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How to Apply Starter Fertilizer for Sod

If you start your lawn from sod, the growing seedling needs a soil environment rich in nutrients to facilitate fast spread, especially if the turf’s dormancy period is almost closing. Starter fertilizers should only be used after installing the new sod.

Did you know that you can damage your sod if you apply improper starter fertilizers and application times? In this article, you will learn how to apply starter fertilizer for sod.

Sod Preparation and Installation

fertilizer for sod

Preparation and installation of sod involve 5 steps:

Measure area for sod. To get the total square footage to order, multiply the length times width. If you are not sure, consult an online calculator to assist you.

Soil preparation for sod. Remove the unwanted from the ground including rocks, stones larger than 3 inches in diameter. Rough grade the entire area by sloping the grade away from building foundations. After this, till the soil to a minimum depth of at least 2 inches. At this point, add topsoil. Now test the PH of the soil. After testing the PH of the soil, now it is time to apply starter fertilizer. Ensure it is highly rich in phosphorous. Roll the topsoil lightly to settle the surface and create an ideal surface for installing the sod.

Order the amount of sod you want. Make an order of the amount of sod you need and schedule delivery on the day you plan to start your sod.

Lay your sod. When you are laying your sod, ensure all joints are butted tightly together. Don’t let them overlap or leave spaces between strips of sod.

The Purpose of Starter Fertilizer

The main ingredient of starter fertilizers is the high concentration of phosphorous. Phosphorous increases the chances of germination and the success of sprouting. The most effective way of using starter fertilizer for sod is adding them to the soil before sod installation. This boosts nutrients and helps sod survive the tough conditions of the environment.

When Should Apply Starter Fertilizer?

It is best to apply starter fertilizer before laying sod. Don’t apply starter fertilizer directly to newly planted sod, as this can cause burning. The only wait is to wait for 6-8 months before you apply another fertilizer. That way, burning will not occur.

How do you the amount of starter fertilizer you need to apply? For you to measure this accurately, take a soil test. The soil test will help you determine which nutrients in the soil require beefing to benefit your sod growth, and how much start fertilizer you will need to apply. The most important nutrients are potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen, which are contained in the starter fertilizer.

Benefits of Applying Starter Fertilizer Before Planting

  • Phosphorous and potassium cannot move down into the soil fast enough when applied only at the soil surface.
  • Nitrogen can be easily be leached from the soil before the sod partakes its nutrients.

Therefore, it is important to till into the soil 4-6 inches. You can also spread your starter fertilizer immediately after spreading your sod.

Correct Application of Starter Fertilizer for Sod

While you are preparing the soil for sod installation, ensure you use a garden hoe for tilling the starter fertilizer into the ground. Your starter fertilizer should contain a high composition of phosphorous and potassium and a lower nitrogen composition.

You should move the starter fertilizer, not further than 4 inches into the soil. If you see the fertilizer are reaching deeper, you may burn the struggling roots. After tilling the ground, you can now level the soil and install the sod.

Set up a regular fertilization and watering program and maintain it. You need to fertilizer up to four times a year.

Is There A Standard Amount of Starter Fertilizer I Should Use?

As mentioned earlier, you need to take a soil test to determine how much starter fertilizer you need. If you didn’t take a soil test,  use, Landschoot writes, “Starter fertilizer should be applied at 0.5 to 1 lb. nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.

If you measure starter fertilizer more than 1.5 lb. nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft., you can burn the young sod, and this will result in the poor establishment. Application of starter fertilizer is not a substitute for the phosphate and potash recommended on your soil test report.”

Circumstances Where You Shouldn’t Use A Starter Fertilizer

In cases where a 1- or 2-inch layer of good quality compost is amended into the soil before you establish your sod, there will be enough nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil to facilitate optimum establishment.

This works best with bio-solids or manure-based composts, which contain a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorous. In this case, you should not use a starter fertilizer.

In areas where runoff is beyond your control, don’t use a starter fertilizer.

If the soil is not rich in organic matter, nitrogen is needed to speed up sod establishment. Remember nitrogen, plays a crucial role in the establishment of sod. Nitrogen has a greater influence on the growth of sod, as compared to phosphorous.

In such cases, if you can’t use phosphorous or if you think there is enough phosphorous in the soil, please apply 1 lb. quick-release nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. will enhance your sod establishment.

Do you know the role of phosphorous in the soil? Well, phosphorous mainly works to enhance the development of roots in sod though it also has some influence on the establishment of sod in soil containing adequate to high-level phosphorous. Developing seedlings, however, during cold temperatures, benefit much from phosphorous in a starter fertilizer.

Sod Care and Maintenance

Most commercial landscapers use sod in establishing a lawn after completing a building. Many homes consist of barren landscapes. Some homeowners think of planting grass seeds on such a landscape. But did you know that laying sod is more effective than planting grass seeds?

Yes, it is. Because you plant grass seeds, they will be eaten or scorched by the sun, and you will have to plant again until they fully establish. It is a long process that consumes time, and it is also expensive.

When you lay sod, your lawn will soon be established and will grow in no time. It is the most effective way, and it is also faster. It won’t consume much of your time, and you will not use so much money to grow the lawn.

Watering Your Sod

For the first two weeks of laying sod, you should water your sod at least 4 hours in a day; 2 hours in the morning, and another 2 hours in the evening, unless there is sufficient rainfall.

Every time you water the new sod, you should give it approximately 3/4″ of water.  How do you measure the water you are supposed to use? One of the best methods you can put to use is, using anything flat that is capable of holding water for a long time and turn on your sprinkler.

When the water reaches the top of the container, you will know how long you need to run water. Some people forget and overestimate the amount of time they water. If you experience your sod-turning brown after your second watering day, you need to check on your watering timing. Keep watering at this rate for the next 12 days.

Mowing Your Sod

Give your sod at least two weeks to grow before mowing. After that, mow the new sod at the highest blade setting.

Fertilizing Your Sod

Within two weeks of being laid, you need to apply 100% organic fertilizer on the sod. The most commonly used organic fertilizers are ironized and morganite and you can get them at any local home improvement store.

Using chemical fertilizer is not a good practice. Wait until the sod is rooted to the ground. chemical fertilizers can burn the roots of your sod and kill it. After your initial fertilization, use 16-4-8 fertilizer. This is the recommended rate of care and maintenance of your sod in March and September.

Keeping Your Sod Healthy

You need to apply fungus control on your new sod during the late spring, summer, and early fall.

It is better to pretreat although this cannot fully control the fungi. This will help keep your sod healthy. Apply lawn fungus control because it is granule and will stay around than a liquid. If you are still experiencing fungus problems after repeated treatments, particularly in saturated areas, you should seek help from a company to come and spray a stronger fungicide.


Although starter fertilizer for sod is important for the establishment, you need to know exactly when to apply the fertilizer. You also need to know how you are supposed to care and maintain for your sod; how you should do the watering and add organic fertilizer.

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