Advice, please - new sod is brown

pharmgirl(New Mexico)July 21, 2007

Just had a sod lawn installed by my a landscaper, and it's looking really sad. OK, *half* of it is looking really sad. When he installed the first half of the lawn, it was late morning, extremely hot, and the sod had this awful grey look to it... my landscape guy said it would green up and to just water it twice daily until it established. However, he installed the second half yesterday and it's still a deep green after 24 hours. The first half has since turned primarily brown. When I called to ask about this problem, he left a message on my phone that that's just what sod does in the heat, and both sides would look similar soon.

I'm inclined to believe the first half of the sod was badly dehydrated by the time it was installed. Is this truly no big deal and it should spring back fairly quickly, or should I insist that he replace the ugly half?

Thanks in advance for any advice you could give.

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hi there, Pharmgirl. I know you tried to tell us the story, but we need a few details.

1. What type of grass is it?
2. When was the first half installed?
3. He instructed you water twice a day. Did you do that? For how long each time? What type of sprinkler do you have?

Nope, it isn't normal at all, but it probably didn't happen the reason you think. Respond back soon.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 11:21AM
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pharmgirl(New Mexico)

Hi -

Sorry, I have no idea what kind of grass it is. I think it's supposed to be green, but I can't tell you more than that...

It was half installed on Tuesday. The other half was finished yesterday.

I did water twice a day, until the turf looked good and soaked, with a manual sprayer. (Had a little water standing, but not lakes.) Just last night got the sprinklers set up automatically, have 'em set for 20 minutes twice daily. Is that too much?


    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 12:21PM
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Yeah, more than likely that's way too much, and the watering you were doing was, too. Here is irrigation schedule for new sod.

water 15-20 minutes twice a day for two weeks
water 20-30 minutes once a day for one week
water 30-45 minutes once a day every other day for one week
water 30-45 minutes once a day twice a week for one week
move into deep irrigation, increasing the time to provide 1 inch of water all over and decreasing the frequency to just once a week. If you have to move the sprinklers at any point, the new location also receives 1 inch.

Starting off, the schedule supplies roughly 1/4 inch of water, then increases that amount while decreasing frequency of application at the same time. Like practically everything that concerns lawn care, this schedule is a general guideline and should be modified to accomodate your specific conditions. For example, if temps are especially high, a light sprinkling three times a day may be best. The lengths of time should also be modified if you have an automatic sprinkler system since that will not take as long to provide adequate moisture. So, decrease amount of water (time) but maintain frequency as is. The tuna cans test is recommended.

I think the problem came in when the landscaper told you to water twice a day without explaining how long to water each time. That's a very common error and he likely didn't know either. Initially, all you need is to keep the upper one inch of soil moist, not good and soaked and not standing water, and the schedule will have you watering deeper and deeper over time. I expect it will turn green again when you adjust irrigation as above, but I can't know if it's just too late for that or not. If it doesn't, the responsibility is his for not instructing you properly and had you overwatering the sod, and thereby killing it. Besides that, he should have extended a year's warranty. Good luck with it.

Incidentally, ask him what type of grass is it he installed. It's information you want to know. Don't let him just give you a one-word answer. Like cars are both make and model (i.e. Ford Mustang), you want to know both the species and the variety of your grass.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 1:56PM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

I agree with your commons sense approach pharmgirl. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....

Here is the only real issue. Were the places it was installed roughly equivalent? In other words same amount of light, soil prep, post-installation watering, etc.

From what you say, it sounds like it. The fact that the stuff that soon browned out came in looking different also predominates in favor or your conclusion - the first batch of sod was bad on arrival. And, yes, that CERTAINLY can and does happen. It could have been left over from an earlier job and simply not installed before it dried out, got too much sun, or otherwise went bad.

Don't listen to your builder or anyone else who tries to make excuses for selling you a bad batch of sod. Give it a reasonable chance to recover and if it continues to look bad compared to the other sod that was treated similarly INSIST it be made good.

