Sod not taking root despite spending a sizeable sum on installation? Nothing is worse than seeing all that hard-earned money going down the drain as your sod turns yellow and weak.
This article has compiled the top most common reasons that prevent the sod from proper root formation. You will find answers to all the most frequently asked questions regarding this topic here.
JUMP TO TOPIC
- Why Is Sod Not Taking Root?
- How To Help Sod Take Root?
Why Is Sod Not Taking Root?
– Floating In the Lawn
When the sod is floating in the lawn, as it hasn’t been placed right, is the primary reason why most sods fail to take root.
Unless you have installed the sod by using heavy equipment to press it well into the soil, then there would always be a little space between the sod and the soil, and it will not have proper grounds to build itself on.
Naturally, the new grassroots will have difficulty reaching the soil underneath to get water and nutrients. The roots will either take some time to reach the soil or might die if the gap is too large.
– Seeding in the Wrong Timing
A grass planted at the wrong time will only take root if you try hard. To make things further elaborated, the warm-season grasses like the Zoysia and Bermuda germinating and growing during the spring-early summer period.
Laying sod comprising these grasses in late summer or autumn will rarely develop roots because this is when the grass would begin to undergo dormancy. Instead of growing greener, you will notice them becoming brown and dry.
The same is the case with cool-season grasses that need to be laid down, ideally around the late summer to early fall.
– Inadequate Watering
Watering newly laid sod is an art in itself, note that your new grass will only form roots and grow if it is watered according to a proper schedule. Under watering will lead to the grass turning brown within the first two weeks, and even till the fourth week. When your grass is left parched, it will start showing you signs that it hasn’t rooted well, because of the lack of irrigation
Anyone could tell that the sod is being under watered by seeing its condition. The affected grass blades will be discolored, thin, and wispy to the touch, and this will lead to a failure of establishing the roots properly. To check this, you may insert a pencil into the ground creates very dry and crumbly soil.
– Compact Soil
When the soil under sod is too compacted, the roots find it hard to grow deep into it. Consequently, they will have trouble accessing water, nutrients, and oxygen. You will have to deal with a sod having weak grass blades and shallow roots, because they didn’t develop yet in the soil, due to the lack of air in the soil.
It is normal thing for soil to compact when it is used frequently. Some common examples are when you use the lawn a lot, kids play on it, and you use a heavy lawn mower to cut grass blades short.
As the soil becomes compact and pressed-like, then grasses, like the perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue are grown season after season. These grasses are not known for their extensive root systems, leading to soil compaction.
– Quick Mowing
You must never mow your newly laid down sod until the roots are deep in the soil. The length of the grass blades can be a good estimation of the extent of the root system underneath.
Long grass blades carry out more photosynthesis, providing more food to the roots, as the roots as well take nutrients up the blades. However, if you cut down grass in the first three to four weeks after sod installation, your grass will struggle with root formation because it hasn’t established itself properly yet.
– Not Fertilizing
Of course, grass needs food to grow and take roots extensively, and fertilizing is necessary when it comes to providing the proper nutrients to see it strengthen itself. This is especially true, because fertilization is an important step of lawn care and is best carried out at least a few weeks before laying the sod.
If you fertilize your soil with a chemical formula right after laying sod, it might burn it chemically. You will see that the grass turns yellow and the roots no longer take. The damage is particularly severe if liquid and rapid-action fertilizer is used within five weeks of putting a new sod.
– Weak Soil
If you have taken a shortcut and try to just lay sod without extensive soil prep carried beforehand, then it is possible that the sod installers you hired were too lazy and decided to forego soil preparation. Unless the old soil was mowed, thatched, and raked, it does not appropriate for new sod to take root over it.
How To Help Sod Take Root?
To help sod take root, you must roll the sod, and water it properly. Remember to aerate the compact soil well, don’t trim the grass during the first two to four weeks. In addition, make sure you properly fertilize it, and prepare the soil before layering it.
