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Can You Lay Sod in the Winter?

A common question asked by many homeowners is “Can you lay sod in the winter?”. Contrary to common belief, laying sod in the winter is one of the best times to lay sod in certain locations throughout the southern parts of the United States. There are actually a lot of benefits to laying sod at this time. 

It may seem like a bad time to lay sod because warm season grass is not actively growing and dormant. After all, freezing temperatures could potentially kill roots and keep the sod from establishing itself into the soil’s surface. However, this is not true in all cases. 

Sod University discusses the benefits of installing warm season turfgrass sod in the winter such as zoysia, bermuda grass and St. Augustine. 

We also interviewed a professional sod installer and landscaper, Mark Lane of Looking Glass Landscaping and Maintenance, LLC., to talk through the benefits of winter installation and winter maintenance practices of newly laid sod.

Can you lay sod in winter?

In short, yes, depending on your geographic location, you can plant sod in the winter. Many homeowners and even some professional landscapers are hesitant to lay sod during the winter while grass is dormant. They’re afraid that newly established sod roots could freeze.

The newly establishing sod roots originate at the soil’s surface where temperatures closely resemble the temperatures of the air. If the temperatures are freezing, it could mean your roots/rhizomes freeze, harming your newly laid sod. In truth, more sod is actually lost to heat stress in the summer than to winter’s moderate freezes. 

People believe that when it’s hot outside, it’s safe to lay sod. When outdoor temperatures start to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, grass dehydrates and could potentially be severely damaged or die from heat stress if not properly irrigated. This happens more frequently in comparison to the winter when temperatures drop. 

Nevertheless, there are a few tips and tricks you can perform in the winter to prevent damage. Successfully laying sod in the winter also greatly depends on the type of grass you are installing as well as where the installation site is geographically located.

Laying Sod In Winter Dormant Install

Can you plant sod in November?

Depending on your geographic location, it should for the most part be okay for laying sod in November. A vast majority of the United States reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. However, it’s ill-advised to install sod during the winter when outdoor temperatures start to reach the teens on a frequent basis.

Can you plant sod in December?

It should for the most part be okay for laying sod in December so long as outdoor temperatures aren’t reaching the teens frequently.

Can you plant sod in January?

Laying sod in January mostly depends on the temperatures outside. There are several benefits to laying sod in the winter discussed in this article, but you should be good to lay sod even when temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Once outdoor temperatures reach the teens on a consistent basis, it’s recommended to wait until temperatures warm back up in the spring before laying sod.

Can you plant sod in February?

Believe it or not, laying sod in February carries many benefits, which we discuss later in this article. So long as temperatures aren’t below 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a consistent basis, it should be fine to lay sod.

Can you lay St. Augustine sod in the winter?

Many are wary of laying sod in the winter—especially when it’s a warm season grass that goes dormant during the winter months. However, St. Augustine grass as well as other warm season grasses can be successfully installed any time of the year before outdoor temperatures reach the teens frequently.

Can you lay zoysia sod in the winter?

Yes, you can lay zoysia sod in the winter so long as temperatures outside aren’t below 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a consistent basis. Professional sod installer and landscaper Mark Lane also went as far to say, “I like to install the grass right now (winter). The grass right now is just awesome. I enjoy working with EMPIRE® Zoysia the most, but we also frequently install Palmetto® St. Augustine during the winter.”

Can you lay bermuda grass sod in the winter?

Bermuda grass can be successfully installed during the winter season. Laying sod in the winter actually comes with a lot of benefits. Read on for more details.

Where can you lay sod in the winter?

Green Acres Turf Farm, LLC., is a turfgrass farm located in the low country of South Carolina. They ship sod as far north and inland as Columbia, SC. Charleston is a coastal location making it an ideal environment for installation, but Green Acres will install sod in Columbia all winter long. 

Even if outdoor temperatures reach the freezing point in certain areas, it is still okay to install sod—a vast majority of the United States reaches 32 degrees during the winter. However, it’s ill-advised to install sod during the winter when temperatures start to reach the teens on a frequent basis. 

A geographic line can be drawn right before Greenville, SC. In fact, some of the best areas to install sod during the winter are located in growing zones 8b–11, which are located in states throughout the lower parts of the US. Take a look at the map below to see where these zones are located. You can see a little bit of green, representative of zone 7b, in Greenville’s general location.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Photo Credit: planthardiness.ars.usda.gov

The benefits of laying sod in the winter

There are several benefits to laying sod in the winter—one of them is that you’ll more than likely get a head start with establishment in the spring. Once spring rolls around, your grass will be ahead of the game with establishing compared to those who choose to install in the spring. 

Another benefit of installing sod in the winter is that although it may be dormant, the sod’s roots are still slowly developing and making progress over the season. Due to its dormancy, it won’t be spending a lot of energy on anything—this means less water and fertilizer while it establishes.

How late is too late to lay sod?

As previously mentioned, waiting until the temperatures outside are consistently reaching the teens (below 20 degrees Fahrenheit) is a bad idea. With that being said, sod can still be laid in the winter even if frost appears in the mornings.

How to care for newly laid sod in the winter

Winter maintenance practices for newly installed sod somewhat differs from that of any other installation season—there’s no mowing and very little irrigation required. When installing, you may want to pull the seams a little closer together than normal to protect it from colder temperatures as demonstrated in the pictures below.

Watering new sod in winter

Even though the grass is dormant, you will want to water it and keep it moist. The root system is not growing as fast, but water is still needed to keep the first two inches of the soil surface moist. 

As previously mentioned, a protective coating of water allows for temperatures to freeze the water in place of the grass. About 0.25 inches of water a week should be enough. Irrigate immediately after laying the new sod. 

Mark Lane says, “I don’t have a problem with any of the freezes here. I would just make sure it is irrigated properly. The colder it gets, the more you want to make sure it has some moisture on it. The freeze will hurt it more if the grass is dry. A coating of water will freeze the water in place of the plant.”

Fertilizing new sod in winter

Lastly, you do not need to fertilize during winter installation. It is better to wait until spring to make fertilizer applications when the grass is actively growing. Your grass is in dormancy, so it is unable to absorb any nutrients at this time. The fertilizer nutrients will just sit in the soil without bringing about any benefits to your lawn. It will serve as a waste of money and time as well as potentially causing run-off into your ponds and drains when it rains. 

Once it starts to green up around the beginning of spring, however, we recommend applying a bottle of Lawnifi® Grow to your newly installed sod because it has plant-available phosphorus in it. As your grass starts to establish, phosphorus is what it needs. 
Then in late March and early April, we recommend applying the Lawnifi Spring Fertilizer Box. If you follow these tips after installing sod in the winter, your warm season sod will green up really well in the spring.

For more information on sod installation, visit our sod installation guide.

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