You have exactly the proof you need with the good sod that your care is causing to grow fine.

It matters not at all what kind of grass it is so long as one batch of the same stuff showed up looking good and is doing fine and the other batch showed up looking bad and is doing badly with the same situation and post-installation treatment by you.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 3:07PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

Any chance it's buffalo grass? I can't imagine growing anything else since it doesn't rain there very much.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 3:15PM
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RC, I never disagree with you, but right now I gotta. That was a compliment on my part because I normally have better sense than to do that.

Everything she described is exactly what brought me to the Lawn Care Forum. I killed my new sod with too much water upon the landscaper's insufficient advice to water twice a day. Then she described doing what I did, which was to apply too much water. That being the obvious culprit, I didn't see any point in confusing her by stressing what else it "could" have been. She has no opportunity to treat the new similar to the way she watered the first one. She wouldn't want to because now she knows how to irrigate, so there will be no occasion to compare them. I did point out if it doesn't return, then it's his fault regardless. Also, it matters very much for her to know what type of grass she has. I understand your point, but again it might be confusing because my suggestion was not for the sake of this particular incident. It is something she should know since, goodness forbid, she may again need advice on how to care for her lawn or any problem with it. How can we possibly help her with something not so general as this?

Is there something you want to tell me?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 4:02PM
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pharmgirl(New Mexico)

Thanks, all, for the advice.

The one thing I'm pretty sure it's NOT is buffalo grass... as I understand it, buffalo grass isn't usually available as sod, just seed or plugs. It's the only sensible grass to grow in the high desert, but I really wanted something greener.

It's entirely possible I might have overwatered it. In addition to the deep watering twice a day, on one afternoon or maybe two I gave it another quick once over with the sprayer. That said, gardening in the high desert is very, very different from gardening at sea level or close to it. The sun is scorchingly brutal, and gardening advice that holds true for less extreme climates doesn't always hold here. "Full sun" plants for New England gardens bleach out quick here. Not saying I didn't overwater it after all, but if there's someone on the forum who has experience with high desert gardening, I'd appreciate their input, too.

Plus... the other difference in the way the two batches of sod were treated was the amount of time they were held waiting for installation. The first day, the sod rolls waited in the sun for maybe a couple of hours while the crew prepared the soil. The second batch went directly onto the prepared area - I wasn't there to see it, but I imagine that they couldn't have waited as long in the heat before being installed.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 4:57PM
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turf_toes(SE Pennsylvania KBG)


Take lots of pictures. Daily.

If you end up in small claims court, it will help your case.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 6:23PM
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Pharmgirl, you really have to know what kind of graas you have, otherwise you have no chance of maintaining it and are planning for complete failure.

In NM it could be warm season variety at the lower elevations like Bermuda grass, to cool season grasses at the higher altitudes like Fescue.

Call your contractor and find out exactly what type and variety of grass you have. Don't accept an answer like Bermuda or Fescue, what variety like Sahara Bermuda.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 11:56PM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Best, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sharing them generally helps arrive at the better answer to questions. I've certainly been right, and wrong! in what I thought would be best about my yard over the years.

And, as you suggest, new sod can certainly be over watered. Based on the info given it seemed one load of sod was doing fine with the amount of water being given and another batch was dying. One thriving and one dying, with what sounded like the same conditions, including watering, doesn't sound like a water problem to me.

Of course, as T-W points out, to keep it going best, she needs to find out what she has. Then she can use the great resource that this forum is to learn what her variety of grass likes best.

Thank god for giving us differences of opinion and the ability to voice them to arrive at a good decision.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 8:30AM
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Take some photos, both closup and distance and post them at imageshack.US (not .com) then give us the web addresses that it gives you so we can look ath the problem.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 9:49AM
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RC, I was concerned she would be confused and I see where the problem is. The installations were three days apart, not the same time with the same watering. The first one is brown. Of course everyone is entitled to express their opinion. I never disagree with you. Not that it would mean anything if I did, but your advice is always spot on. You misread this time is all, so I was afraid she'd be confused.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 10:43AM
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pharmgirl(New Mexico)

You guys, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions...

