Successfully Installing Sod in the Fall
Most people think of spring for installing a new lawn, but in the South, there’s no need to wait. Sod can be laid practically any time of year. In fact, fall is actually better for certain grass varieties. Let’s take a look at some of the considerations for successful sod installation in the fall.
For cool season grasses, like tall fescue, fall is actually the preferred time to lay sod. As the category name implies, cool season grasses thrive in cooler weather, so a fall installation coincides with the grass’ natural growth season, giving the roots plenty of time to establish before winter takes hold.
For warm season grass like Bermuda, zoysia and centipede, the optimal time for installation is in early to mid-spring during its most vigorous growth. But with the right preparation and care, warm season grasses can be installed successfully in the fall as well.
We can’t say it enough—get your soil tested, especially before new sod installation. You will never have an easier time amending the soil than when it is bare and tilled for planting. You can take samples yourself and send them to the Extension Service for recommendations or you can ask a pro to do it for you.
Also note, if you’re planting off-season for your grass type, balanced pH and a full offering of nutrients in the soil becomes even more important for establishing a healthy lawn.
Till the area to be sodded, loosening the soil down about six inches, and work in any recommended amendments. Then smooth the soil surface and lightly water it until it is moist but not saturated.
Choosing the right variety of grass for your particular yard is critical for long-term success, whatever the season. First, make sure you purchase premium sod from a reputable farm, like NG Turf, where the grass is freshly cut for delivery, not sitting on pallets for days and days. Saving money upfront on discount grass usually ends up costing more in aggravation—and possibly in dollars—in the long run.
Next, analyze the conditions your specific yard. Each premium grass is developed for particular performance features. If you have an active family who plays hard on the lawn all summer long, you’ll need a traffic tolerant variety. And if your lawn lies in dense shade, don’t install a sun-loving variety and expect it to thrive. Drought resistance and maintenance requirements are additional characteristics to keep in mind when choosing a grass.
It’s imperative to keep the sod moist (but not over saturated) throughout the installation process, from delivery until the last square is laid. Lay the sod within 24 hours of delivery for best results. As you lay the sod, make sure the sections fit tightly against one another without overlapping. Once the sod is down, roll the lawn to ensure good root-to-soil contact and then water thoroughly.
New Lawn Care
Once the sod is installed, it’s important to keep it watered throughout the winter, even if it goes dormant. Do not overwater, but do ensure your new sod receives at least an inch of water from rain or irrigation each week. Two half-inch waterings per week are optimal.
Mow as needed, keeping toward the higher end of the recommended mowing height for your variety. And avoid fertilizing warm season grasses until mid-spring, when the grass is fully green and the threat of frost is past.
See our resources page for more detailed information about installing new sod, and if you have any questions about which variety is best for your yard, contact our Certified Turfgrass Professionals at info@NGTurf.com or 770.832.8608.