HOW TO WATER TO ESTABLISH A LAWN, by Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

When watering to establish a new lawn or when redoing an old lawn, we normally call for two to three “mists” throughout the day for the first seven to 10 days until roots get established. These are just 10-minute bursts. Then back off to once a day for about a half hour for seven to 10 days. Then go to two to three times a week (for about seven days). By then your lawn should be established.

With adequate rainfall, you might not need to irrigate. Rain counts. But in the absence of sufficient rain, you will need to provide enough water at the correct time to allow your new sod to root–hence, the above directions.

A well-designed and correctly installed irrigation system with a controller, operated correctly, helps to achieve uniform establishment. It can be very difficult or impossible, inconvenient and time consuming to uniformly provide sufficient water to establish a lawn with hose-end sprinklers, especially if the lawn is sizable and during dry weather. Most people are not going to do the necessary job of pulling hoses around on a regular basis to result in a well-established lawn.

Too much water will result in rot, diseased roots, diseased seedlings and failure. Too little water will result in the sod, seedlings, springs or plugs drying excessively and failure to establish. The end result is a poorly established sparse lawn with weeds. Or complete failure.

There is no substitute or remedy for incorrect irrigation when establishing a new lawn or when renovating an entire lawn or areas within a lawn.

It would be wise to not invest the necessary time and money if the new lawn cannot be irrigated correctly. Taking the gamble that adequate (not too much, not too little) rainfall will occur exactly when needed to result in a beautiful, healthy, thick, lush lawn is exactly that: a gamble.

An irrigation system is nothing more than a tool to supplement rainfall. As much as possible, learn to operate the irrigation controller using the “Manual” setting. It also is wise and is state law to have a rain shutoff device installed and operating correctly. The rain shutoff device overrides the controller when it is raining or when sufficient rainfall has occurred. Rain shutoff devices are relatively inexpensive and easily installed. Also, a good rain gauge can be an inexpensive tool to help you monitor how much rain you’ve received. Rain counts.

The above schedule should help when planting a lawn from see, sprigs, plugs, or sod.

For addition information on establishing and maintaining a Florida lawn, contact your county UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit

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