Planting or rolling out sod is a great way to be able to quickly get a green, lush, and healthy lawn that will enhance the look of your property and immediately give you a place to relax or play. Without diligent attention to details of sod preparation and maintenance, some unsightly problems could easily crop up that could destroy all or parts of your new lawn.
The first step, one that is vital to insure a healthy start to any new sod installation, is to make sure that the soil is prepared properly. The soil bed for sod must present an even surface that is accessible to the grass roots so they can dig in and get nutrients and water for even color and growth. Unprepared soil will be uneven, so areas of the sod may be left high and dry, turning brown as the grass in that area fails to take root.
Loosening and Preparing the Soil
Preparing the soil means removing all the rocks and as many stones as possible. Removing weeds will eliminate a fresh weed problem and take out the competition for the water that your new sod will need. Use a rake to loosen the top couple of inches of soil to make root access easier. Be sure to test the soil for the proper pH level and the proper nutrients to provide the level that is best for the type of sod that you have selected. When preparing the soil, be sure the grade is about four inches below any sidewalks or driveways. This is to ensure proper installation of the sod so that it is level with hardscapes and will not cause problems walking or create an impediment when rolling something onto the lawn.
One of the greatest enemies of new sod is insects. It does not take very long for webworms to spot new sod and invade, planting their flag by laying eggs that will hatch into lawn-eating grubs. A webworm infestation is visible when circular brown patches begin appearing. Worms may also leave tunnel openings the size of a finger at the surface. When pulling back a roll of sod, check to see if there are grubs on the bottom, which is where they feed.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best way to battle webworm is to get them at the larval stage. Keep the sod watered and well irrigated and try introducing rove and ground beetles, which are natural predators and are not grass-eaters themselves. You can, finally, resort to chemical weapons such as chloronicotinyl and diacylhydrazine. They are most effective on webworm larvae.
Cinch bugs can also be a problem for new sod. These pests usually appear during excessively hot and / or dry weather. They will create round brown spots that are visible in the lawn. To get rid of them, it's best to spray them with insecticidal soap for small invasions. You may use botanical insecticide for more severe cases.
If you are not sure why your new lawn is turning brown in some locations, contact a lawn care professional who is familiar with common sod problems in your region.