If you are laying warm-season grass sod, such as St. Augustine, Bermuda, or Zoysia, then winter is a great time to lay sod. Sod responds well to winter planting in growing zones 8–11. This corresponds with the southern United States. If ground or sod is frozen, then it’s too cold to install sod.
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Why is Winter a Good Time to Lay Sod?
Winter is a good time to lay sod because the grass won’t dry out. The number one cause of sod failure is exposure to heat and dry conditions. With a winter installation, your sod will remain moist with very little water. Even better, sod is dormant in winter and requires less water.
- Sod is less prone to drying out than during summer installation.
- Sod is dormant so it has lower watering needs.
- Palleted sod lasts longer, making installation less of a rush.
- Easier to get sod deliveries and installs quickly, due to lower demand.
- Spring rains will provide water to new sod naturally, contributing to spring green-up and lawn establishment.
When spring arrives, most of the water necessary for your sod will be delivered by spring rains. Your sod may lay dormant during the cold months, but a winter installation leads to a faster-established lawn in spring.
What Grasses Can be Planted from Sod in Winter?
Warm-season grass sod responds better to sod installation than other varieties. This is because these grasses are dormant (brown) during winter. Additionally, they are typically grown in regions where the soil doesn’t freeze. Dormant grass is easy to work with and survives for a longer time on a pallet than actively growing grass. The best grasses for winter sod installation are:
- Bermuda grass
- Centipede grass
- St. Augustine
- Tall Fescue
One exception to the “warm-season grasses” rule is Tall Fescue. In southern regions, Tall Fescue is cold-hardy enough that it stays green in winter. If you’re installing Tall Fescue for a year-round green lawn, consider laying sod in winter.
What Temperature is Too Cold for Sod?
Do not lay new sod when the ground is frozen or snow is present. Frozen sod and frozen soil are extremely hard to work with, especially if you need to trim pieces to fit. A deep freeze may also damage or kill new sod.
- If the ground is frozen or snow is present, it’s too cold to lay sod.
- Deep freezing conditions may damage new sod.
- If the ground is frozen, sod companies won’t be able to harvest and deliver sod.
If the ground is frozen, you won’t be able to purchase sod. The sod cutting tools used by sod farms are not designed to cut through rock-hard frozen soil. If you live in a region with freezing winters, you’ll have to wait until spring to purchase sod.
Will New Sod Die if it Freezes?
New sod that has not established roots may die if exposed to a deep freeze. In regions with cold winters, laying sod in fall is the best idea. Plan for an early-fall installation to ensure your grass survives the winter.
- New sod that has not established roots can be killed by a deep freeze.
- Install sod in early fall if your region experiences cold winters.
- Sod can survive frost and brief cold snaps.
Don’t worry if your warm-season sod is exposed to a few nighttime frosts or cold weather that lasts for a few days. As long as your region is typically warm, your sod can handle a few low-temperature nights.
How Often Should You Water New Sod in the Winter?
Provide 0.25 inches (1 cm) of water per week to new sod in winter. This can be provided in one weekly watering session of about 10–20 minutes. This watering care will prevent the sod from drying out on cold, dry winter days and ensure it greens up beautifully in spring.
Should You Water New Sod Before a Freeze?
Water your sod for 10–20 minutes the day before a freeze is expected. Moist sod will survive a freeze much more easily than dry sod. Just make sure not to walk on frozen or frosted sod, as this can damage grass blades.
How Long Does it Take Sod to Root in Winter?
If your sod is dormant (brown) then very little growth will occur. In these cases, the sod will not root in winter. Rooting will take place in spring, when warmer temperatures trigger grass to grow.
- Sod will not root during winter dormancy.
- Root establishment only occurs when sod is green and growing.
- Actively growing sod laid in winter, such as Tall Fescue, will take root in 2–6 weeks.
If you lay Tall Fescue sod during winter months in a warm region, it will often be green and actively growing. Although the cold may slow its growth, Tall Fescue sod might take root in as little as 2 weeks, if provided adequate water.
Will Sod Die in Winter?
If you lay sod in winter in plant hardiness zones 8–11, your sod will survive the winter and green up well in spring. Most often, dormant warm-season grasses such as Bermuda and St. Augustine are installed during winter. If you live in a region where an extended period of freezing weather is typical in winter, do not lay sod later than early fall. Extreme cold conditions can harm new sod.