To save newly installed sod that has begun to turn brown, start by lifting up several of the sod pieces at the corners. If they lift up easily, the sod has not been able to properly take root. It is essential to loosen the topsoil to improve the sod’s ability to develop roots. After loosening the soil, lay the sod back into place and use a lawn roller to make sure there is good sod-to-soil contact. Next, water your sod twice daily until it begins to take root on its own. Do not walk on the sod or mow the grass until it revives and becomes established.
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Why Does Sod Turn Brown After Installation?
Incorrect watering, compacted soil, and foot traffic on new sod are the most common reasons your sod will turn brown. However, they aren’t the only reasons your sod may struggle. Too little or too many soil nutrients (especially nitrogen) can cause your new lawn to turn brown. Improper soil pH can also cause your sod to struggle and turn brown.
- Too much or too little water.
- Hard soil that prevents sod from taking root.
- Air pockets between the sod and the soil also prohibit root development.
- Foot traffic or mowing new sod.
- Too much or too little fertilizer.
- Improper soil pH.
Installing sod successfully is all about preparation. A properly prepared lawn encourages sod to thrive. Review our essential steps to prep for sod installation to set your lawn up for success. A properly prepared lawn will have little to no brown spots once you install your sod.
Is New Sod Supposed To Be Brown?
New sod should only be brown if it was delivered and laid during the winter. This is only common in warm regions where winters do not reach freezing temperatures. In these cases, it is common for brown sod to be installed in winter. This is because the sod is made up of dormant grass, which has ceased growing during winter. When spring arrives, the sod will begin to green up, as long as the soil was well-prepared and the new sod is properly cared for.
- In warm regions, brown sod is sometimes laid in winter.
- Brown sod laid in winter is dormant, not dead.
- If you are laying sod in spring, summer, or fall, it should not turn brown until winter arrives.
If you are laying sod at any time of the year where your neighbors’ lawns are green, your sod should not be brown. So, if you are installing new sod during spring, summer, or fall, your sod should be green. Sod that turns from green to brown shortly after installation is in danger of dying. To prevent a lawn full of dead grass, take action to save your sod.
5 Tips to Revive Brown Sod
If your new sod has transformed into a brown lawn, it’s time to save it immediately. If you don’t act fast, your sod may die. If sod fully dies, it cannot be returned to life. This will leave you with a lawn full of nothing but dead grass. In order to prevent this waste and avoid the cost of re-sodding your lawn, use the tips below. They will transform your struggling sod into a healthy lawn.
Check If Your Sod Has Taken Root
Begin by testing your sod to see if it has sent roots down into the soil. Start with a single piece of sod, grip it at one corner, and try to gently peel it up from the ground. If the sod comes up easily, it has not been able to take root. This means you have some serious work to do. If the sod resists being pulled up, it’s beginning to root and just needs some extra care.
- Grasp a piece of sod at the corner and carefully pull to see if it comes up easily.
- If the sod does not resist being pulled up, it has not taken root. This means the topsoil must be improved to save your sod.
- If the sod feels “tacked down” then it has begun to take root. Do not disturb it. Likely, your sod needs water.
- Test sod in several areas of your lawn to see where it is struggling.
When testing your sod to see if it’s begun to grow roots, check several pieces of sod in different areas of your lawn. Sod in some areas may take root better than others. Focus on brown spots in your lawn, to see if lack of root development is the problem. The next two tips are designed to help your new sod take root and green up.
Loosen the Topsoil
If your sod has not begun to take root, you need to loosen the soil so that the roots can get a foothold. To do this, remove the sod pieces that have not taken root and set them aside on a pallet or paved area. Then, use a rototiller, shovel, hoe, or rake to loosen the soil to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm). This is also the perfect time to mix compost or fertilizer into the loosened soil. You can find more information on this process in our how-to article on preparing soil for sod.
- Remove all pieces of sod that have not taken root and stack them on a pallet or your driveway.
- Till the soil where the sod was laid to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm).
- Mix compost or fertilizer into the soil if you have not done so in the past 3 months.
- Use this lawn roller to roll the soil and level it.
After loosening the soil and adding any necessary fertilizer and soil amendments, use a lawn roller to lightly compact the soil. This process will still leave the soil loose enough for sod to easily root, but will squeeze out air pockets in the soil that inhibit grass growth. After you’re done, the soil should be loose enough that you can poke your finger down into it. Sod needs loose soil to grow roots, gather its own water and nutrients, and turn green.
