Installing new sod can give you a quick start to a gorgeous new lawn. You have the benefit of an immediate green carpet for your yard, but that new grass is far from established. The sod needs time and care to grow deep roots that will help it thrive for years to come. One of the elements of caring for new sod is knowing the best way to keep it maintained, including mowing. Here is what you need to know about how and when to mow new sod to get the best results for your lawn.
When your new sod is delivered and installed, it is a loose layer of new grass. The small roots are not attached to the soil and need time to establish their root system. New sod needs time to grow without interference. Plenty of water and protection from traffic is vital for the first few weeks while the grass roots find their way into the loosened soil and begin securing the sod.
Mowing is an essential part of maintaining healthy grass – you do not want it to grow too long, as cutting more than a third of the blade is not recommended. With new sod, you want to give it enough time to become stable, but you also do not want to cut too much off the grass on the first mow. Knowing how and when to mow new sod for the first time can get your lawn off to a healthy start.
How Long to Wait Before Mowing New Sod
In most cases, you will want to wait at least two weeks to mow your new sod for the first time, but it may need to be 3-5 weeks in some cases. A few weeks is a basic guideline – what you want is for the grass to have a root system that is attaching to the soil. To check the progress, carefully grab grass on the edge of your new sod and give it a slight tug upward. If the sod easily lifts with no resistance, the roots have not found their way into the soil. Ideally, the sod does not pull up and grips the ground, a sign of the beginnings of root formation.
In most cases, sod will be ready to mow 2-3 weeks after installation, but some grass may take up to five weeks to form a root system. Make sure to follow the instructions for watering and protecting your new sod from stress during these first few weeks. This will give it the best chance to secure its roots into the soil and be ready for its first mow.
Use a Push Lawnmower
For your first mowing with new sod, you want as little stress on the grass as possible. Riding mowers are much heavier and can put too much pressure on those brand-new roots and grass blades. If you are watering your new sod daily and keeping the soil moist, the soil should be spongy, which can allow a riding lawnmower to sink and damage the grass roots. For the first mow, use a push mower to decrease stress on your new sod. Once the roots are better established, you can go back to using your riding mower to maintain your lawn.
Setting the Mower Height
You should not remove more than a third of the grass leaf when mowing to preserve enough blade for proper photosynthesis. With new sod, this is even more important. New grass needs the nutrients it receives from the sun to grow deep, healthy roots. For the first few cuttings, the mower height should be higher than normal, usually set at about 2-3 inches, removing no more than a third of the blade. There are different grass lengths recommended for various grass types – check with your sod installer or landscaper for the best first-mow height for your sod type.
When to Mow New Sod Through the First Season
After the first mow, frequent mowing can help create a thick, full lawn that will be healthier and require less maintenance. Keeping blades short stimulates new shoots to grow to achieve the photosynthesis needed. The thicker grass looks beautiful, but it also can choke out weeds and hold up better under foot traffic. During the first season with your new sod, plan to mow at a higher mower height (2-3 inches) and more frequently to create a high-density lawn.
If you know how and when to mow new sod, you can improve the results of your investment. Talk to your local professional landscaper for more tips on caring for your new sod – your climate, grass type and other factors can impact the best way to care for and mow your new lawn. With the right maintenance, your new sod/lawn can last for decades.