Perhaps summer has tapered to a close, giving way to the orange hues of autumn. The hot summer days are gone, replaced by fall rain. Maybe your lawn looks worse for wear, or you’re starting from scratch with a new home.
Either way, you might decide to lay sod. However, the rainy days seem to drone on and on, relentlessly keeping your yard soaked. So, can you lay sod in the rain? Does it matter? Generally, it’s best to avoid laying sod in the rain, but a few circumstances can change this answer.
Should I Install Sod In The Rain?
Installing sod in the rain isn’t ideal for a number of reasons. While it’s doable, especially in a light drizzle, it can worsen working conditions. For example, heavy rains can cause pits in the soil and create a muddy work environment, which is tricky to work with.
When you install sod, the planting area must be even and level, without significant variations in the surface. Heavy rains can cause dips and divots, and walking in wet soil will leave footprints, divots, and pits.
In addition, new sod requires nicely aerated soil to thrive. Loose soil makes it easier for the sod to develop deep roots in the ground below and holds moisture better than compacted soil. After it rains, the soil tends to settle, creating a compact surface.
This isn’t ideal for laying sod, so it’s usually best to lay sod when it isn’t raining.
Does Rain Help New Sod?
Rain can be a good thing for new sod, but it can also be a hindrance. Too much water can cause issues, so heavy rains aren’t ideal for new sod. Of course, you need to water the sod after installation, so a light drizzle isn’t going to hurt the sod.
Too much rain, or water in general, can make it difficult for the sod to establish strong roots. If you’re laying sod in the fall, this isn’t ideal, as the sod needs to withstand the cooler temperatures of winter.
So, while you can lay sod when there’s a mild rain shower in the forecast, it’s best to avoid laying sod before a heavy storm. Predicting the weather can be like guessing a toddler’s next move, so sometimes, the weather won’t work in your favor. If it could go either way, you might want to wait until the storm passes before laying sod.
Can You Lay Sod On Muddy Ground?
Laying sod on muddy ground can be tricky, as it becomes hard to work with. Heavy rainfall can make the ground muddy, creating a slippery surface. This allows the sod to move around during installation, potentially causing gaps between slabs of sod.
When this happens, you’ll have bare spots on your lawn that you’ll need to reseed later on. While this isn’t the end of the world, it takes time and isn’t ideal since sod is often used to avoid that particular process.
On top of that, keeping muddy soil level is challenging, especially as you walk across it to lay the sod in place. You’ll create divots and low points in the soil, resulting in a bumpy and imperfect lawn.
If you’re using a wheelbarrow to haul rolls of sod to the beginning of each row, you’ll create deeper ruts where the wheel moves through the mud. Additionally, pushing a wheelbarrow in muddy soil requires more effort.
Should The Ground Be Wet Before Laying Sod?
Before you start installing sod, you need to make sure the prepared soil in the planting area is moist but not soggy or dry. It should be slightly damp but not overly wet. It’ll become muddy and hard to work with if it’s too wet.
Ideally, you should water the prepared area a few days before you install the sod so you can saturate the first few inches of topsoil. Then, the soil has adequate time to drain, so it is workable and moist but not wet.
Tips For A Successful Sod Installation
Installing new sod is expensive, so it’s essential to do it right the first time. Otherwise, you’ll be out several hundred (or thousand, depending on the size of the plot) dollars and end up with dead, poorly installed sod.
So, it’s worth it to take the time to do it correctly the first time. Here are a few tips to ensure a successful installation:
Prepare The Soil
Preparing the soil is one of the most critical steps of the process. Preparation is vital, especially if you’re starting from scratch, such as with a new build. You need to kill any existing plants and weeds in the installation area a few weeks prior to installation.
It doesn’t hurt to get the soil tested, especially if you’re committed to a successful installation. This way, you can determine what type of soil you have and what it needs for the sod to flourish. Incorporate the necessary additions, like a layer of compost, lime, etc.
Next, you need to ensure the soil is properly aerated. Compacted soil isn’t ideal, as the grassroots will struggle to extend into the soil. So, rent a core aerator or rototiller to loosen the soil and prepare it for the sod.
Another critical step in the process is leveling. The soil needs to be leveled before installation for a beautiful, even lawn. This can be a tedious process, especially if you’re working with a massive plot, but it’s a necessary step.
Fertilizer is a great way to give your sod a helping hand as it takes root in the soil beneath. Apply a starter fertilizer before you lay down the sod. After you install the sod, fertilize the lawn routinely. Generally, applying a slow- or controlled-release fertilizer 3-4 times during the growing season is ideal.
Store The Sod Properly
While you finish preparing the plot for the sod, ensure you store the sod correctly (if it’s already delivered). You need to keep the sod moist but not waterlogged. Dry sod will wilt and die, so it’s imperative to keep the sod moist.
During summer temperatures, sod needs to be installed as soon as it arrives or within a few hours of arrival. The sod dried out much quicker under the sweltering temperatures, so you need to install it immediately. Keep it out of the sun, as the sod will start heating up at the center of the roll, deteriorating from the inside out.
Rolled sod will last slightly longer in cooler temperatures, such as when you’re laying sod in the fall. Even then, you need to use the sod as soon as possible, waiting at most 3-5 days before installing.
Water Enough, But Not Too Much
After you install the sod, water immediately. If the sod dries out, your freshly-laid sod will pull apart at the seams, causing substantial gaps between the pieces of sod and at the ends. Start with light, frequent watering, but after the roots become more established, start watering deeper but less frequently.
After the roots are established, shallow watering will discourage the roots from penetrating deeply into the soil. Watering deeply and less frequently forces the roots to extend into the earth in search of water, which creates a more robust root system.
Don’t Mow Too Soon
Although you might be tempted to start mowing right away, take it easy for a few weeks. Mowing too soon can damage the fresh sod that needs time to establish. Generally, you should wait about three to four weeks before mowing.
At this point, the sod should be fully rooted and can withstand mowing. However, when you do mow, make sure you don’t take more than ⅓ of the grass blade per mowing session. Use a nicely sharpened mower blade, as dull blades can damage the grass shoots.
You’ll have to mow more frequently during the faster-growing seasons (spring and fall) and less regularly during the slower-growing seasons (summer and winter).