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Monday, May 1, 2017

My New Sod Lawn Never Grew But Died

Q. About three weeks ago I laid tall fescue sod in my backyard.  I put some top soil under it for a base before I laid it.  I religiously watered the sod twice a day. Today I removed the sod because it was all dead. No roots emerged. Where did I do wrong?

A. I am not sure you did anything wrong. If you kept the sod wet after it was delivered and planted it right away, it should have grown.
Sod comes either rolled like this or in flat rectangular strips. Make sure the sod was recently harvested and kept moist. It should be placed in the shade until it is planted. I would never buy fescue sod during the summer months. Warm season sod such as Bermuda, paspallum, zoysia, buffalo or St. Augustine could be purchased during summer months.

            I have seen problems with sod when it was laid on very hot ground. During the middle of summer, bare soil can be 165 to 170° F, hot enough to “cook” the roots of grasses laid on top of it. If you spray Roundup on bare soil, wait 7 to 10 days before laying sod or planting seed because this chemical can damage it.
This sod was laid on hot, dry soil during the middle of summer and not watered until after all of it was installed. The hot, dry soil seared the roots of this sod and caused it to die in patches.

            If soil temperatures are hot, lay the sod during very early morning hours. If it must be done during the heat, lightly spray the soil with water just ahead of where you are laying it. The spray of water helps cool the soil as you’re laying it. The downside is the soil can get quite muddy.
            The best time to plant fescue seed is from the middle of February until about May 1 and then again from mid-September until middle November. With sod, extend the season a couple of weeks longer in the spring and later into the fall.
Fescue sod is sometimes grown with plastic netting and a very thin layer of soil. The sod is held together by the plastic netting which makes it very light. Sod roles can be huge and installed much like a carpet when sold this way.
            Topsoil put down for sod should be at least 6 inches deep or more. Another option is to apply 100% compost, 1 inch deep, and rototill it into the soil as deep as you can. Roll the soil before laying the sod. After laying sod, roll it again with a water roller or steel drum roller after it has been irrigated two or three times. Rolling it and keeping the soil wet helps to “knit” the sod into the soil beneath it.

When installing sod make sure that the seams, where the sod comes together, has no gaps in it. It is always a good idea to water the sod as it is being installed and then roll it so that the roots and soil make good contact.
            Pull on the sod after two weeks and see if it is staring to “knit” into the soil beneath it.
Knitting is growing roots into the soil from the sod. If it is knitting, then water less often but water it longer.

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