Four Reasons Why Your New Sod Lawn Is Struggling

Posted on: 1 November 2016

New sod is one of the best aspects of a landscape—an instant, beautifully green lawn. However, some homeowners are dismayed to discover that after only a few short weeks, all that was emerald is now turning brown. Often, a new lawn struggles because of improper care or preparation. Here are four reasons why your new grass might be fighting for its life. 

1. You didn't prep the site before you laid your sod.

Proper site preparation is essential to the life of your grass. It's best to lay sod on a nice thick foundation of high-quality topsoil. Because of time or expense, some homeowners choose to skip prep and simply lay their sod on the existing dirt. This is a poor choice for the following reasons.

The dirt may be devoid of necessary nutrition. Often, new construction homes are the ones who use new sod installation. New construction homes, however, do not use nutrient-dense dirt during the landscape and building process. Fill dirt or fill sand is used, and it has almost no organic matter to provide nutrition for the grass.

Topsoil provides a loose, rich base for rooting. Laying sod over hard, seasoned ground makes it difficult for the grass to firmly knit roots down into the soil. A layer of topsoil is loose enough to easily allow roots to make their way down. With good rooting, grass has a much better chance of survival, especially in hot climates.

Topsoil evens out the ground surface. Soils heavy in clay especially need this type of leveling. Lumpy, bumpy ground makes for patchy grass. Use topsoil to get a nice smooth surface and improve drainage in sunken spots. 

If you skipped the prep process and think lack of topsoil might the reason, contact a local lawn service. Some fertilizer, aeration, and other equipment can help to save your grass.

2. You've haven't been watering the right way.

Many people water their lawns sporadically throughout the day or just when they have time—usually after work. However, the best times for watering are in the early morning or just before the sun goes down. You should take the time to really soak your new grass instead of just passing the hose over it. Shorter, more frequent watering during the hot part of the day will lead to less developed root systems; your grass will not knit deeply down into the soil. It will become more susceptible to drought and disease. Watering in the morning or evening for a long time will encourage grass roots to grow long and deep. Your grass will become much more self-sufficient. 

3. Your lawn area is too shady.

If only patches of your lawn are starting to turn brown, there's a chance that you planted your new grass in a place that doesn't get enough sun exposure. Typically, grass is pretty forgiving of partial shade, but it still needs a good six hours of sunlight a day for initial growth. Since you can't just bring sunlight to the north side of your house to help rescue your dying sod, here are some things to try.

Increase your mowing length. Shady grass needs to be longer—longer blades means more surface area for photosynthesis. The grass will be able to do more with less light. 

Keep people off the grass. It makes sense to want to sit and play in the shade, but compression is deadly for grass that doesn't see much sun.

Talk to a lawn specialist about replacing the grass in shady areas with a more shade-tolerant grass type. 

New grass can be a joy for your landscape, and with these guidelines, your grass should stay healthy and green. 

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