Installation and Establishment of New Sod in the Landscape
The urban landscape (which includes individual trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens, lawns etc.) requires less water than most people perceive it to need. A vigorous, healthy landscape provides numerous benefits for all citizens in a community, including a cooling effect on our environment, improvement of air quality, controlling erosion, providing habitat for birds, animals and insects, as well as the overall aesthetic beauty we all enjoy. This urban landscape is an integral part of the communities that we call home. It could not exist without supplemental water because of the arid nature of our climate along the Front Range of Colorado.
Wise water use is fundamental in growing and maintaining the landscapes in our communities. Horizon Turf Nursery strongly endorses the Best Management Practices (BMPs) and associated Practice Guidelines that have been written and produced by the Rocky Mountain Sod Growers Association and the Green Industries of Colorado (GreenCO) to promote the protection and conservation of water resources.
Cool season turf may be installed 12 months of the year. For the proper installation of a healthy turf grass lawn, which aids in reducing pollution in storm runoff, reducing heat island effects and providing other environmental benefits, the following fundamental BMPs should be implemented. Details of the associated practice guidelines for these Best Management Practices can be found on the Internet at www.greenco.org.
- Evaluate the soil and improve it if necessary with the addition of organic matter and deep tilling to encourage the development of deeper root systems. (A minimum of
- 3-5 cubic yards of quality organic matter per thousand square feet tilled in at least 4-6 inches deep.)
- Plan, properly install and maintain practical turf areas. (Select turf species appropriate for the intended use.)
- Properly design, install and maintain irrigation systems that will uniformly and efficiently deliver water.
Successful establishment of turf grass sod is best accomplished by following the BMPs and related Practice Guidelines listed above. Usually in a landscape, installing the sod is the last step in completing the landscape. This occurs after all the other landscape work has been completed such as installing a sprinkler system, planting trees and shrubs, creating planting beds and other landscape improvements. During the construction period the soil usually has dried out significantly which facilitates all of the other landscape operations but is now devoid of important soil moisture which is critical for proper plant growth. After the sod is laid, the following irrigation guidelines should be followed to successfully establish the sod after installation.
A well designed, installed and maintained sprinkler system will help accomplish two important functions.
- Replenish the soil moisture that has been lost
- Keep the sod alive as it develops a new root system. It is important to build up and maintain soil moisture in the top 6 inches or more of soil where the root system of the sod is to become established. Common sense will need to prevail so that if the weather is hotter than normal more water will be needed and if it is raining, then the amount of irrigation to be applied should be reduced. Site observation is critical with appropriate corrections to the irrigation schedule being made. Properly managing the irrigation system and using daily reference evapotranspiration rates* (ETo) to apply the correct amount of water, newly installed sod can be established following these guidelines:
For the first three days apply 1/2 inch of water daily.
- This is the most critical time for establishing sod. This is the amount of water needed to meet the sod’s demand for water and to replenish soil moisture that has been lost prior to the landscape being installed.
During the next two weeks the amount of water needed on a daily basis will be equal to the current daily ET rate.
- The water will be applied in several applications throughout the day to keep the moisture in the area the roots are beginning to grow. Check frequently to see if new roots are developing and that the soil is sufficiently wet but not saturated.
The following two weeks are used to transition from daily watering with frequent applications to fewer applications per day and to increase the number of days between irrigations. The current ET rate will determine the amount of water to be applied.
- During this time the grass should be ready for mowing and starting routine maintenance with proper horticultural practices. By the end of the establishment period (approximately one month), the grass should be able to go several days between waterings depending on the time of the season and the weather.
Easiest access to current ET information is to find it on the Internet at www.coloradoet.org. The greatest aid or tool for managing the water is to use several rain gauges in the sod area and read them to see if the appropriate amount of water is being applied and then make corrections to the irrigation schedule as needed. This should be done on a daily basis to properly manage the irrigation schedule and water resources.
*Reference evapotranspiration (ETo) is the calculated amount of water grass needs using weather station data.