June 1999 - Volume VI, Issue 6

Sod Establishment for Arizona Lawns

David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist

Last month's newsletter provided information on sod selection criteria and general information about cool and warm season grasses used for sod production. This newsletter provides you with general guidelines on how to prepare and install sod correctly.


The soil characteristics of soil texture and hardness should be evaluated before installing sod.

All turf sites require some ground preparation before the sod is actually installed. NEVER install sod on an unprepared sod-bed. Follow these directions for best results.

(1)Remove surface debris and large stones.
(2)Extract a soil sample and send it to an agricultural soils lab and have a standard soils test performed.
(3)Wet the soil thoroughly.
(4)Let the soil dry so it can be roto-tillered.
(5)Based on the results of the soils test, add the appropriate fertilizer amounts to the area of the lawn.
(6)Roto-till the soil, incorporating the fertilizer.
(7)If you desire, you can incorporate organic matter at this time such as composted manure, cotton trash, etc. Make sure it gets thoroughly tillered in.
(8)Re-level the ground and re-wet.
(9)Install an underground irrigation system if desired. Leave the heads 1 2" in above the sod-bed.
(10)Rework the soil with either a rake or tiller set to a shallow depth. If the soil is too fluffy (shoe marks go down over 1 inch) then roll the soil with a roller. Then re-rake slightly to provide a 2" of soil crust.


(1)Make sure the delivered sod is moist. You can re-wet the sod on the pallet throughout the installation. Be sure to wet the sides of the sod rolls. This helps keep the sod edges intact.
(2)Install the sod pieces by running the long edge of the sod along the length of the lawn. If the lawn is 20' x 40', then run the long edge on the 40' side.
(3)Cut the sod with a sharp carpet knife along the edges of curbs, lights, sidewalks, etc.
(4)A little trick is to allow yourself to make cuts from a sod piece that is one half the length of a full sod piece. Make your cut. If it=s not a good one, you can re-cut the piece again since you still have enough left over. After a satisfactory cut is made, you can flap the end piece over the adjoining neighbor sod. Simply cut through both pieces and you will have a perfect fit.
(5)Stagger each row of sod like bricks on a house. Either a 2 or 1/3 stagger-line is good.
(6)Bring the edges of the sod together closely, so they will not dry out afterwards.
(7)If the lawn is big and takes a long time to install, use a hose to water the sod before it dries out.
(8)Right after the last piece of sod is installed, roll the lawn in two directions. This presses the sod and underlying soil together and pushes the sod edges together.
(9)You now have a full lawn with hardly any root system. For the first week or so, you must water the lawn several times a day when the temperature and sunlight intensity are high. Just run the sprinklers or hand water to put down about 1/8" each time you irrigate. For bermudagrass sod in the summer, you may have to do this 4-5 times a day. For bluegrass sod, you may have to do this 3-4 times a day.
(10)Areas that puddle need to be pitch forked as soon as possible. Leave the fork holes open.
(11)After 7-10 days, check the roots by grabbing the turf in the middle of the sod piece and try to lift it up. If it remains stuck to the ground the sod is knitC this is what you want.
(12)When the sod is knit, change the irrigation to once a day, putting down 1/4" of water. Apply this in the early morning hours, anytime from 3 am to 6 am.
(13)After five days of this, skip a whole day between watering. Now apply 3/8" of water once every other night.
(14)Based on weather and soil water holding capacity, try and skip two full days between irrigation (irrigate every third morning). You will probably apply 4/10" of water every third day in the summer.
(15)Mow the lawn after the sod has knitted. Do not scalp the lawn and mow it at the properly scheduled intervals, so you do not take off more than 1/3 of the vegetation off at any single mowing event.
(16)For overseeded bermudagrass sod (ryegrass growing in dormant bermuda) and late fall Kentucky bluegrass sod installation, apply water as needed after the sod knits. Lower amounts of water may be needed because the weather is much cooler and the grass is not evaporating water at the same rate as in the summer.

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