Brown Spots in New Sod? [7 Causes and Fixes]

If the brown spots in your new sod are accompanied by a dry, brittle grass texture then they are caused by a lack of water. However, if your sod is brown but is soggy to the touch, the discoloration may be caused by overwatering. If your sod has not made proper contact with the soil—or if the soil is too hard for the sod to take root—then your new grass may turn brown. Additionally, if new sod is exposed to traffic from pets and people too soon, it may develop brown spots. Applying too much fertilizer to sod can cause it to dry out and actually make brown spots worse. Fungal diseases and insect infestation can cause brown spots in sod, but this is less common.

Brown spots in new sod

Is it Normal for New Sod to Have Some Brown Spots?

It is not normal for new sod to have brown spots. If you are laying sod in spring, summer, or fall, your sod should be green at the time of installation. If brown patches start to appear in your green lawn after installation, your new sod is in need of immediate attention to prevent it from dying.

  • Sod should not be brown at the time of installation unless you installed sod in winter.
  • Green sod should not begin to turn brown after it is installed.
  • Even if your grass blades start to turn brown, you can use special tips to save brown sod.

The only time it is okay if new sod is brown is if you are laying sod in winter. Sod that is brown because it is dormant in cold weather is not a cause for alarm. Brown sod laid in winter will begin to green up in spring, as long as it is properly cared for.

7 Reasons Your New Sod Has Brown Spots (and How to Fix Them)

A brown spot in new sod is cause for concern. If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, your brand new sod can transform into a brown lawn. Dead sod can’t be revived, so it’s best to check for the following problems. Here’s how to identify and solve brown patches of sod in your lawn.

Lack of Water

If you are not providing twice-daily watering—or if your area is experiencing high temperatures—then your new sod is probably turning brown because it is too dry. To check if lack of water is the problem, start by feeling the brown grass blades. Are they dry, crisp, and brittle? If so, your sod needs water. If you are unsure, lift up a loose piece of sod and check the underside—dry soil and roots on your sod signify it’s not getting enough water.

  • Feel your sod to see if too little water is causing the brown spots.
  • Brittle grass blades mean your sod is not getting enough water.
  • If your sod has not taken root, feel the underside—dry soil and roots mean it needs more water.
  • Water twice daily for 10 minutes at each watering session to restore your sod’s green color.

New sod requires frequent watering to prevent it from drying out. Until it begins to take root, water your sod twice daily. Once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. Water for 10 minutes each time you water. Then, gradually reduce watering as the green color returns.

Too Much Water

Although it is less common than suffering from lack of water, overwatered sod can begin to turn brown. In order to determine if this is the problem, walk across the sod. If the sod is spongy, soggy, and squishes as you walk, it has been overwatered. Further, overwatered grass blades may feel slimy or stringy. Turn over a piece of sod—if the roots are brown and slimy, it is definitely turning brown due to overwatering.

  • Sod can turn brown if it is overwatered.
  • Sod that has a squishy, spongy, or soggy texture is struggling due to too much water.
  • Overwatered sod will have slimy grass blades and roots.
  • Cut back on watering to save your sod. Water 1–2 times per day for 5–10 minutes.
  • Do not water your sod if it has rained recently or there is rain in the forecast.

To revive sod that is suffering from too much water, reduce your watering duration. Sod requires frequent watering to stay hydrated but it doesn’t need lots of water all at once. Water 1–2 times daily for 5–10 minutes until the sod begins to dry out and regain color. Skip watering on rainy days to prevent waterlogging your new sod.

Compacted Soil

Hard soil can prevent sod from taking root, which causes it to turn brown because the grass cannot gather its own water and nutrients from the earth. To check if this is the problem, first, give your sod the proper amount of time to take root. Then, try to lift one piece of sod from the corner. If the sod comes up easily, it’s struggling because it cannot take root in the soil below. If the sod feels lightly “tacked down,” then this isn’t the cause of your brown sod.

  • Hardened soil can prevent sod from taking root.
  • Sod that is struggling to root is susceptible to turning brown from heat, drought, and lack of nutrients.
  • Sod that lifts up easily 2 weeks after installation is not taking root properly.
  • Stack struggling sod to one side and loosen the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil.
  • Use this lawn roller to level the loosened soil before putting sod back into place.

To save sod that is struggling to root, carefully lift the pieces of sod and stack them to one side. Then, use a shovel, hoe, rake, or rototiller to loosen the top 6 inches 915 cm) of soil. Once this is done, pass over the loosened soil with a lawn roller to level it. Then, lay the sod back into place and resume watering. The sod will now have a chance to send roots down into the loosened soil.

