dormant sod being installed in winter

Off Season Sod Installation & Care Recommendations

Warm season grasses, like Bermuda and Zoysia, can be successfully established from newly laid sod while dormant with a few management practices and proper customer education.  

Prior to Dormant Sod Installation

Soil Testing

During site preparation and prior to turfgrass establishment is the best time to take a soil sample for determining pH and nutrient needs. Have the soil tested for pH and nutrients prior to sod installation.

Soil Modifications

Add any amendments indicated in the soil test results, such as lime, sulfur, phosphorus or potassium, prior to installation. 

Loosen the soil and incorporate nutrient amendments by tilling to a minimum depth of 3 to 4 inches to aid in turfgrass establishment. As with all sod installation, after thorough tilling and mixing, the soil should be leveled, smoothed and moistened. Large rocks, stones, weeds, and other debris should be removed from the root zone prior to planting.  
 
Also prior to laying sod, the soil should be lightly watered but not saturated. Ruts from foot traffic or equipment can occur when soil is excessively wet and is more difficult to repair after the sod is laid. 

Avoid Nitrogen

Nitrogen-rich fertilizers should be avoided when grasses are dormant. Nitrogen contains a growth stimulant that could increase unwanted weed growth if applied during dormancy.   
 
Little nitrogen is needed when sodding with dormant grass. The first nitrogen application should be made in the spring once soil temperatures at the 4 inch depth are consistently 65° F or higher. 

Dormant Sod Installation

Timely Installation

To prevent drying, potential cold injury, and death of roots, sod should be installed within 24 hours after harvest. Prolonged exposure can cause roots to freeze and die. Once on the ground, radiant heat coming up through the soil helps protect the new sod.

Installation Best Practices

When installing dormant sod be sure to lay the sod pieces tightly together, avoiding gaps at the seams to help protect the roots from the cold, and roll the turfgrass thoroughly with a sod roller to ensure proper root-to-soil contact.

Water during installation to keep sod moist, and after installation, irrigate until the sod and top two inches of soil are damp.

Care and Maintenance of Newly Laid Dormant Sod 

It is important to educate your customers on the care and maintenance of newly laid dormant sod to ensure its survival. By providing your customers with the necessary information on how to care for their newly installed sod, you can help them avoid any potential problems and ensure a healthy, green lawn come spring.  

Water Management

While dormant sod installed during winter does not need the same amount of water as sod installed during the growing season, some water is needed to keep the plant hydrated. Light waterings immediately after planting are needed for off-season sod installation.  
 
Where green sod would need multiple, light, daily waterings, dormant laid sod will need only enough water to keep the upper 1 to 2 inches of soil moist.  
 
Be sure to educate your customers that their newly installed dormant sod will need to receive at least one inch of rain or irrigation every two weeks throughout winter. Let homeowners know they should frequently lift the corners of the sod to check for moisture. Once the edges won’t lift, they can push a screwdriver through the sod instead. It should push in easily and come back damp two or three inches from the end. If not, they should water accordingly.

Avoid Overseeding

While homeowners may be tempted to overseed their newly installed dormant lawn to get that green lawn sooner, overseeding newly installed dormant sod with ryegrass should be avoided. Overseeding may look appealing during the winter months, but come spring the ryegrasses can out-compete the warm-season grass for space, water, nutrients, and light.  
 
The result of overseeding can be a poor spring transition, delayed spring green-up, and potentially turfgrass death.

Weed Control

Winter annual weeds are common for dormant sodded grasses and there is a need to apply pre-emergent herbicides for control of summer annual grass species, like crabgrass. However, new sod is vulnerable. Advise homeowners to give new sod at least three weeks to reestablish itself before applying herbicides.  If possible, manually hand pulling weeds rather than using herbicides is best during this critical period   
 
Depending on when the dormant sod was installed, pre-emergents should be applied in late February or early March before soil temperatures reach 55° F to prevent warm season weeds like crabgrass and goosegrass. 

*Always read and follow the label recommendations before applying any pesticide to newly planted grass.

Successful sod transplanting depends on proper soil preparation, good soil-to-sod contact, and most importantly, proper water management to prevent extreme dryness. Educating homeowners of the proper care and maintenance of newly laid dormant sod is critical to it’s success. 

Questions?

If you have any questions about installing sod off-season or about care and maintenance of newly installed dormant sod, contact our Certified Turfgrass Professionals at 770.832.8608 or  info@NGTurf.com.

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