Fall is an optimal time to install a new sod lawn. Although you may assume grass grows best in spring, this isn’t always the case. Cool-season grasses perform best when they are started from sod in fall. Even warm-season grass varieties grow well following a fall sod installation. This makes autumn the best or second-best time to lay sod, depending on grass type. It is better to lay sod in fall than it is to install in winter or during the peak summer months.
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Why is Fall a Good Time to Lay Sod?
Sod performs well in fall because the cooler temperatures trigger an increase in grass blade and root growth for most species. This leads to faster rooting, meaning your sod will start gathering nutrients and water for itself faster. Additionally, cool fall temperatures help prevent sod from drying out. Dry sod is the number one cause of sod death and unsuccessful sod installations.
- Many grasses experience a growth spurt in fall, meaning your sod will root faster.
- Cool temperatures prevent sod from drying out.
- Palleted sod will last longer in lower temperatures.
- Working conditions will be cooler and easier on you.
Laying sod isn’t as simple as throwing grass on the ground. It can take 1–2 hours to lay a single pallet of sod. If your sod is left on the pallet in hot temperatures, it can dry out. Cool fall temperatures help palleted sod stay healthy longer.
What Types of Sod Should be Laid in Fall?
Cool-season grass sod performs better when laid in fall than at any other time of year. You might think all grasses grow best in spring, but that isn’t the case. The following grasses actually do most of their growing in fall, making them ideal candidates for sod installation in late summer or early fall:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Fescue (Tall and Fine varieties)
- Perennial Ryegrass
If you are living in the northern half of the United States, Canada, or the UK, cool-season grass is what you need for your climate. If you’re considering one of the above species, plan to lay sod in the fall. Your sod will take root faster and thrive more easily than it would during spring or summer.
What Types of Sod Should be Installed in Spring?
Warm-season grass sod does best when installed in spring because it tolerates heat well enough to grow through summer, unlike cool-season grasses. However, the second-best time to install these grasses is in the fall. The following types of grass are typically established from sod in spring, but also respond well to fall installations:
- Bermuda Grass
- St. Augustine
- Centipede Grass
- Buffalo Grass
- Seashore Paspalum
If you are living in the southern United States, Australia, or South Africa, you will be planting a warm-season grass. Although they do best with spring installation, you can nurture warm season sod in fall.
How to Install Sod in Fall
To get the most out of your sod in fall, you will need to follow some simple rules to make sure your grass takes root quickly and grows into a healthy lawn. The 3 rules of fall sod installations are:
- Time your sod delivery for early fall.
- Keep your sod moist so it can root quickly.
- Feed sod with a starter fertilizer to kickstart growth.
If you employ these three tactics, you’ll have an established, lush lawn by the time winter arrives.
Time Your Sod Installation
What is the best time for fall sod installation?
Early fall is perfect for sod installation in areas with freezing winters. Plan to lay sod between mid-September and mid-October. While temperatures between 55 and 65℉ (13–18℃) It is fine if temperatures are as high as 75℉ (24℃).
- Plan sod installation for early fall (mid-September–mid-October)
- Fall sod does best when installed in temperatures 55–75℉ (13–24℃)
In warm regions, where winters rarely bring freezes, you can lay sod up until late November. In fact, warm-season grass sod can even be installed in winter in regions where the soil is not frozen, so timing your sod installation is less crucial in these areas.
Water Your Sod
How often should you water new sod in the fall?
Regardless of the time of year, sod should be kept moist for the first two weeks after installation, or until it begins to take root. Water twice per day, in the morning and afternoon, for 10 minutes per watering session.
- After installation, water sod twice per day for 2 weeks.
- Water for 10 minutes per session.
- If sod is dry or begins to shrink, increase duration of watering sessions.
- If sod is soggy or flooded, reduce length of watering sessions.
Monitor your sod closely during this initial two-week window and make sure it is kept moist without creating boggy conditions in your yard. Sod that is too dry or too wet will fail. Once the sod has begun to take root and resists being pulled up, gradually reduce watering frequency until your yard is on a standard watering schedule.
Fertilize Your Sod
What is the best fertilizer for fall sod installations?
Sod needs a fertilizer with high phosphorus content to promote fast and healthy rooting, followed by a healthy amount of nitrogen to drive overall growth. Standard fertilizer for mature grass won’t deliver what sod needs.
- Use this starter fertilizer for new sod.
- Sod requires specialized fertilizer with high nitrogen and phosphorus content for fast establishment and success.
Spread fertilizer on the soil prior to sod installation, or just after sod is laid.
You can spread your starter fertilizer on the bare soil prior to sod installation. This will make the fertilizer available to the sod as soon as it begins to root. Alternatively, you can add the fertilizer just after you’ve laid the sod. Watering will help draw the fertilizer down into the soil.
Is it Okay to Install Sod in the Fall?
Many types of sod perform better when they are installed in fall than at any other time of year. If you live in a region with freezing winters, fall is the best time to lay sod. Even in regions with warm winters, sod responds well to fall installation. You will get better results laying sod in fall than you will in summer or winter.