program accordingly throughout the season. Better yet, only run your sprinklers when the lawn looks dry instead of according to a rigid program. This is the best way to irrigate since it only gives the lawn the water it needs and wastes nothing. Also, never water during or immediately after a significant rainfall. Check your sprinkler heads periodically to be sure they're not spraying the street and sidewalks.

Now is also the time when your lawn will be ready for its first mowing and fertilization. Let the lawn dry out as much as possible before mowing so you can walk on it without sinking. Be sure your mower is on its highest setting and bag your clippings the first several times you mow. Never remove more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at a time. When finished apply an appropriate starter fertilizer to the lawn. Just like every living thing, turf needs food to survive. For more information about mowing and fertilization schedules refer to How Do I Care For My fescue Lawn?

If you have further questions about watering, mowing or fertilization please call. We'll be happy to assist you or enroll you in our lawn maintenance program.