Re-Install Sod That Failed to Take Root
Once you have loosened the soil where your sod failed to take root, it’s time to put the sod back into place. Reinstall the sod on top of the newly loosened soil. However, your job isn’t done. An air pocket can form between sod and the soil below. This dries prevents the roots from making contact with the soil. So, after your sod is re-installed, roll over it with a lawn roller to press it into place. This will ensure that the roots make contact with the soil, which allows for quick growth and green grass.
- Lay your sod on top of the soil you loosened and rolled.
- After your sod is installed, roll over the sod with a lawn roller to provide proper sod-to-soil contact.
- Push or tow the lawn roller over the sod in a north-south pattern, then an east-west pattern to properly press the sod to the soil.
- Adequate soil contact helps struggling sod take root faster and green up.
When rolling your sod, use a lawn roller filled one-third full with water or sand. Roll across the sod in a north-south pattern, followed by an east-west pattern. This will provide sod-to-soil contact and allow your sod to grow healthy again.
Provide Plenty of Water
One of the top reasons sod turns brown is due to lack of water. So, to help your sod green up again, water it twice per day for at least two weeks. Water once early in the morning, followed by a second watering session in the late afternoon. Each watering session should last for 10 minutes. After two weeks of this schedule, check to see if your sod is starting to take root. If it is, gradually reduce watering to once per day, then finally twice weekly once your sod is fully established and completely green.
- Water brown sod twice each day to encourage it to green up.
- Water for 10 minutes in the morning, followed by 10 minutes in the late afternoon.
- Continue this twice-daily watering schedule for 2 weeks.
- After 2 weeks, your sod should begin to green up noticeably.
Sod needs multiple daily waterings because new sod dries out very quickly. Sunlight and warm temperatures can quickly dry out thin pieces of sod, which causes brown grass and a dead lawn. Until the sod develops roots that dive deep into the soil, it needs frequent watering to stay green. For more sod watering tips, check out our guide to removing old grass and laying new sod.
Keep Off the Grass
Do not mow or walk on brown sod that you wish to green up. It is also essential to keep pets off the grass. Not only can foot traffic from pets kill sod, but pet urine and feces can cause dead, brown patches of sod. Until your sod is green, deeply rooted, and 4–5 inches (10–13 cm) tall, it should not be walked on or mowed.
- Do not walk, drive, or allow pets on your sod for 2–4 weeks as you try to revive it.
- Even light foot traffic and small amounts of pet use can cause dead grass.
- Brown sod is struggling and needs extra care, so treat it very delicately to give it a chance to green up.
Too much heavy use too soon is one of the top causes of brown sod and dead grass. Even proper soil conditions and regular watering cannot make up for sod that is abused before it can grow its own roots. Plan to keep off the sod for 2–4 weeks as it recovers.
How Long Does it Take for Brown Sod to Turn Green?
With proper care, brown sod can begin to regain its color within 1–2 weeks. As long as your soil is properly prepared, the sod is installed correctly, it receives twice-daily water, and you prevent foot traffic on the sod, you will give your struggling sod a chance. Don’t expect overnight results, but be patient and stick with the sod-saving program for at least 2 weeks.
- Struggling sod that is still living can turn green again with 1–2 weeks of proper care.
- If your sod has fully died, no amount of care can make it green again.
- Dead grass can never be revived, but struggling sod can often be saved.
It is important to note that dead grass cannot be saved. If your sod has started to turn brown but has not fully died, it can be salvaged and returned to a vibrant, green color in just a few weeks. However, sod that has fully died will never turn green again. Dead sod must be thrown out and replaced.
How Do You Restore Brown Sod?
New sod that has begun to turn brown after installation can green up again. Just follow these tips:
- Attempt to pull up pieces of brown sod in your yard—if they come up easily, they have not taken root.
- Remove sod pieces that have not taken root and till the soil to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm).
- Reinstall the sod on the tilled soil and use a lawn roller to press the sod firmly into place.
- Water twice daily for two weeks to prevent sod from drying out.
- Keep people, pets, and vehicles off the sod for 2–4 weeks so it has a chance to recover.
If you see brown grass in your new sod, act right away by following these steps. If sod struggles for too long, it will die completely. By taking action as soon as the sod starts to struggle, you can save your entire lawn.