Is it too cold to install sod? Is it too hot? Is it too wet or dry? In the mild climate of Western Washington, you can lay sod almost any time of the year. But there is a key to success for each season. And there are times you must avoid. Here’s how to decide when to lay sod in your yard.
Fall (mid-September to November)
This is our season of cool, wet weather. In September, October, and November, people often ask, “is it too late to put in sod?” The answer is – it’s not too late – fall is a great time for putting in sod.
Advantages to installing sod in the fall
- The heat of summer is over. Fall temperatures are perfect for growing turfgrass.
- In the fall, your new lawn will get rainfall to supplement your sprinkler system. The summer season of dryness and drought is over. You will conserve water, and your lawn will benefit from fall rains.
- As the weather gets cooler and wetter, your lawn isn’t getting as much use from people and pets. This gives it a chance to get established before springtime.
Challenges to installing sod in the fall
- Rain can make the soil too wet to prepare properly. After heavy rain, you might have to wait a day or more for the ground to dry out enough to rototill or rake. Give yourself a time window of dry weather to prepare your yard before you place the sod.
- You have to keep fallen leaves off your new sod lawn. The grass needs as much sunlight as it can get. Leaves left on the ground in the fall and winter can kill the grass and produce bare spots. Rake or blow leaves off the lawn as soon as you can.
Tip for installing sod in the fall
After you install your sod in the fall, be ready to mow regularly. Mowing through November and possibly into December is normal in Western Washington. Fall isn’t the time to let the grass get long. Follow the ⅓ rule. Keeping your lawn at the recommended height promotes density and discourages diseases.
Winter (December to February)
This is our season of cold, wet weather. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and the other lowland areas might not get very cold, but they get plenty of rain most years. And most years, they get some snow.
Advantages to installing sod in the winter
- When it’s too cold (below 53°F degree soil temp) to start grass from seed sod is the solution.
- Will the lawn grow in winter? The grass blades will grow slowly or not at all during the cold of winter; however, the roots of your new sod will grow down into the soil in the winter. By spring, your new sod will be anchored in the ground and ready for growing and mowing.
- Sod is the alternative to letting bare soil turn into mud or weeds through the winter. You don’t have to go through the winter with a bare yard. Sod can be installed whenever the soil is not frozen, muddy, or covered with snow.
Challenges to installing sod in the winter
- You can’t work muddy soil. Wait for a dry period to dig, rake, rototill, and prepare the yard for the sod.
- Will frosts or freezes hurt your new sod? No. A cool-season grass mix will stay green and healthy through the winter. But walking on frozen turf can kill it. Keep people and objects off of frosty grass.
Tip for installing sod in the winter
Be ready to fertilize as soon as your grass starts growing in the spring. Winter is a time we don’t fertilize. So if you laid your sod in the winter, your lawn would benefit from fertilizer in the spring. When it’s time to mow in the spring – it’s time to fertilize.
Spring (March, April, May and into June)
This is our season of cool to warm weather. Spring fog is common in Washington.
Advantages to installing sod in the spring
- Laying sod in the spring will get your lawn ready for summer use. Spring temperatures are suitable for growing turfgrass.
- Sod helps crowd out spring weeds.
- Spring rains help you keep the soil moist during the sod’s critical period of establishment.
Challenges to installing sod in the spring
- You can’t work muddy soil. Wait for a dry period to dig, rake, rototill, and prepare the yard for the sod. Our spring usually provides dry weather periods in between rainy periods.
Tip for installing sod in the spring
Be ready to mow your new sod lawn a lot. You might need to mow as often as every 3 to 7 days in the spring. Mowing promotes health and density in your new lawn. Follow the ⅓ rule – mow when the grass is ⅓ taller than your target height.
Summer (July, August and into September)
This is our dry and hot season.
Advantages to installing sod in the summer
- You can use your yard almost right away. Summer is when you want to enjoy your lawn. Usually, a new sod lawn is ready for use after two mowings.
- Laying sod is the best choice when it’s too hot to plant and nurture grass seed. New sod must be carefully watered during its first summer, but it could be easier than nurturing seeds in hot and dry weather.
Challenges to installing sod in the summer
- Be sure you choose a supplier that offers freshly cut sod. From when the sod is cut at the sod farm until you have it completely installed should be no more than 24 hours.
- Then you must plant the sod in your yard as soon as you get it. Rolled-up sod can overheat and die in just a few hours in the heat. Install the sod in your yard and keep the soil soggy wet for the next few weeks.
- You will need to avoid laying sod during a heatwave of 90 degrees or more. Wait one or more days as needed until the temperature drops back down into the 80s or less.
Tip for installing sod in the summer
The secret to success for installing sod in the summer is to keep the soil beneath the sod wet. The first four weeks are critical. The roots need 3 to 4 weeks to grow and anchor into the ground. You want the soil itself to be moist to a depth of about ¼”. Be sure not to let the sod go dormant (brown) in the first season after it is installed.
What if you don’t have a choice on when to lay sod?
Sometimes you have to install sod at less-than-ideal times. If you are trying to sell a home and need to get the bare yard covered quickly, sod is a great choice. Or, if you have a potential mud pit and need to do something right away, sod is also a great solution. If you have a party or upcoming event planned for your yard, then installing sod might be the best option. To discuss the timing of your sod installation, call our turfgrass experts at 360-456-1006.