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Sod establishment
turf border.png


Tips for establishing new sod

Note: Application rates and system design can vary significantly. Suggested run-times discussed below are based on average application rates. Always check amount with tuna can calibration.

Establishment of new sod is often the single largest usage of water in the residential setting.
While it is true that new sod does require some extra care in order to successfully take root, according to University of Florida research, new turf typically does not need nearly the amount of water that is recommended by some installers and landscapers.

Per County ordinance, new plant materials are allowed a 60-day total establishment period. Because of this, many people mistakenly believe that their new turf requires a full 60 days of intensive watering to successfully become established. This has unfortunately resulted in some truly enormous water bills...

When it comes to establishing new turf, the key is to understand what is going on underground, at the root level.



New Turf = Shallow Roots
Turf - shallow roots.png
When sod is laid, all of the roots are very close to the surface. During the first ten days or so, the critical goal is to prevent the sod from drying out, while supporting new root growth. Depending on time of year, this can be achieved with as little as about 1/2" of watering per day. The key to achieving this goal is to split this 1/2" of watering into several brief applications of water.

For pop-up sprays, this could be typically achieved with as little as 8 minutes of run-time in the morning and another 8 minutes in the evening.

For rotors, which take longer to put out the same amount of water, you might need to run each zone for about 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to achieve the same output.

[Note: Application rates and system design can vary significantly. Suggested run-times are based on average application rates for pop-up spray and rotor heads. Always check amount with tuna can calibration.]

(Such brief run-times are in stark contrast to those that are often recommended by landscapers and sod installers. Remember, at this stage, the turf roots are within inches of the surface. Longer run-times will only succeed in soaking the soil far deeper than the roots can currently reach. Therefore, during the earliest stages of sod establishment, longer run-times would only be wasting water.)


Going Deeper...
After ten days, it is typically fine to eliminate the evening watering cycle, while doubling the run-time. The net result is to continue to provide about 1/2" of water per day, but in a single application. (Therefore, the sprinklers programming should be changed to run only in the morning, about 15 minutes for pop-up spray zones, -or- 30 minutes for rotor zones.)

By reducing the frequency of watering to once per day (in the morning), with a deeper soak, you will begin to encourage deeper root growth. Maintain this schedule for five days.



Training Your Turf
turf - deep roots
At about 16 days, (i.e. halfway through the 30-day period), once again reduce the frequency by half, while slightly increasing the run-time. (So by this point, the sprinklers should begin running every other day, about 20 minutes for pop-up sprays, -or- 45 minutes for rotors.)

Again, the goal is to make the roots follow the water deeper into the soil in order to stimulate healthy, drought-resistent roots.

After 30 days, turf is frequently ready to begin regular maintenance watering on your designated watering day. Of course, it is important to include the disclaimer: ALWAYS let the turf's condition guide your watering decisions. (For tips on maintaining healthy, resilient turf, please visit our section on Lawns and Irrigation.)

When in doubt, “Let Your Lawn Tell You When to Water”UF/IFAS Publication



Best and worst times of year for efficiently establishing new plant material.


BEST

-Cooler-weather months (typically December through early March)
-Rainy summer months (typically late-June through early September)

WORST
-Hot, dry months with low humidity and little rainfall:
(typically late-March through early June)
(typically late-September through November)


Note: Application rates and system design can vary significantly. Suggested run-times discussed above are based on average application rates. Always check amount with tuna can calibration.