Prompt & Weather Appropriate Irrigation Is Key
When grass is harvested, its root system is severed, and the grass can no longer access water & nutrients from the earth. It is not unusual for the sod to begin to stress and yellow immediately post-harvest. This discoloration will vary post-installation depending on ambient temperatures, sod variety, ground prep, type of soil used, irrigation schedule & method, etc. For example, grass will yellow more and faster during the hottest months, especially with delayed or inadequate water. It is important to note that grass will also be yellow in the late fall/early winter as it transitions into winter dormancy and will remain yellow until soil temperatures stay above 65°F consistently.
Grass is Dependant On Immediate Care
Grass is a living product that relies on prompt installation & proper irrigation to pull out of harvest/transplant shock and establish a healthy root system. Please thoroughly review the information below for instructions, tips, and resources on determining your sprinkler system’s efficiency to ensure your grass receives adequate water.
Be advised that the irrigation schedule/duration will vary depending on many environmental factors, such as, but not limited to:
- Ambient temperatures
- Depth of soil cultivation
- Soil condition & profile
- Ground compaction
- Irrigation method
- Amount of full sun
- Proper installation (no gaps/overlapping)
- Sod variety
- Daily wind speeds
- Irrigation efficiency
Irrigation Coverage, Functionality, & Precipitation Rate
You must inspect your irrigation system for efficiency and coverage and confirm that your sprinkler heads are working correctly. Please watch Texas A&M Agrilife’s short video for instructions on using Aggie Catch-Cans to gauge your irrigation system’s precipitation rate and confirm even coverage. Use this precipitation rate to determine the duration needed to achieve the 1.5 inches of water needed daily while the sod greens up and establishes its root system.
As a general guide, you can typically expect a traditional, professionally installed irrigation system on city water to put out about 1/4 inch of water every 20 minutes. So, generally speaking, this means you need to water your new grass for at least an hour to an hour and a half every day until it is green & establishes roots. Be advised, however, that the environmental factors mentioned before can affect the efficacy of this duration. We strongly recommend that you base your irrigation duration on your actual precipitation rate, soil type & health, yard conditions, etc.
Adjusting Durations & Supplemental Water
Additionally, keep in mind that any blocks installed along edges, against concrete/hardscaping, on slopes, in full sun, and with gaps will need supplemental water. If installing on inclines, please watch this short video for instructions on using the Cycle-Soak Irrigation Method to avoid runoff water loss and shallow irrigation. Another issue with runoff is that, when observed, it often leads to the incorrect assumption that the lawn has received enough water. This is one of the most common reasons for inadequate irrigation & shallow soil moisture.
Shallow soil moisture during the establishment period will encourage shallow root development, affecting the health of your sod indefinitely when not promptly corrected. The soil underneath the grass blocks should be wet 6 inches deep about an hour after completing your irrigation each day. You can check your soil saturation depth using an implement, such as an unsealed chopstick or wooden skewer, about an hour after finishing your daily irrigation cycle. Simply slide the tool into the soil at the seam (between the blocks) about 6 inches deep & gently/slowly pull it out. You’re good if 1) the tool glides in easily & without resistance 6″ deep 2) you observe moisture or dirt sticking to 6″ of the implement.
Watering Different Soil Types
Be advised that dense clay soils & compacted earth can also cause water losses due to runoff. Heavy clay soils also can keep all of the moisture nearer the soil’s surface, preventing the deep saturation needed for healthy, deep root establishment. Please watch this short video to understand better how your soil type & the condition of your soil will impact the efficacy of your irrigation efforts.
Depending on your soil, ambient temperatures, weather, and your irrigation schedule, your new grass should green back up within the first few weeks with proper water. If you notice your sod declining versus improving over the first three weeks, please reach out to us by submitting a concern as soon as the decline is observed. Please do not wait until the grass has died to reach out to us with a concern.
Irrigating During Winter Dormancy
Dormant Grass Will Arrive Yellow or Golden-Brown
It is entirely normal for grass to turn yellow as it transitions into winter dormancy after the first heavy frost or overnight freezing temperatures. Grass delivered in the late fall through early to mid-spring will likely be yellow to some degree. Keep in mind that our farms are open fields located in rural areas. So, sod coming from the farms will be further into dormancy than sod you see in suburbs and metro areas where the asphalt, houses/buildings, concrete, trees, etc., keep the soil temperatures warmer.
Deep Waterings Insulate & Protect Roots
It is important to note that most people that lose their grass over the winter lose it due to a lack of moisture. As long as there is proper moisture, the water will freeze instead of the plant. Deeply saturating the soil 24 hours before a freeze will warm the soil and help insulate & protect the root system. When installing sod during winter dormancy, it is essential to avoid gaps by laying the grass blocks as closely together as possible without overlapping. Laying the sod seam to seam will also help protect the grass from freezing temperatures and drying out.
Dormant Grass Requires Less Water
The biggest perk of installing grass during winter dormancy is the reduced water requirements. However, although dormant sod has reduced water requirements, you must keep it wet when installing during the winter. You only need to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist throughout the winter since the sod will not take root as deeply or as quickly as it does during the warmer seasons. Depending on your soil type and weather, you should only need to apply about 0.5-0.75 inches of water every 5-7 days to achieve and maintain this moisture depth. Texas A&M Agrilife’s short video will instruct you on using the Catch-Can Method to gauge your irrigation system’s precipitation rate and confirm even coverage.
Water Adjustments Depending On The Weather
Be advised that if there are frequent stretches of warmer weather and no rainfall, you may need to increase your irrigation to put out about an inch of water per week – Or daily if the grass begins coming out of dormancy. If your sod is not fully dormant, starts to come out of dormancy, or if temperatures are consistently staying above 65֯ F, you will need to follow the typical irrigation schedule for newly installed grass.
Excessive Moisture Encourages Lawn Diseases
Additionally, even though water is critical to the sod’s health, you need to be careful not to overwater the sod when temperatures are colder. Irrigate only during the early morning hours before 10 am. Never irrigate during the evening or overnight. Watering in the morning will help avoid excessive moisture that tends to lead to fungal lawn disease.
Dormant Grass Establishes & Grows Significantly Slower
Finally, the grass will not have significant growth as it exits its active growing season and begins to transition into dormancy. More than likely, the sod will not fully establish its root system or have noticeable lateral growth when installed in the late fall through early spring. Do not be alarmed if the seams do not fill in until the spring when the grass enters its most active growing season. Be advised that you must apply 1-1.5 inches per zone daily when the grass begins greening in the spring. Continue this irrigation schedule until it fully establishes roots in the soil.