– Roll The Sod
If there are air spaces under a floating sod, then all it takes is a roller to get rid of them. You can borrow or buy a lawn roller from any local hardware store or a handy neighbor. However, note that it is recommended to wait two weeks after laying down sod to roll.
Most rollers need to be filled with water to give them weight, you must divide your lawn into vertical and horizontal grids, and then roll in straight lines on these divided parts. After you have rolled over the sod once, it is better to go over the lawn once more. This way, you can remain 100 percent sure that the grass is now in intimate contact with the soil.
– Water Properly
Watering is super important to get new sod to form deep and long roots, especially in the initial days after laying it down. You will need to irrigate it properly multiple times each day in the first four to six after the new sod is laid down. Be vigilant not to let the soil dry out, and keep checking the soil’s moisture level throughout the day.
Water the lawn for seven to eight minutes per session during this time, hence the goal is to keep the sod lightly moist without bathing it in excessive water. Unless the topsoil dries thoroughly, refrain from starting the next watering session.
However, in the second week, start watering the sod only once daily, preferably in the early morning. Water only three times during the third and fourth weeks. After this, your grass should have established its roots well enough to resume a weekly watering schedule.
– Aerate The Compacted Soil
If sod is not taking root because of severe soil compaction, it must be aerated so that the roots would have a proper way of growing and developing. You have to create small holes about eight inches deep within the soil. This would help introduce air to the soil and to loosen it up.
Some people use a screwdriver or a lawn pitchfork to dig holes deep into the soil. However, the best aeration is provided by proper aerators like plug or spike aerators. You may include some plug aerators as you can remove deep plugs of soil and are the best for loosening the soil.
Here, you will have to lift the sod up and then aerate the soil under it. While at it, pick a rake and shake the topsoil to mix with compost and fresh soil. Overall, that’s why you should always ask professional sod installers to aerate the soil before laying new sod down.
– Don’t Trim Grass The First Few Weeks
Root formation of new grass takes between three and six weeks to complete, which is approximately how long one has to wait before mowing it. Otherwise, your roots will not get the food it needs and will not take properly.
Use the pull method to see if your grass is established enough to be cut. Just pull a few grass blades lightly but firmly. If you feel resistance and a tug, you can go with mowing.
Ensure that the cutting edge of your mower blade is freshly sharpened and clean. New sod takes kindly to smaller push-type mowers better than bulkier riding-type ones. Smaller mowers do not compact the soil as well.
– Proper Fertilizing
You should ideally fertilize the soil, over which sod should be placed a few weeks beforehand. Use a premium-quality liquid fertilizer that is diluted at half of its strength.
As part of soil prep, mix a proper amount of compost or manure into the top layers of the soil, especially in the beginning phase. With organic fertilizer, there is no risk of causing burns to the roots. This way, your new grass can access soil already rich with nutrients.
Subsequently, you must allow the grass to take root first and only fertilizer after five to six weeks have passed. Nonetheless, young grass is always a bit more sensitive, hence you should go for a slow-release or organic fertilizer for the first few months.
– Prepare Soil Before Laying Sod
Before laying sod, you must carry out extensive soil preparation or hire professionals. The old grass growing in the lawn has to go so that the soil is completely barren.
Carry out a basic soil test to see if your lawn soil needs additives or fertilizer. The soil test will decide what fertilizer and amendment to add for soil improvement. You may take this opportunity to adjust the pH of the soil as per your sod’s requirement.
In this case, it is better to be using a tiller to mix up the top seven to eight inches of soil. During this, add fresh soil, sand, compost, and peat to enrich the soil more. A rake is a better alternative if you cannot take hold of a tiller.
Now, you know very well the reasons why your sod is not taking root and how you can fix it.
Finally, here is a summary of our guide on how to help sod take root:
- If sod is not in close contact with the soil, it will not take root, and you will have to use a roller.
- Adding fertilizer to the sod or mowing after installation often prevents root formation.
- Sod will need a great deal of water for the first few weeks, and failure to do so will stunt root formation.
The next time you install sod on your lawn, make sure not to make the mistakes that lead to root stunting. However, if you end up with this problem, you can easily solve it using this extensive guide.