Want a beautiful, lush lawn without the wait? Installing sod is the fastest way to enjoy a picturesque, fully-established lawn in a matter of weeks. This guide shares pro tips for installing and caring for new sod to get the best results.


What is Sod?

Sod is mature grass that is grown in optimum conditions, then harvested into rolls with the roots and some soil still intact. Installing sod is like buying time – you pay more for this “instant lawn” compared to starting from seed, but it establishes and greens up much faster. With seed, it can take 1-2 years to get the same established look that sod achieves in a few weeks.


Sod can be installed almost any time of year since it’s already growing when harvested. The farm-raised sod is typically grown in large, sunny fields to produce dense, weed-free turf. When mature, the sod is cut into rolls about 1 inch below the soil surface, keeping the grass, thatch layer, and some of the root system together for transplanting.


Sod installation is possible in every season, even in the dead of winter! While spring and fall are ideal, great results can still be achieved in summer with extra watering. A golf course-quality sod lawn for a backyard putting green installed in July can root vigorously and be ready for entertaining in under a month with diligent watering.


Prepare the Soil for Success

Before the sod arrives, take time to properly prepare the planting area. Clear the site of rocks, weeds, and debris, then till to a depth of 6-8 inches. Smooth and level the loosened soil with a rake, then moisten it lightly.


If the native soil is poor, consider blending in organic material like compost to improve fertility and moisture retention. Tilling in a couple inches of locally-sourced compost before the final leveling gives the sod an extra boost of nutrients and beneficial microbes.


When the sod delivery arrives, inspect it carefully. Healthy sod should be moist, cool to the touch, and have a vibrant green color. Avoid any rolls with yellowing, wilted grass or obvious weeds.


Have a plan in place to lay the sod quickly after delivery so it doesn’t overheat or dry out. If possible, schedule the arrival for a cooler morning and have all tools and team ready to efficiently install it. Lay the first row in a straight line along a driveway, sidewalk, or string line, then stagger the seams in the following rows like bricks. Avoid stretching the sod and ensure the strips fit snugly against each other.


After the sod is placed, roll the entire lawn with a water-filled roller to eliminate air pockets and ensure good contact with the soil. Then give it a deep watering to a depth of 6 inches. This can be measured by placing empty tuna cans around the lawn – when they’ve collected that amount, you know you’ve watered sufficiently.


Water Consistently for Strong Roots

Proper watering is the most critical factor in getting new sod to establish well. Give it a deep initial watering to really saturate the soil after installation. This helps the water penetrate several inches deep and start the root establishment process.


Watering Frequency

Brand new sod needs frequent watering, up to several times per day depending on the season:


Spring/Fall (cooler temps): 2-3 times daily

Summer (hot temps): 5-6 times daily

The sod roots are short at first and dry out quickly, so don’t let the sod get parched. Frequent, light watering keeps it consistently moist and encourages the roots to spread out into the soil. Don’t panic if the sod does dry out a bit – it can usually bounce back if proper watering resumes.


When establishing sod in the peak of summer, set automatic timers to give the lawn a brief drink every 2-3 hours during the day. This keeps the sod from getting stressed while it’s generating new roots. Just avoid watering in the evening, as this can promote fungal growth.


Checking Establishment

After about 2-3 weeks of frequent watering, check to see if the sod is rooting by gently lifting a corner and seeing if it resists. If the sod doesn’t budge, it’s establishing nicely and you can begin gradually cutting back on watering to once or twice per day.


After 8-10 weeks, reduce watering even further to just 3 times per week. This may seem counterintuitive, but it actually encourages the grass roots to grow deeper in search of moisture. Deeper roots make the grass more drought-tolerant and less dependent on irrigation.


This is one of the most important steps that people often overlook. Watering the sod lightly and frequently for too long, then suddenly cutting back can weaken the grass. By methodically decreasing irrigation and driving the roots downward, the lawn is set up for long-term health and vibrancy.


Protect Sod and Mow Carefully

While the sod is rooting and the soil is wet and spongy, it’s best to keep foot traffic and pets off the lawn. Walking on it too much can leave uneven depressions and impede root establishment.


When the sod resists lifting at the edges, it’s ready for the first mow. But let the soil firm up first by pausing the irrigation. Use a push mower if possible to avoid ruts, and only remove 1/3 of the grass blade height. Mow in the morning after the dew has dried but before the intense midday heat.


A common mistake for novice sod installers is being too eager to mow and stripe the lawn, doing it prematurely while the soil is still soft. A heavy riding mower can leave unsightly tire tracks that take months to smooth out. It’s best to be patient and wait for just the right conditions for that first cut.


Feed Sod to Fuel Growth

Sod is hungry! After about a month, feed it by applying a balanced fertilizer to replenish nutrients and encourage vigorous root growth. Look for a product with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (like 16-16-16). Continue feeding every 6-8 weeks through the growing season – in early spring, late spring, summer and fall.


A good sod fertilizer program provides the nutrition for a thick, healthy lawn that is more resistant to weeds, disease and pests. Sod often performs best with a slow-release organic fertilizer that feeds gradually and evenly. Quick-release synthetics can sometimes push too much top growth at the expense of the roots.


When in doubt, do a soil test to determine the best fertilizer composition and application rate for your location and grass type. Most university extension offices or garden centers can assist with this for a small fee. It’s a smart investment to give your sod precisely what it needs to thrive.


Enjoy Your Instant Lawn

To recap, sod is the fastest way to a magazine-worthy lawn. With proper installation, watering, and feeding, it will establish smoothly and make turfgrass dreams come true in a matter of weeks. If additional guidance is needed, consult a local sod farm or a knowledgeable landscape professional. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a barefoot stroll across your lush, enviable sod lawn!


With countless sod lawns installed over the years, it’s always satisfying to see them flourish. Whether it’s a sprawling estate or a petite patio, every space is elevated by an immaculate sod carpet. By following these time-tested techniques, you’re well on your way to picturesque green grass. So unroll those emerald ribbons of sod and get ready to be the envy of the neighborhood!


For more educational resources, check out our resources page and our YouTube channel! If you have any questions or concerns about sod, reach out to us! The team here at Kimberly Nurseries are here to help with that and any other landscaping issue you may have.

Subscribe to our email updates! Get news and information from our landscaping experts here at Kimberly Nurseries!