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Poor Sod-to-Soil Contact

New sod may turn brown if it cannot take root due to air pockets between the sod and the soil. To determine if this is the cause of the brown sod in your lawn, check to see if your sod has taken root. If it pulls up easily 2 weeks after it’s been installed, then it’s not developing properly. If the soil below is loosened, then your sod isn’t rooting because the roots aren’t making contact with the soil below.

  • Sod that fails to take root when it is laid on loosened soil is struggling due to air pockets and poor sod-to-soil contact.
  • Use a lawn roller to roll over the sod in your lawn to press the sod to the soil—this will encourage root growth.
  • You only need to roll over sod once with a lawn roller to achieve proper contact.

To ensure your sod is making proper contact with the soil, first fill a lawn roller to the correct weight. Then, push or pull the lawn roller over the sod to press it firmly against the soil. This will remove air pockets so your sod can grow roots. Rolling sod to ensure proper root-to-soil contact is essential to cultivating a healthy lawn.

Too Much Foot Traffic

If you allow pets, people, or vehicles onto your new sod too soon, it may cause brown spots in your lawn. Sod is not ready for light foot traffic for at least 2 weeks after installation. Dogs should not be allowed on new sod for 4–6 weeks. Not only will foot traffic damage or kill your sod, but dogs relieving themselves on new sod can cause a brown spot everywhere they urinate.

  • Brown spots in sod can be caused by foot traffic by people, animals, and vehicles.
  • If pets are allowed to relieve themselves on new sod, it can cause brown spots quickly.
  • Do not walk on your sod for 2 weeks after installation, if possible.
  • Keep pets off the new grass for 4–6 weeks after your lay sod.
  • To help revive brown spots caused by pets, follow our methods for saving a lawn destroyed by dogs.

To make sure your sod isn’t being killed by overuse, stay off your lawn as much as possible for 2 weeks after installation. After 2 weeks, only walk on the sod to perform lawn maintenance. Wait 4–6 weeks before you allow pets and people to use the lawn regularly. Keep all vehicles from driving across your lawn for at least 3 months after installation.

Lawn Diseases

Brown spots in sod may be caused by a fungal disease or pest insects. This is relatively rare, but is still possible. To check for these diseases, look closely at the brown areas in your sod. If you see discolored, bleached, or oddly shaped spots on grass blades, your sod is most likely suffering from a fungal infection. To check for insects—such as lawn moths—inspect the soil at the base of the grass blades. If you see small white cocoons, then your lawn is infested with insects.

  • Discolored lesions or splotches on brown grass blades indicate a fungal infection in sod.
  • Use this fungicide to drive off the infection and allow your sod to green up.
  • The presence of small cocoons in the brown areas of grass indicates lawn moths have infested your sod.
  • Use an insecticide to kill pest insects so your sod can bounce back.

The good news is, lawn diseases can be treated and your sod can be saved. To destroy a fungal infection in sod, use a lawn-safe fungicide. It won’t stop grass growth or impede your sod’s development. For insects, it is best to call a professional exterminator to identify the culprit. There are several powerful insecticides for lawn moths, but you want to be positive insects are the problem before using these products.

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Fertilizer Overuse

Using too much fertilizer on new sod can cause it to turn brown. The high nitrogen content in some commercial fertilizers pulls water out of the soil. This leads to dry grass that appears to be suffering from a lack of water. If you’ve recently used fertilizer on your sod and are noticing brown spots, fertilizer burn is probably the cause.

  • Using powerful fertilizers can dry out soil and sod roots, leading to brown sod.
  • Brown spots that appear 2–14 days after fertilizing are usually caused by fertilizer burn.
  • Water your sod twice daily to help combat the dehydration from fertilizer.
  • Use this non-burning fertilizer to feed your sod without causing brown spots.

To restore sod burned by fertilizer, first water your sod twice daily to help it rehydrate. Then, put a pause on the fertilizer applications. Although it is fine to use a gentle lawn starter right after you install new sod, you do not need to add more fertilizer if you have properly prepared your soil for sod. Instead, wait 2–3 months, then use a fertilizer that is specifically marketed as “slow release.”

How Do You Get Rid of Brown Spots on New Sod?

To fix the most common causes of brown sod:

  • Water dry sod twice daily.
  • Reduce watering duration for soggy, brown sod
  • Loosen the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil beneath sod that fails to take root.
  • Use a lawn roller to make sure your sod makes good contact with the soil.
  • Keep pets, people, and vehicles off the sod until it is established.
  • Check for fungal or insect-caused lawn diseases and treat them accordingly.
  • Avoid using fertilizer—too much fertilizer can dry out sod and turn it brown.

In order to correct brown spots in sod, it’s essential to know the cause first. Begin by checking the grass itself. Does it feel dry or is it soggy to the touch? Is it firmly rooted or struggling to get a foothold in the soil? These clues will allow you to identify the cause of brown sod so you can choose the right solution.

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