Why Is My New Sod Turning Brown? (and How to Fix)

My sod is brown. That realization hits you with fear and dread, hoping it’s not dying. So you turn to the internet with the question, “why is my new sod turning brown?” Your new sod turns brown because of insufficient water, overfertilization, temperatures above 75°F, soil pH above or below 6.0 – 7.0, compacted soil, poor quality sod, improper sod installation, and mowing too soon.

We can assure you that when sod turns brown, it’s not the end of your lawn dreams. And you don’t have to replace the sod. But, it is a sign that something is not going as it should be. This article will highlight some common reasons your sod turned brown and possible remedies.

Insufficient Water

In the first couple of weeks, you need to water your new sod at least two times a day for 15-20 minutes per watering session. If your sod is not getting enough water, the roots cannot attach themselves to the soil, causing the sod to turn brown.

To confirm that your new sod is turning brown due to insufficient water, press a screwdriver into the sod and soil. In a well-watered lawn, the screwdriver should go into the soil easily and come up with a few inches of moisture.

To fix browning caused by insufficient water, water your lawn twice daily for 15-30 minutes. Continue for the first ten days. After that, you can start watering about four times a week. By the third week, your lawn can flourish on watering twice a week.

Over Fertilization

Fertilizer introduces nutrients to a sod installation to facilitate growth. But the timing and quantity matter. Applying too much fertilizer too soon will cause new sod to turn brown. This browning happens because the roots in the new sod are still shallow and incapable of absorbing the nutrients from the fertilizers.

Also, fertilizers with a higher quantity of nitrogen will burn the sod, causing the affected parts to turn brown. You’ll know that you have overfed your sod if:

  • You notice leaf scotch
  • There’s fertilizer residue on the soil
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Stunted growth after fertilizing

If you have over-fertilized your new sod, the immediate solution is to water your lawn to dilute that fertilizer.

Unsuitable Temperature

Sod requires optimum temperatures of about 55-75°F to grow. But when it gets too hot, you may start to notice that your new sod turns brown. If you’ve had scorching temperatures, they will dry out the sod even after watering, leaving it dry.

If you notice higher temperatures are drying out your new sod, the best solution is to water more. You can even increase the watering intervals if it’s scorching. Be careful not to waterlog the soil as it will prevent the sod from rooting.

Unsuitable Soil pH

The soil must be well-prepared before installing new sod. Preparation involves loosening soil and adding materials that may help the growth of the sod. However, some of these materials, such as fertilizers, may alter the soil’s pH leading to the new sod turning brown.

Ideally, the pH level should be between 6.0-7.0. The new sod can absorb the nutrients needed for optimal growth at this range. Some signs that the soil’s pH needs to be adjusted include yellowing of the grass, wilting blades, and leaf blight.

To fix the problem, you must first test your soil’s pH to determine whether it is too acidic or too alkaline. For acidic soil, add lime. If the soil is too alkaline, add an acidic treatment. If you haven’t done this before, contact a lawn care professional to help.

Poor Quality Sod or Installation 

Sometimes, the diligent care you give your new sod may fail because you began with poor quality sod or were the victim of a poor installation job.

Poor quality sod occurs when the sod is harvested too early before it is transferred onto your lawn. The roots of sod that are harvested too soon dry out and won’t take root when installed.

Another reason new sod turns brown is poor sod installation, including choosing the wrong type of grass for your lawn (and climate) and overlapping sod.

Depending on the reason for the poor quality sod, you can fix it. But in severe cases, such as when the lawn is dead, the only alternative is to install new sod. If the sod was harvested too early, but the roots are still alive, feeding the sod and watering it could revive it.

Compacted Soil

The lawn surface where the new sod is placed should be loose enough to allow the roots in the sod to anchor. Compacted soil hinders root growth by limiting water absorption under the sod.

To fix the problem, lift the affected sod and loosen the soil by poking with a screwdriver to create air spaces. If the soil is still compacted, go in with a shovel and dig several inches. Loosen it, replace the sod, and water thoroughly.

Mowing Too Soon

We know you’re excited about having the new lawn, but mowing sod too soon is a top reason why sod turns brown. Mowing before the sod has had sufficient time to anchor into the lawn causes damaged and dead grass.

You should give new sod between two to three weeks before you mow to allow the roots to anchor themselves. You could wait up to six weeks, depending on whether the sod is in suboptimal conditions.

To avoid damaging sod by mowing too soon, allow at least 14 days after the installation to think of mowing the lawn. Then, test the sod to check whether it is firmly established in the topsoil. Well-established roots should give some resistance when you pull slightly at a patch of sod.

Sharpen your mower blades, and don’t water the lawn for two days to allow for an easy mowing experience that doesn’t damage the sod. If you’ve already mowed the lawn and damaged some sections, remove the affected sod and replace it with new sod.

Keep Your New Sod Healthy

When a new sod turns brown, it’s a sign that something is not okay, either with the installation, you’re your care regimen. Fortunately, once you know the common causes for new sod turning brown, you can take the corrective steps to a healthy lawn.