Generally, it is recommended to wait at least 2 to 3 weeks after laying new turf before mowing it for the first time. This allows the turf to establish roots into the soil so it is not damaged or lifted by mowing too soon. However, the exact timing will depend on factors like the turf type, weather conditions, soil type and irrigation. Check the turf regularly and mow once it has rooted firmly.
When Can I Mow New Turf?
Newly laid turf needs time to root into the soil before mowing and other foot traffic. Most turf growers recommend allowing 2 to 3 weeks after installation before mowing new turf for the first time. This gives the roots a chance to anchor deeply enough that mowing does not rip up or damage the new turf.
However, the exact time to first mowing can vary depending on several factors:
– Warm season grasses like bermuda and zoysia generally root faster than cool season grasses like fescue and ryegrass. Warm season grasses may be ready for first mow within 2 weeks of laying while cool season turf may take closer to 3 weeks.
– Sod generally has more established roots than turf plugs or sprigs when laid, so may be ready for mowing sooner. Turf that is harvested and transported as sod has a more mature root system.
– Some turf cultivars root faster than others. Check with the turf grower for guidance on rooting time for the specific turf cultivar installed.
Weather and Season
– Turf laid in summer roots faster due to warmer soil temperatures and can be mowed sooner than turf laid in spring or fall.
– Avoid mowing new turf during hot, dry weather which causes added stress. Wait for a period of milder weather, moderate temperatures and some rainfall to promote active root growth before first mowing.
– Wet, rainy weather slows root establishment as the turf focuses energy on foliar growth. Allow extra time before mowing new turf laid just prior to or during a rainy period.
– Sandy, well-draining soils allow for quicker rooting than heavy clay soils which slow root penetration. Turf may establish and be ready sooner for mowing in sandy soils.
– Good soil preparation with proper amendment helps stimulate faster rooting. Mulching new turf also aids soil moisture and moderates soil temperatures for better root growth.
– Ensure new turf receives adequate irrigation, about 1 to 1.5 inches per week from rainfall or watering. Proper moisture is essential for the turf to root effectively.
– Take care not to overwater as saturated soils limit rooting. Allow the soil to partially dry between waterings.
– Hand watering targeted at the new turf is best to provide uniform moisture without overwatering. Avoid irrigation from sprinklers that also covers surrounding areas.
How to Tell when Turf is Ready for Mowing
Since optimum timing can vary, it is good to check on the turf’s rooting progress to determine when it is ready for that important first mowing rather than going solely by a target date. Here are some ways to gauge if newly laid turf is ready for mowing:
– Gently tug on a corner of the turf. Properly rooted turf will not easily lift or pull up. If it does, the roots are not firmly established yet.
– Push a screwdriver into the soil alongside the edge of the new turf. There should be reasonable resistance through the roots. If it pushes in easily, rooting is still insufficient.
– Examine underside of the turf. Look for visible roots anchoring into soil, branching out from the turf sprigs or sod pieces.
– Observe the growth stage. Turf that is still focussed on establishing roots shows limited foliar growth. Excessive leafiness indicates rooting is lagging.
– Consider the variety. Know the expected rooting duration for the specific grass species and cultivar planted. This provides a general timeframe for readiness.
If in doubt, wait a few more days and recheck until you are confident the turf has rooted firmly before mowing. Another option is to do a test mow on a small section of the new turf to evaluate its anchored stability.
Preparing for First Mowing
Once the new turf is well-rooted, proper mowing technique and practices will help maintain its health:
– Set mower height for the grass type. For cool season grasses, height should be 2-3 inches. For warm season varieties opt for 1-2 inches.
– Mow when the turf is dry to prevent tearing and tracking. Avoid mowing immediately after rainfall.
– Use a sharp mower blade for clean cuts rather than shredding the grass blades.
– Mow in a different direction each time to prevent ruts and matting. Alternate mowing left to right and front to back.
– Remove no more than one-third of the total grass height when mowing to avoid scalping. This may mean mowing more frequently.
– Move slowly and avoid quick turns to prevent marking or scuffing the newly laid turf.
– After mowing, carefully hand rake to lift matted grass and improve airflow into the lawn.
Ongoing Turf Care After First Mowing
The first month after laying new turf requires careful maintenance to allow for full establishment:
– Continue irrigating 1 inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation, unless the turf receives regular natural precipitation.
– Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer 2-3 weeks after laying turf to stimulate root development and growth. Slow release organic fertilizers are ideal.
– Avoid excessive foot traffic, equipment use or play on newly laid turf for at least 4 weeks after installation. Some compaction and wear will inevitably occur after mowing but should be minimized.
– Control disease and insect pests which can attack tender new turf. Apply preventative fungicides or insecticides if needed. Monitor for any pest issues.
– Address weed intrusions promptly when weeds start to establish in bare spots or thinning areas. Hand remove weeds or spot treat with selective herbicides.
– Fill, re-level or re-sod any areas that become uneven or damaged after the initial root establishment period.
– Aerate compacted areas as needed once the turf has knit together. Core aeration promotes deeper roots, air and water penetration.
With proper ongoing care, newly laid turf will continue developing a deep, extensive root system after the first month. It can then transition into a normal mowing, fertilization and maintenance schedule like an established lawn.
When to Call the Turf Professional
Occasionally, problems arise with new turf installation that require expert help:
– If more than 10% of the new turf fails to properly root and dies, contact the turf supplier or installer to replace the affected sections.
– For areas greater than 4 inches square that fail to root and establish, a professional can provide repairs.
– Signs of extensive insect damage or disease may require diagnosis and treatment from a turf care expert.
– If soil testing shows nutrient deficiencies that inhibit rooting, a pro can prescribe corrective fertilizer.
– A professional lawn care service is equipped to conduct core aeration, de-thatching or slice seeding if needed.
– For extremely sloped, shaded or poor soil areas, a specialist can suggest customized solutions to help new turf thrive.
While most new turf situations are DIY-friendly, don’t hesitate to call in a turf pro if problems exceed your experience level for the best results.
Allowing adequate time for new turf to root before mowing is crucial to avoid uprooting or damaging the grass. While most turf requires 2 to 3 weeks to establish before mowing, assess soil conditions, turf variety, weather and irrigation when determining the optimal timing. Careful mowing technique and appropriate ongoing care will help the new turf continue developing into a lush, healthy lawn. Calling a professional turf expert is advised if any issues arise beyond general maintenance needs. With the proper rooting period followed by conscientious care, new turf can flourish and look beautiful for years to come.