New lawns, whether established via sodding or seeding, need to be mowed for better turf health and an enhanced visual appearance. Mowing at the wrong time and frequency can easily damage your lawn. Here’s a guide on when to mow new sod and why it is important to adhere to the waiting time.
The right time to mow new sod is at least two weeks after installation. This waiting time is to allow the roots to grow and become strong in the ground. When it is time to cut the grass, set the mowing height higher than you usually would to leave enough leaf surface for adequate photosynthesis.
When to Mow New Sod
It’s a question many homeowners keep asking themselves, ‘How long can I wait before mowing my newly sodded lawn?’
It is recommended that you wait for at least two weeks after the installation of new sod before mowing. This will give your sod time to establish its roots in the soil for further growth. Mowing immediately after sodding is not good, as the sod’s root system is usually still narrow at this point to facilitate any new growth.
The best time to mow your sodded lawn is once the root system is established. You can determine this by pulling out and feeling a section of the sod for any signs of resistance. If there is, then it’s time to bring out your lawnmower!
Mowing Height for New Sod
You should mow your newly sodded lawn at a height that will still leave behind enough leaf surface area to adequately facilitate photosynthesis for the grass. The ability of a perennial grass species to maintain photosynthetic production through mowing cycles is determined by various factors including the following:
- How long the internodes are
- How many rhizomes/stolons it has
- How many basal buds it has
These aspects determine turf grasses’ tolerance to low mowing heights since they’re responsible for leaf mass.
Different mowing heights for different grasses
With the factors varying in length and quantity for every turfgrass species, different turf grasses have different recommended mowing heights.
Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues, for instance, cannot produce sufficient leaf mass when cut at very low heights, hence should be mowed at about 1.5 to 2 inches while they’re still new sod, which is relatively high.
On the other hand, bunch-type sods like Tall fescues and ryegrass produce just enough leaf mass to allow mowing heights of 2 to 3 inches of new sod.
Finding the correct mowing height will help your lawn grow thicker and fuller, preventing bare spots and weed competition. (See my detailed guide on making bermuda grass thicker here)
Care Tips Before Mowing Newly Planted Sod
Fertilize Before Mowing
After laying new sod, you will need to ensure it gets the proper fertilization. Lawnifi’s New Lawn Starter Box is a great all-around nutrition program that can help your sod get a healthy start. This is what I’ve been using on all new sod jobs that I put down. Check it out here.
Watering before Mowing
Before you mow newly planted sod two weeks post-installation, you need to ensure that it stays adequately watered. The watering should start right after installation and should be done three-five times a day for the first two weeks.
Ensure that you water the sod up to a depth of four-six inches to keep the lawn adequately damp and spongy. You can determine whether you’ve watered to the appropriate depth by lifting up the corner of a single sod.
Avoid foot traffic
Another crucial care tip for newly sodded lawns is to avoid stepping on the lawn to give it time to take root. Walking on the lawn while it’s still spongy will leave behind foot-step depressions, resulting in uneven growth and an unsightly lawn.
More water in summer
Also, if you’re planting during hot summer days, you can let your sprinklers run for more than the 3 to 5-time watering frequency recommended above. This is because, in hot weather, the sod dries out faster, causing it to turn brown, shrink, and die out.
Furthermore, frequent watering helps new sod take root faster, as the moisture facilitates faster soil penetration for the sod roots. After doing this for 14 days, it’s now time to mow your lawn for the first time.
Caring for New Sod after Mowing
Reduce the watering frequency
As from the third week after installation, and after the first mowing, it’s now time to gradually start reducing the watering frequency. You should switch to watering no more than thrice per day.
Water the lawn on alternate days
If the sod has already firmly taken root, it’ll likely not dry out even if it goes unwatered on some days. At this point, therefore, you can decide to only water your new lawn on alternate days. By the fourth week, the watering frequency should have gone down to twice a day, every second day. After a month, you can bring the frequency further down to once every three days.
Run sprinklers in the mornings and evenings
We recommend running your sprinklers early in the morning and late in the evenings when there’s minimal evaporation. Additionally, you can split up each watering session into two; running the sprinklers in two one-hour intervals; to give the water time to penetrate into heavy soils and consequently facilitate deep root growth.
Also see our Oscillating Sprinkler Guide
Benefits of Mowing Your Newly Planted Lawn
Mowing is a vital part of developing a healthy lawn. As soon as you start cutting the turfgrass the right way, you’ll notice the following benefits:
- Mowing helps your lawn grow thicker and fuller faster.
- Mowing frequently helps most lawns choke out weeds such as crabgrass.
- In some cases, cutting newly sodded lawns can help prevent and get rid of insects such as grass spiders.
When you mow your newly sodded lawn, significant portions of the grass leaves that facilitate photosynthesis are cut off, forcing the plant to regrow the leaves while also sprouting more shoots. These new shoots translate into an increased surface area/turf density. High-Density grass turf is considered as good quality turf.
For home lawns – for instance – the goal is usually to increase the turf density for increased wear tolerance. A high-density turf can tolerate foot traffic without losing its lush color. As for sports turfs, a high-density turf is desirable since it increases the turf’s playability.
Additionally, frequent mowing helps ‘condition’ your turf grass to develop shorter shoots, as the species adapts to avoid significant sections like the crown getting chopped off. With shorter shoots, less root establishment is required to support the grass plants. This translates into simpler lawn care and maintenance routines, as less water is consequently required to establish the root system.