All sod installations should be watered immediately upon completion. The only exception to this rule occurs in winter-time installations. Winter installations have more flexibility for two reasons, 1) the sod is not under heat stress in the winter, and 2) winter time TYPICALLY means precipitation! Winter sod installations should be watered if no precipitation happens within a few days of installation. Winter sod installations will involve less watering as moisture lasts longer in the cool times of year.
Plan to water by inches. Everyone’s water pressure is different, so instead of recommending, “water your new sod for two hours everyday,” we recommend watering by inch measurements. If you have built-in irrigation, it should be calibrated for inch measurements and you can program it accordingly. If you are watering the old-fashioned way with sprinklers, plan to invest in rain gauges to figure out how long your sprinklers have to be running to get an inch of water on the newly installed turf. (Empty tuna cans make a good substitute for rain gauges and can be placed throughout the area being watered to find out how long it takes your system to deliver one inch of water.).
Amount of watering depends on the time of year. Winter installations require the least amount of water, summer installations require the most, and spring and fall installations can vary depending on natural rainfall and temperatures.
December through February: Water after installation; if precipitation is forecasted within a few days of installation, should be OK to wait to water, but watering at installation is always a good idea. If typical winter precipitation occurs (occasional rain/snow throughout winter), you may not have to water at all after initial watering.
March through May: Water after installation. Water one inch about every third day for the first month, decreasing frequency in second month.
June through September: Water after installation. Water one inch every other day for the first month, decreasing frequency in the second month. *** Depending on temperatures, how the site retains/does not retain moisture, you may be watering new installs every day in the summer for the first several weeks.
October through November: Water after installation. Water one inch about every third day for the first month, decreasing frequency in second month.
Rules of Thumb:
Plan to water newly installed turf for about 2 months.
Use common sense; if it rains the day you were planning to water, skip the watering and depending on the amount of rain received, wait a day or two to get back into your watering routine.
We have found that sod gets rooted quickly with thorough waterings that are spread out over time (every other day in warm times of year, every few days in cooler periods). We consider a thorough watering to involve an inch of water. An inch of water is typically enough water to wet through a piece of sod and down a few inches into the soil below. You can water everyday, but sometimes this can cause the grass roots to get lazy and not grow as deeply into the soil. By staggering the waterings, the roots are encouraged to follow the water down into the soil, fostering deeper root systems. For summer installations where temperatures are extremely high and moisture is lost quickly, watering new sod everyday may be necessary if no natural precipitation is occurring.
It is not good to over-water to the point that the area is sloppy or water pools on the sod. A sloppy watering is one where if you step on the sod after (or during) the watering, your foot sinks down into the sod/soil just like you are stepping into mud. If you take your weight away and the sod/footprint stays down in the soil, you have most likely over-watered. When water pools on top of the sod you may have a drainage issue, also, if it is summertime you can actually “cook” the sod when the sunlight heats up the water laying on top of the sod.
Time of Day: In summer months, watering sod earlier in the day is preferred, but not mandatory. We suggest watering in the morning hours to allow the water applied to soak into the soil (minimizing loss of water due to evaporation), and to allow the moisture remaining on the above-ground portion of the plant to evaporate during the heat of the day. Allowing the plant blades to dry during the day helps slow down the growth of fungi (like brown patch) that thrive in the heat of the summer and love warm, moist plant tissue to feed upon. If watering can only be performed later in the day, it is better to water whenever you can than to not water at all!