Can You Lay Sod In The Fall?

Can You Lay Sod In The Fall

Spring is the season when everything begins awakening as winter releases its icy grips. We plant our gardens, flowerbeds, and fields, expecting to reap the fruits of our labor throughout the summer and fall. So, if spring is the best time for planting most things, wouldn’t it be the best time of year to install sod?

While the logic is sound, and you can undoubtedly install sod in the cooler spring weather, fall is also an excellent time to install sod. It might seem counterintuitive, as the sub-freezing temperatures are on the horizon, but fall offers many of the same benefits as the early spring season. We discuss this more in-depth in the following sections, so continue reading to learn more!

When Is The Best Time To Lay Sod?

It’s entirely possible to lay sod at any time during the growing season, provided the ground isn’t frozen. That said, some times of the growing season are better for laying sod than others. For example, mid to late spring and early fall are ideal times to lay sod. 

These are excellent times of the year for sod installations, as temperatures tend to be cooler and rain is more common, which helps with sod establishment. Of course, you can lay sod in the summer, but you’ll have to be careful, as high temperatures and drought can threaten the growth and success of your new lawn. If you decide to install in the summer, you’ll need to water deeply, carefully curate a fertilizing schedule, and keep a sharp eye out for fungal growth. 

In some areas of the U.S., particularly the warmer southern regions, it’s possible to install sod in the winter. Although the sod often goes dormant to some degree in the winter, residents in southern states may be able to successfully install sod, despite the cooler temperatures. 

Is Fall A Good Time Of Year For Laying Sod?

Laying Sod

As mentioned, fall is an excellent time of year for sod installations. It’s best to install your new lawn in the early to mid portions of the fall season, as cooler temperatures tend to plague later parts of the fall season. Since too-cold temperatures can threaten the success of your sod installation, early fall is an ideal time. 

Although fall is considered the end of the growing season for most grasses (cool-season grasses survive longer in cooler temperatures than warm-season grasses), it’s still an excellent time to install sod. This is because early fall tends to be much cooler than the sweltering heat of summer, making it easier to install the heat (not as tired and sweaty). 

On top of that, the cooler temperatures work in favor of the sod’s shelf life, even though it’s limited. In the summer heat, you need to install sod within a few hours of receiving your sod, as it goes bad quickly. With cooler temperatures, you have a bit more leeway with the installation timeframe. You’ll still need to install the sod relatively quickly, but it won’t go bad as rapidly as it would in the summer. 

In addition to the cooler temperatures, fall often brings in the rain, which works in favor of your new sod developing strong roots. Of course, you’ll still need to maintain a consistent watering schedule on the days when there’s no rain, but there might be some days when watering is unnecessary. 

Tips For Laying Sod In The Fall

Sod Rolls

In many parts of the United States, grasses enter a state of dormancy in the summer due to high heat and drought issues. As the temperatures decline and rain rolls in, the grass begins growing vigorously once again, sending you into fall with a beautiful lawn. This cycle somewhat mimics the entrance from winter to spring, as the dormant grasses “awaken” and thrive through early summer. 

Choose The Right Time

Choosing the perfect time during the fall season to install your new sod is essential for its success. On average, sod takes about six weeks to develop a robust root system. Without one, it might not survive the cold temperatures throughout the winter months. A shallow root system will form within two weeks, but ideally, you should give the sod at least four to six weeks before the first frost. 

While predicting the weather is nearly impossible, check the weather in your local area for when temperatures usually drop. Use this to pinpoint the ideal time to plant your sod. So, if your area usually experiences the first frost in early November, try to install your sod in late September to the first of October. 

Give the sod at least four to six weeks to grow and develop a root system before the first frost takes hold. This way, your sod has a better chance of surviving the winter. After the ground freezes, your new sod cannot continue developing a root system, so it’s essential to plan appropriately. 

Take Your Time To Set Up

Sod

Aside from choosing the perfect time to install your sod, you’ll need to thoroughly prepare your yard for your upcoming project. The process can take a while, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time and plan accordingly. This includes the following steps:

  1. Test the soil: Before you install your sod, it doesn’t hurt to test the soil in your yard. This way, you can amend the soil as necessary for healthy plant growth. Simply collect a soil sample and send it to a laboratory that offers soil testing, then wait for your results. It’s best to plan ahead with this, as waiting too long could push the installation back. 
  2. Select a grass: Next, you’ll need to choose the type of grass you want to install. This will play a significant role in the success of your lawn, so be sure to select a variety that works well with the foot traffic over your yard and your area. 
  3. Remove existing grass: If you have a patchy lawn or random grasses across your yard, remove them with Roundup or a similar product. Remove the grass at least two weeks before your sod installation, then use a sod cutter or roto-tiller to remove the grass once it dies. 
  4. Prepare the soil: Preparation is key for a successful installation. You’ll need to ensure the area is thoroughly aerated, has proper drainage, and is level. Remove large rocks or debris that could cause inconsistencies in your new sod installation.  
  5. Order new sod: Once your prep work is done, it’s time to order your sod. Sometimes, you might need to order your sod several weeks in advance, so be sure to prepare accordingly. 
  6. Install the sod: After you receive your sod, be sure to install it within 48 hours of receiving it for the best results. Install the sod in rows, placing each piece as tightly together as possible. 
  7. Water and fertilize as needed: Now that your sod is installed, you need to water and fertilize your new turf as needed. Research the recommended watering and fertilization schedule for your particular grass variety.