Dying grass needs help
I purchased some sod from Lowes about 3 months ago. It was growing well, nice and green. About a month ago is started to brown. I watered it at sunset, and recently switched to the morning about 2 weeks ago.
The weather has been warm the last month around 90 degrees with a several days in the 100s.
Not sure what is wrong with the grass.
In extreme heat grass will go dormant and turn brown. Try pulling up on the grass. If the piece of sod comes up, the roots didn't take and it probably won't come back. If it stays put, then keep it watered and it should turn green again once the weather cools.
If the sod was more than 24-48 hours old from harvesting from the sod farm (not uncommon for box stores to still try and pawn it off on the unsuspecting when much older) you were tempting fate to get it established. It had but a marginal chance of sending down roots if it had been sitting longer. I am guessing if you pull a section up you will see it was just trying to grow in the sod layer alone as long as it could and it never had a fighting chance of rooting into the soil.
You did prep the soil right? You didn't just lay sod on top of compacted soil? And you watered the sod as you laid it down and didn't wait until finished right?
Watering later in the day then turf can dry can invite fungus and insect problems so if you need to replace it, try and water early as you did toward the end. Decrease your watering frequency but increase the length of the cycle to encourage the sod to root.
Doesn't Blowe's have a money back or replacement guarantee on plant materials?
There doesn't seem much I can do at this time, just kept the watering schedule and see if it turns green when the weather cools. Lowes does have a return policy of up to one year on plants. I believe it will apply to the sod. I planted the sod around April, so I have until next year to see if it can survive.
I did prep the soil prior to putting the sod down and did water it as I put it down. It was very lush and green the first month or two and than started to turn brown. The heat definitely seem to change things.
Is it best to lay sod in the spring or in the fall? The spring has the issue with summer heat, whereas fall has the issue with the winter cold. It gets over 100 in the summer about 10 days a year here, and just as many days in the low to mid 30s.
I specified, planted and managed turf mainly in Northern California and around the San Francisco Bay Area---and surrounds. Fall was my favorite time of year for planting because, as you point out there is less danger from heat stress and even in the mild climate, the grass goes semi-dormant and shifts energy into its root systems rather than to top growth.
While there were winter nights and early morning when the temps dropped into the 30s the temp seldom stayed there for long and there never was an issue with ground freezing like we experience here. If air temps dropped to 32F or below, frost could be hard on fresh, new grass shoots in newly seeded or sodded lawns but turning the sprinklers on early in the morning to rinse it off alleviated that problem.
I was not always a big fan of sod in California clay soils and found that long term, seeded---or better yet hydroseeded---turf established faster and stronger. Sod does provide a nice instant green look though. That said, you have such small areas that sod is not overly expensive and may be a good alternative for you.
Just remember it is a transplant product and making contact between FRESH sod and the soil is key. As you know, if you saturate the clay soil too much it turns hard and if you cannot get a shovel in it, sod roots (or seedling roots for that matter) are not going to penetrate either. So ammending the soil is important and tweaking watering so as not to oversaturate either the soil or the thin sod layers is key. Guess wrong and you can end up growing a sod layer that never roots for years---assuming you are not water rationed.
Good luck. Let us know how it works out. You have such a small area you might try a hose end aerator to see if that helps your situation. If turf continues to be problematic, and given water rationing will continue to effect at least Northern California (so Southern California can have its water for washing celebrity cars and filling swimming pools) you might think about planting a nice, textured, heat resistant ground cover or two instead. You can water it in gallons per hour with drip instead of in gallons per minute like turf.
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