Sod needs two growing seasons to fully establish itself.

The Best Time of Year to Lay Sod

by Veronica Smith-Jennings

If you dream of an instant lawn, you can transform a yard filled with dirt to a deep green, practically weed-free lawn overnight by laying sod. Your new grass will establish itself quicker than a seeded lawn and take to sloped areas without erosion concerns. Sod can be laid anytime during the growing season. This comes with a heftier price tag, though, and fewer options for the type of grass. But if you're looking for an immediate improvement to your property, whether because of new construction or a complete do-over, sod may be the way to go.

1. All Sod Is Not Equal

You're about to give your new sod a lot of attention -- the watering alone is time-consuming. Make sure the sod quality is worth it. Sod should be as fresh as possible -- cut no more than 24 hours before it's delivered to your house and put down within a day after delivery. Keep it from drying out in the meantime by storing it in a cool, shady place. Examine it carefully to make sure it doesn't easily tear and has a thin layer of soil under the turf.

2. Timing Tips

A key advantage of sod is that you can lay it anytime during the growing season. If the ground is not frozen -- in many places in the United States this averages from about April to October -- sod can establish roots and take off if installed properly. If you have the choice, try for early in the spring to give it a full growing season, but this is not essential to its success. Just make sure the sod has the time it needs -- two weeks is enough, a month is even better -- to strengthen its roots before the ground freezes in the fall.

3. Site Preparation

Even high-quality sod has more trouble establishing itself for long-term growth on a poorly prepared site, so prepare properly. Rototill the top 4 to 6 inches of soil; remove all debris, from sticks to old weeds and grass. Till in 2 inches of peat moss, manure or other organic amendment. Rake 10-10-10 fertilizer into the top 4 inches of the prepared soil at the rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Make sure the finished surface is smooth, and then moisten it before installing the sod. You may need to consider the time you'll need to prepare the site when choosing the best time of year to install your sod.

4. Post-Installation Lawn Care

Water is the key to successfully laying and establishing sod. From the initial watering within 30 minutes of installation to maintaining moisture on the sod for 14 days, sod needs to be watered early and often, no matter what time of year you install it. This might take several waterings if you lay it during a hot period, so consider that when deciding on your time frame. If you won't have the time to devote to its care, it may be better to wait, because the kiss of death for sod is letting it dry out. Wait to mow it until it's about 3 to 3 1/2 inches high, and then feed with a 10-10-10 fertilizer four to six weeks after laying the sod at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

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