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Extensive soil preparation is necessary to install sod in Northern Virginia. Unfortunately, for new homeowners, that rarely takes place. The most important goal with a newly sodded lawn is to establish a good, deep root system. Sod laid over compact, poorly-drained clay soil with little organic matter makes this very difficult. Poor root development can lead to increased drought stress, decreased insect and disease resistance, thatch buildup, and the eventual dieback of turf. By taking the proper steps to stimulate root growth and relieve soil compaction after the sod is laid, you can establish a thick, green, and low-maintenance lawn.

When it comes to properly planting sod, step one is to get the soil tested. Northern Virginia soils tend to be very acidic. This is especially true with new construction, where, in many cases, the topsoil has been removed and sold. To correct this acidity, the proper amount of lime should be applied, as determined by soil test results. Acidic soils restrict the availability of nutrients, limit root growth, and increase weed activity.

Step two is to properly feed a sodded lawn during its first year. Most lawn fertilizers have a very high rate of fast release nitrogen (which is typically the main ingredient of any fertilizer bag). This stimulates rapid leaf growth and green color in the turf. For new sod trying to establish a viable root system, this is a very poor choice. A more balanced fertilizer, such as one with proper amounts of phosphate and potash per soil test and with a slower-release source of nitrogen, is preferred.

Step three is to core aerate the lawn. Core aeration (which is the removal of small plugs of soil every few inches) will relieve compaction, improve water infiltration, and help reduce thatch. Most importantly, it stimulates rapid root growth (particularly if the soil is properly tested and the sod is properly fed). Timing is the most critical factor with core aeration. It is best done in the spring or fall when the combination of weather and grass growth rates are optimal. In extreme cases, it should be done in both seasons. Another important factor involved in core aeration is the use of proper equipment. Bio Green uses ‘direct drive’ core aerators where the steel tines are driven into the soil by the machine rather than a ‘drum’ or ‘disk’ type aerator which relies on the weight of the machine (gravity) to pull a plug.

Finally, for the first 12-18 months, a newly-sodded lawn (even after soil testing, sod feeding, and core aeration) will still need a certain amount of T.L.C. The grass will be more susceptible to pest problems and drought stress during this period. Preventative measures for beetle grubs (root feeders) and deep infrequent watering are necessary. Also, even in ideal conditions, there are going to be some areas that don’t respond well. For example, sod put down in deep shade areas, along the home’s foundation, or at the edge of a driveway are all spots that will likely need some seeding within the first year.

Bio Green strongly recommends our Premium Program or our Program Two with additional soil testing and core aeration for a recently sodded lawn. If this program is followed with proper irrigation to the sod, the results will be a thick, green, and low-maintenance lawn!

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