Will try to post some photos as soon as I get some batteries for my digicam. The second half of sod looks fabulous today, the first half maybe a little greener, but still pathetic. RC, I agree with you on giving the ugly half a reasonable chance to recover, but I'm not sure what that is. Should I give it a week? A month? (Temps here have been in the high 90's, if that makes a difference.)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 10:44AM
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pharmgirl(New Mexico)

Best, I agree with you that I haven't treated both halves the same way - have watered the second half somewhat less than the first - but the fact remains that the first half looked alarming from the moment it was put in. As my landscaper was watering it in after installation, I was watching and expressed my concern that it looked *really* grey. Not dark greyish green like a dehydrated lawn, but greenish grey.
Personally... and you'll have to take this with as much salt as necessary, coming from someone who knows some little bit about gardening but zippo about lawn care... I think the sod installed first was badly water- and temperature-stressed to begin with. I don't think my care was ideal for it by any stretch, but I'm fairly certain I didn't start out with healthy sod.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 10:56AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

Get the supplier involved. Tell him the first load is looking bad and the second is looking great and ask him if he wants to come by to look at it and make suggestions on what you can do to get the first load to perform up to standard.

Then I'd kind of go from there. Once you have him acknoweldging it needs some help, if what he suggests doesn't work, then he should have little room to complain when it continues to fail and needs to be replaces. Of course, if he just tries to drag it out or make unjustified excuses, then you may need to request he take care of it sooner rather than later.

The advice above about lots of pictures that are dated is good advice and should help if you need them to show the real situation later on.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 10:59AM
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Should I give it a week? A month? (Temps here have been in the high 90's, if that makes a difference.)

Since you already see signs of recovery, it is safe to say it is alive. However no one can tell you how long unless we know WHAT VARIETY it is.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 11:14AM
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pharmgirl(New Mexico)

Sorry, Texas, I don't mean to be difficult or frustrating, I'd post that information if I knew it. Will ask the supplier today when I call him. (hate to bug him on a Sunday, but we're leaving for a short vacation tomorrow and if he'll want to come look at the lawn with me it'll have to be today.)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 11:19AM
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Yeah, get him involved and don't let him tell you it's supposed to look like that. But DO NOT let it slip that you've been conferring with anyone (this board) or following anyone else's advice. It will negate your warranty and that's just what he needs. Also, don't be passive with him, be stern and demanding and tell him what you told us about it not looking great from the start like the other one did. If he's especially difficult, threaten to call one of those news investigation teams (if you have them down there). While the rolls were waiting for him to prepare the soil, they should have been sprinkled to stay moist or the sod heats up, and that's not good. In the meanwhile, stick with the irrigation schedule.

Tex is trying to stress that you need to know what type of grass you have. Different ones are maintained differently. You can't know and we can't help with routines like mowing heights, fertilization, etc., and we can't help with problems either. For example, imagine going to a nursery for a lawn product. You wouldn't know what to purchase because you don't know what you're buying for. Don't forget to ask.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 11:34AM
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Hello All -

Hate to jump in on pharmgirls thread. But I'm having similiar problem on a much smaller scale. This past Friday I had ten pallets of Floratam St. Augustine installed here in San Antonio, TX. Most of the grass looks great, very thick and green. But there are about ten to fifteen pieces (pieces were very large on these pallets) that also look very gray and dried out. I've been watering with a sprinkler system twice a day, 15-20 mins per zone depending on shade in the area (5:30 am and 3pm). My neighbors said their sod did that when installed and it came back fine. I'm just worried because it looks weird having perfect grass then dead looking pieces scattered throughout.

Is the sod bad and dying, or is it just stressed and likely to come back. I'm guessing these pieces where on top of the pallets and got more sun than the rest.

Thanks for any info.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:16AM
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