Insider secrets for new turf

Many folks have recently moved into brand-new homes with brand-new sod, and some homeowners may have replaced turf recently, so I figured some insider secrets might be in order.

I may be preaching to the choir here, but there are many new readers of these weekly articles, and I think these tips may help. Or maybe you can pass them along to a neighbor or friend who is struggling with a new lawn. Maybe they’ll become regular readers, too.

Nearly every homeowner who has dealt with new turf knows that it must be consistently watered. Otherwise, the mud it was grown and delivered in will harden so badly that the grass will be lost in just two or three weeks. So, let me share a few insider secrets that will help speed up the mud’s breakdown so the roots will poke through to establish in the soil below.

First, if the new sod hasn’t yet been laid - like at a brand-new home - put out some enriched topsoil first and till it a couple of inches into the existing dirt. Enriched topsoil is “loamy” - it has a bit of clay in it, but it also contains organic matter, usually compost … just like the stuff I recommend for compost top-dressing.

Next, whether or not you can add the enriched top soil, treat the new sod with a soil activator. I recommend Medina Soil Activator and Medina Plus. No, I do not own stock in the company. Medina is a private, family owned-and-operated business based in Hondo, west of San Antonio. In any case, I don’t care which soil activator you use … just be sure it’s organic and not labeled as a “root stimulator.” Most root stimulators are not organic, and a synthetic product on new sod might burn the roots.

I suggest using an organic soil activator once a week, or at the very least once every two weeks, for the first couple of months. While consistent daily watering will moisten the soil and break down the mud, the soil activator accelerates the process.

Organic products like soil activators also help to increase microbial life. Our Medina expert, owner Stuart Franke, says that soil with a strong and diverse population of microbes provides an improved environment that supports healthy vegetation. The job of microbes is a very important one - they are responsible for breaking down and recycling nutrients into a fuel for all plants and turf. That’s what ultimately loosens the soil to promote water absorption and retention, and allows oxygen to get down to the roots of the grass. When all this comes together, the result is a happy home where roots will thrive.

If cost is no object, other organically based supplements can also accelerate the process. Granular or liquid molasses is one. Molasses provides soil microbes with some food, and that makes them grow quicker.

Next, you’ll likely want to know when you can fertilize newly laid sod. If the grass looks fairly green and not worn-out looking, you can assume that there’s probably 30 days’ worth of fertilizer on it. Mark your calendar 30-40 days out, and then apply a granular organic fertilizer. Also, fertilize with an organic fertilizer a week after your first official mowing.

Some people will also use Medina Hasta Gro for Lawns, because it’s organic and can be dispersed through a ready-to-apply applicator that attaches to the end of a garden hose. This is one of those “if the cost is no object” choices because a bottle covers a much smaller area than a bottle of soil activator or a granular fertilizer.

Finally, you may be wondering when to start my lawn care schedule on new sod. Again, assuming the turf has some fertilizer in it from the turf farm, move forward 30-40 days. If you wind up a little behind, well “It’s Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing!!”

Give me a call on the GardenLine radio show this weekend if you need clarification on any of this. And call in as well if you’ve discovered any other products that can help accelerate the establishment of new turf.

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