Is Late Summer/Fall the Best Time to Install Sod?
True: Late summer and early fall rank as the top time period for sodding. Sod can be and is planted at any time during the growing season and sod’s needs are also fairly well matched for the spring, but let’s look at why landscaping your Chicago yard with sod in fall makes the most sense. While we’re at it, we’ll take a look at the reasons for choosing sod and how to care for it.
Why Late Summer/Fall is the Best Time to Plant Sod
Late summer and early fall is the best time to plant sod for several reasons. With two or three months of cooler temperatures remaining within the growing season, sod is given a less stressful rooting and growth window, which is of premier importance while it is rooting in your Chicago-area (zone 5b) landscape. Aside from simply requiring less general water in fall and less general babysitting due to more moderate temperatures, sodding in the fall—when temperatures are less prone to sustained heat and heat spiking—results in less general opportunity for disease. Add to that the fact that with fewer weed seeds adrift than during the spring months, weeds have a reduced chance of becoming implanted in your new lawn.
Sod versus Seed
- Professionally grown and freshly cultivated mature lawn
- Provides an instant, healthy and consistent lawn
- Eliminates months of dirt, dust and mud tracking; easier to care for
- Requires thorough site prep, often including aeration and correction of drainage problems, soil deficiencies, deep-rooted weed removal and rock removal
- Generally more expensive than seeding
- Its thickness absorbs sound, helping to reduce noise pollution
- Much easier to establish on a slope or on erosion-prone areas
- Less prep time and labor and generally significantly less expensive
- Does not necessarily address underlying problems such as drainage issues, poor soil conditions and deep-rooted weeds; often results in problem areas in the lawn
- Results can look “patchy” when filling in; it’s also common to choose the wrong kind of seed
- Takes much more care to establish, and in the meantime, you’ll be unable to use the lawn for an extended period, which can be problematic when you have children or pets
With that basic overview, let’s look at how to care for new sod.
How to Care for Sod in Fall
Sod must be well rooted to establish itself, so a properly prepped, loosened, balanced and nourished soil is the only soil conducive to receiving sod. Prior to installation, your soil must include the organic matter sod needs in order to allow the sod deeply establish itself.
Newly planted sod, which should be cool to the touch when installed, should be soaked immediately on installation and must be watched carefully to ensure that it has the right amount of moisture until it begins to take root. Fortunately, it’s easy to check your sod for moisture level. On the first day, when your sod should be quite wet, walk on it and check for deep footprints. If you see them, your sod has enough water. Additionally, you can check the sod by pulling it up at various corners to ensure that the back of it is damp. Too-dry soil should be watered for about 3o minutes and receive about an inch of water.
On days following the installation, checking the sod at least once a day is critical. The soil should be damp but not overly wet. Keep the sod in this damp state for 5 to 6 days, then adjust your watering back in order to avoid the sod becoming waterlogged.