LSU AgCenter Horticulturist Outlines How To Establish Sod In The Landscape

Thomas J. Koske  |  7/29/2005 8:48:00 PM

News You Can Use For August 2005

Basic lawn care is essential to a new sod's success. Basic care involves fertilizing, watering and mowing properly, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.

"Lawn sites vary considerably, but you can't expect to have a good lawn without decent growing conditions," Koske says, emphasizing, "Placing sod down in a poor environment is asking for failure." New sod requires a prepared and suitable sod bed, adequate sunlight and moisture.

The different grass species have different shade tolerances, and, within a species, some cultivars will perform better in shade than others.

Koske says the word tolerance is not the same as preference. All of our turf prefer full sun exposure. The sod you bought was grown in full sun and will try to adjust to the conditions of your site. Even a shade-tolerant sod like St. Augustinegrass will struggle in heavy shade. Consider other ground covers for very shady sites.

The soil bed in which the sod is laid should be graded for drainage, lightly tilled and fertilized. Soil fertility is evaluated with a soil test, which includes any lime or sulfur requirement. These requirements are best handled when the soil is first prepared or earlier. Phosphorus fertility is also best handled at this time. The testing takes a couple of weeks, so sample well before sodding.

Unless your soil’s phosphorus tests very high, incorporate 1-2 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) per 1,000 square. feet. prior to planting. Other nutrients can be applied several weeks later. After the sod is installed with pieces tight, roll the sod surface flat to level the surface and press out air pockets.

Irrigate soon after installation. Never let the new sod get very dry. Irrigate as needed to wet down to an inch or two. Keep the sod moist, but not wet, for at least a week. Begin to back off watering the second week and more so the third week. Never keep sod soggy for long periods. Never let the new sod get very dry for at least three weeks.

It takes at least three weeks to get sod established and up to six weeks if installed in the cooler parts of the growing season, which runs October through March in south Louisiana.

Begin fertilizing the turf after one month as is appropriate for the current season, the grass type and soil test recommendations. Mow regularly at the higher recommended height of cut for that cultivar. Mow whenever growth reaches 50 percent above the chosen cutting height.

Commercial sod installers must be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and should adhere to the procedures Koske described. More information on lawn care is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com/

On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org

Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222, or tkoske@agcenter.lsu.edu

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