Sod is a finicky plant that requires a lot of care, and if not done correctly, can leave you with more questions than answers to what's going on. You water, water some more, and make sure it's got plenty to eat, so what gives? We will help you diagnose, treat and make that mat of grass look gorgeous again. Keep reading for common problems and often missed remedies.
Prepare the Soil
Remove twigs, stones, and other debris from the area to prepare the soil. Do a quick soil test to evaluate the area and its nutrient make-up. It's good to know what you're working with before you lay down the sod—you may want to amend the soil while you're at it. If your soil test indicates a low pH level, you'll need to add lime, dolomite limestone, or wood ashes to your soil. If your soil contains a high pH level, you'll need to amend it by adding horticultural sulfur, composted oak leaves, or pine needles. Soil tests are often neglected because many people don't want to hassle with it. However, it is extremely important to NOT skimp on the simple soil test.
Fill with Top Soil
Break up soil clods that are larger than 2 inches in diameter. Fill low areas with good quality topsoil. If the soil is sandy or full of clay, work in organic matter. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve the soil; it's easy to add amendments when the soil is bare. If you are unsure of what type of soil to add to your existing Idaho soil, let our experts come out and give you a top recommendation for top dressing. We can also install it correctly and make sure your sod will be happy and healthy for years to come!
Smooth the Soil
Smooth the soil with a stiff garden rake. Be sure to distribute any bumps or piles of soil to create a flat area. Finish preparing the area by compacting it slightly with a lawn roller.
Lay sod on a cool, overcast day to minimize plant stress. If you lay sod in the heat of summer, moisten the surface of the planting area before putting down the turf. Stagger strips in a brick-like pattern, and be sure that all pieces fit tightly together. A utility knife or sharp spade is handy for cutting sod to fit irregular areas. Once the sod is in place, run the sod roller over it to eliminate air pockets.
Water Sod Daily
Water it immediately, then water daily (depending on rainfall), moistening the soil to a depth of 4 inches, until the sod takes root (in 2-3 weeks). Avoid mowing sod until it has firmly rooted. To find out if sod has rooted, gently tug at it. If you feel resistance, roots are anchored in the underlying soil.
You've Laid your sod correctly, now what? Let's look at a few concerns that come up frequently that we diagnose and fix:
Uneven growth in the shade
Many types of grass seed don't love very shady spots. If you have uneven growth in the shade, take these three three steps:
Make sure your trees are properly and regularly pruned.
Find a shade-tolerant grass type for your region.
For textural interest, intermix a shade-tolerant grass seed, such as Pennington One Step Complete for Dense Shade, with ground cover — either blooming or foliage focused. Good ground-cover options include Ajuca, creeping golden Jenny or Vinca.
It's not impossible to grow grass on a slope; the trick is to manage the incline so that the grass can root deeply. There are two ways to do that:
Match the type of grass with your region and the growing conditions. For example, don't plant a shade-tolerant variety in a sunny spot or the lawn will be stressed due to lack of sun.
Terrace the space by breaking up the slope with naturalistic groupings of oversize boulders, or establish more formal terraces with retaining walls. Whatever design solution you choose, stepping the incline will reduce runoff and enable the grass to grow more evenly. Remember, grass is a VERY thirsty plant, especially sod. If the ground slopes, your water will run off to the lower areas and the top will not get enough. Gravity, man.
Weeds of all types love to take root in lawns, and they're more apt to take over when your grass isn't well tended. To rid your yard of weeds, practice healthy lawn habits:
Mow regularly with a sharp blade.
Measure the rainfall, and then supplement as needed. Most lawns need about one inch of water a week. If you're in a particularly dry part of the season, water in the morning before temperatures rise.
Bald or bare spots
Patches of dirt in your lawn, whether due to heavy foot traffic or disease, are unsightly and invite the invasion of weeds. To fix, take these three steps:
Dig up the spots, as well as several inches of lawn surrounding them.
Lightly till the areas and rake.
Reseed or lay sod, following package and care directions carefully.
Damage caused by pets
Cat and dog urine contains damaging amounts of nitrogen, which can cause your lawn to brown. The solution is two-fold:
Dig out the affected areas, layer in top soil, reseed, and then treat with a high-quality fertilizer, such as a high quality Starter Fertilizer 22-23-4.
Create a designated play and relief area for your pet on the perimeter the lawn.
Rusts (yellow-orange powdery spots)
Plant diseases known as rusts are caused by fungal spores, which can turn your lawn reddish-brown or yellow-orange. Rusts leave a powdery residue that can rub off on your hands and make inroads on areas of grass that are underwatered, extremely overwatered, or low on essential nutrients, such as nitrogen. Rusts spread easily and weaken grass, so practice good lawn-care habits:
Fertilize regularly with a high quality fertilizer Weed and Feed 30-0-4.
Don't overwater or underwater.
Additionally, it's a good idea to perform a soil pH test once a year to determine the levels of phosphorus and potassium, and help you adjust nutrients as needed. Soil tests are available for a nominal fee from county extension offices.
Light rings filled in with grass
Sometimes called fairy rings, these unsightly spots are often found near patches of mushrooms. Simply remove them as you would bald spots, and then plant fresh grass seed. Always select a grass seed appropriate for your region, and desired look.
Moss, while can be a beautiful addition to landscaping, can quickly overtake lawns that are compact, wet, shady and under fertilized. To eliminate moss, try these strategies:
Prune trees as appropriate to maintaining their health to decrease the amount of shade and encourage grass to grow.
Aerate and de-thatch to encourage healthier grass and relieve compacted soil. In thin grass areas, till the ground lightly and overseed with a grass that's appropriate for the sun/shade conditions.
Monitor both the amount of water the lawn receives and the pH level of the soil. Perform a pH test at least once a year. For very acidic soil (a pH number below 7), treat with high-quality lime, for very alkaline soil (a pH number above 7), add sulfur.
A lawn that's less than lush likely suffers from bad soil and/or the wrong type of grass. Test your lawn's pH levels, and adjust as needed. Then, overseed using a grass type that's appropriate for your region.
Critters, such as raccoons and moles, can damage your lawn by digging, creating wilted, patchy areas. What those animals are searching for are common lawn pests called grubs. Grubs, if left unchecked, could infest an entire lawn. To find out if you have grubs, peel back a little patch of lawn and look for small, white, worm-like creatures. To remedy, use AMDRO Kill Ants & Spiders, which may also be used to treat grubs. Depending on the level of damage, you may need to remove the infected lawn and reseed.
A weekly inspection of your lawn can help you identify and eliminate problems before they become landscape catastrophes. Monitor the health of your grass, and it will reward you with months of green, lush growth.