Once you plant your sod, wait at least 2 weeks before you consider mowing. This gives the sod time to establish its initial roots, which will help it withstand the stress of mowing. In order to be certain your sod is ready to be mowed, tug at the edges of several pieces of sod. If they are attached to the soil below, your sod is ready to be mowed.
To keep your lawn safe from mowing damage, stop watering 24–48 hours before mowing to allow grass to dry out. Wet grass should not be mowed. Use a push mower to reduce the impact on delicate sod and set your mowing height 1/2 inch higher than usual. These methods ensure your sod is not damaged during the course of mowing and promote a better lawn over time.
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What Happens if You Mow Sod Too Soon?
If you mow your new sod too soon, it can be severely damaged. Pieces of sod that have not rooted may have their edges pulled up into the mower blades. They will get shredded and mangled. This will gouge holes in your new yard and create a ragged appearance. It can take a long time for your sod to recover from mowing too early and may require you to lay additional sod or grass plugs to repair the damage.
How to Tell When Sod is Ready to be Mowed
Don’t judge whether or not your sod is ready for mowing based on grass blade height. No matter how shaggy the sod looks, what matters are the roots. The sod must be firmly attached to the soil before it can be mowed. To determine if your sod is ready for its first mowing, follow these easy steps:
- Wait at least 14 days after sod installation.
- Grab a handful of grass at the edge of a piece of sod.
- Tug firmly, but not too hard.
- If the sod feels “tacked down” and resists being pulled up, it’s ready to be mowed.
- If the sod comes up with little or no resistance, it’s not ready for mowing.
Test several pieces of sod in your yard. If the majority of them are rooted then it’s fine to proceed with mowing. You’ll be able to cut the grass without doing long term harm to your lawn
Wait for Sod to Take Root
Under optimal conditions, sod will develop shallow roots within 10–14 days. This fast rooting is best accomplished by following a sod rooting plan that includes proper installation, daily watering, and protection from fungal diseases.
- 10–14 days under the best circumstances.
- Up to 6 weeks if sod is laid in winter or is exposed to drought.
Sod that is improperly cared for is laid during winter months, or is exposed to extremely dry weather will root more slowly. This initial shallow rooting phase may take as long as 6 weeks if conditions are not ideal. Care for your new sod to make sure it roots fast so you can mow sooner.
How Long Should New Sod be Cut?
When mowing new sod, never cut more than 1/3 of the total blade length of the grass. Sod is in a vulnerable state until it develops deep roots (6 weeks after installation under best conditions) and should be treated as such.
- Never cut more than 1/3 of grass blade length.
- Do not scalp sod.
- Set blade height 1/2 inch higher than usual.
Never cut sod extremely low (also known as “scalping”). The best practice when mowing sod is to set your mower blade height slightly higher than usual. This will protect your new lawn.
Sod Mowing Height by Grass Type
The proper mowing height for grass depends on the species you have sodded your yard with. See below for the best sod mowing height for your grass variety:
- Bentgrass: 1.5 inches
- Bermuda Grass: 2 inches
- Buffalo Grass: 3 inches
- Centipede Grass: 2 inches
- Fescue: 3.5 inches
- Kentucky Bluegrass: 3 inches
- Rye Grass: 2.5 inches
- St. Augustine: 3.5 inches
- Zoysia: 2 inches
These mowing heights are at the upper end for maintenance mowing these grass species. While the sod is still new, mow at these heights. As the grass establishes itself (after 6–8 weeks), gradually reduce mowing height if desired.
Riding vs. Push Mowers for New Sod
Whenever possible, use a push mower when mowing sod. Riding mowers put a lot of extra pressure on delicate sod and can tear the grass or leave deep ruts. Their drive wheels are especially damaging to sod.
A push mower will put less downward force on the sod and reduce the chance of sod and grass damage. It may take a little longer to mow a new sod lawn with a push mower, but it’s worth the effort to protect your investment.
Do Not Mow Wet Sod
New sod must be watered frequently to prevent it from drying out. That said, it’s important that you don’t mow wet sod. Mowing wet grass tears the blades, causing stress and damage. Additionally, foot and mower pressure on wet sod can destroy sod roots and kill patches of grass. Make sure the grass is dry to the touch before mowing.
- Allow 24–48 hours without watering for your sod to become dry enough for mowing.
- Check several sections of your yard. If your sod is soggy or overly moist, wait to mow.
- It is OK if the soil is moist when mowing, as long as the grass is not wet.
Of course, you don’t want your sod to dry out, as this can cause shrinkage and grass death. It’s acceptable for the soil to be moist when you go to mow your sod. As long as the grass isn’t wet or soggy, it’s safe to mow.
Should You Leave Grass Clippings on New Sod?
Grass clippings are instant fertilizer for your yard. When mowing sod, do not bag the clippings. These will quickly decompose, feeding nutrients back into your soil and boosting grass growth. It’s another easy way to help turn your sod lawn into a beautiful expanse of established grass.
How Soon After Planting Sod Can You Mow?
New sod should not be mowed until it takes root. Typically, your new sod is ready to be mowed within 2 weeks after installation. If your sod’s growth is hindered by cold weather, drought, or other negative circumstances, it may take up to 6 weeks before it is ready to be mowed.
Take precaution when mowing new sod. Cut the grass at a long height to avoid sod damage and use a push mower to reduce the impact on sod. These steps will protect your lawn and provide a huge benefit in the long run.