Sod – the ready-made grass – simply buy it, install and enjoy an instantly fresh, vibrant green lawn! Sod however is an expensive choice compared to seeding – here are a few advantages of each approach to ease your decision.
But the key to a healthy sod lawn is healthy soil and the link between the sod turf and that soil is solid root growth.
A strong sod deep root system also ensures that your turf can withstand the stresses of drought, insects, and disease down the road and for its overall long-term health.
But the big question is how long does it take for sod to build roots and what is the rooting process?
Well, the short answer is sod roots take roughly 2 weeks to form and 6 weeks for deep root growth, as long as you care for sod properly.
There are however several things you can do to encourage deep sod root growth and promote healthy root growth like applying the right amount of water to newly installed sod, fertilizers including liquid fertilizers or granular fertilizer products, replenishing essential nutrients in the soil, using a lawn roller after laying sod, and taking care of sod through all stages of growth.
Further down, I also reveal the factors that impact sod root development, and how you can boost the ability of sod pieces to build deep roots in healthy soil, and avoid building a shallow root system.
How Long Does it Take for Sod to Take Root?
Let me answer the big question first before getting into the other factors that help sod take root and for complete root development.
The amount of time sod takes root depends on the season, where the warmer the temperature, the faster sod will grow roots.
This equates to roughly 15 days in the summer and approximately between 20 days to a month in the winter.
You can easily tell if sod grass roots have taken root by gently lifting a piece of sod to feel for any resistance.
If there’s no resistance, then a couple of pieces and all the pieces of sod haven’t taken root, so you’ll have to figure out the reasons why the sod hasn’t taken root.
Why Your Sod Hasn’t Taken Root Yet?
Overwatering Sod – A Big Mistake
Even though you may be excited about your new sod installation and are eager to ensure the sod gets enough water, it’s easy to go overboard and overwater.
When roots receive too much water, they won’t want to grow deep into the soil looking for water.
Underwatering Sod – A Bigger Mistake
If you under water new sod, its roots will get thirsty and eventually die. Sprinklers are a good way to water sod but sometimes miss edges and corners, so these spots dry out faster and cause dry patches.
Hand watering areas near buildings, concrete, and asphalt is a good idea, but not for the entire lawn as it results in uneven coverage.
As a thumb rule, your sod lawn should be watered enough to ensure moisture is always present for a minimum of 2 weeks after installation.
You Forgot to Fertilize Sod or Used the Wrong Type of Fertilizer
Apply a balanced starter fertilizer roughly 30 days after installing new sod. The right type of fertilizer does two things – helps the sod roots get established and strengthens them so that they are less susceptible to pests and diseases. Read this homeowner’s guide to applying fertilizer to sod.
You Bought Poor Quality Sod
When shopping for sod, it’s best to do your homework and buy sod from a high-quality sod farm.
Always opt for fresh sod that has been recently harvested and not sod that has been sitting on a sod farm for a while.
Mowing Your Sod Too Soon
Remember sod roots are fragile so you don’t want to tear them apart with a mower before they’re fully established.
See also my detailed guide on when to mow new sod
Key Factors that Impact Sod Root Development
There are ideally three factors that affect sod root development namely current soil conditions whether clay soil, compacted soil, or dry soil, proper watering techniques, and the way you treat the sod.
1. Soil Beneath the Sod
When it comes to sod installation, a common mistake homeowners make is choosing the wrong type of soil for sod or installing sod in poor soil conditions.
Sod deep rooting will only take place when the soil is carefully prepared and contains the necessary nutrients for sod healthy growth and for the specific sod grass species.
Soil conditions are closely related to water retention, which hinders the ability of the sod to grow roots.
There are two types of soil:
- Clay soil and
- Sandy soil
Clay soil is extremely dense and retains water, therefore becomes water-logged and encourages healthy sod root growth.
Sandy soil contrarily allows water to drain faster and can quickly dry out sod and its roots. You can improve the condition of sandy soil by applying high-quality fertilizer or by adding organic matter.
Adding this, it’s also important to add topsoil if your existing topsoil is less than 2 inches deep and the soil below is mostly clay or sand.
However, if you already have rich topsoil that has low clay and sand content, you may not have to add topsoil before installing sod.
There are several types of topsoil you can use to grow strong roots for a beautiful sod lawn but I prefer to use topsoil that’s brown to black in color, even when dry.
This color indicates high amounts of organic matter in the soil so the soil will be rich in nutrients and microbes that collectively fuel sod grass growth.
Apart from topsoil, there are a few other types of soil you can use to build strong grassroots including:
- Triple mix,
- Pure black loam,
- Black garden mix, or
2. Consistent Watering
Sod should be installed on the same day it arrives on your property or else you risk the roots drying out.
If you install sod in the summer, the watering schedule should include watering throughout the day to prevent shrinking and drying.
Watering sod is a gradual process, where you start out by watering a couple of times a day for the first week and tone it down a notch to once a week in the second week, and four times a week the third week.
3. Treating Your New Sod Right
It may be tempting to throw a BBQ party on a new sod lawn, but it’s best to stay off the lawn to prevent crushing or disturbing the sod roots.
Further, avoid mowing until the grass blades show signs of growth and you’re sure that the roots are firmly established in the ground and aren’t fragile roots.
4. Use a Lawn Roller Immediately
Using a lawn roller on new sod allows its roots to come into better contact with the soil and gets rid of air pockets.
A roller also gives new sod immediate access to moisture and allows the roots to knit together quickly.
Shallow Roots vs. Deeper Roots
Sod grows roots in two stages:
- The first stage is shallow roots
- The second stage is deep roots.
It’s easy for homeowners to think the growing process is over once the sod has developed shallow roots.
Shallow roots will only turn into deeper roots after proper watering and taking care of sod in its initial stages.
After the sod has established deeper roots and healthy root growth, you can mow the lawn for the first time when the sod grass is completely dry. Here’s a quick test to check if sod has established strong roots.
Sod takes approximately 2 weeks to form shallow roots, and 6 weeks for deep root growth. Be patient until then and apply the right watering techniques to prevent root rot and the sod roots from drying out.
Hi, Alex Kuritz here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.