How to Lay Dormant Sod

Your new home is finished, but the lawn is bare. Thankfully, you don’t have to face the problems of excess mud or erosion of bare earth, because dormant warm season lawns such as Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass, and Zoysiagrass (especially Zenith) can be installed during winter.

The instructions here explain the particulars of how to lay and care for dormant warm season sod.

For the bigger picture of laying sod in the winter, both dormant warm season sod AND actively growing, green Tall Fescue, we have even more information on laying sod in the winter. It covers general considerations for laying all types of sod in the winter, such as site prep work.

warm season lawn tips January 22 laying dormant sod

Shannon Hathaway provided this picture of dormant TifTuf Bermudagrass being installed at a customer's and dormant Zenith Zoysia being installed at her own home (top pic with her dog).

Dormant warm season turfgrasses are brown, but they aren’t dead. The sod is “hibernating” until warm weather signals green-up in the spring.

You can install dormant sod in the winter to prevent erosion and mud, with green up and rooting taking place in the spring.

Proper soil preparation, sod installation, and maintenance will ensure a green lawn in the spring. Follow these steps for installing dormant sod for the best spring green-up.


Installing Dormant Warm-Season Sod

  • First, read Steps 1-5 of How to Lay Sod. You will follow these directions with a few exceptions.
  • When installing dormant sod on a slope, lay the sod perpendicular to the slope. Remember to lay the sod pieces like bricks by staggering the joints in each row. The sod will not root extensively during dormancy, but the weight of the sod will provide erosion control needed during winter.

downhill slope perpendicular

  • Roll sod with a sod-roller from your local equipment rental store. Fill the sod roller with water and roll it across your lawn in a grid-like pattern. This will ensure good soil/sod contact and eliminate air pockets that cause excess drying and winter damage.


Watering Dormant Warm-Season Sod During Winter

  • Water dormant sod immediately after installation and through dormancy to keep it moist until it turns green and takes root in spring.
  • Dormant sod requires much less water than sod laid in the summer. However, be careful to pay attention to water requirements each week, especially on cold, windy days. A cold, dry wind will quickly dry out rootless, dormant sod, but keeping it consistently moist will prevent desiccation and death until roots form in spring.
  • In colder climates, make certain in-ground automatic sprinkler systems are properly drained to avoid winter lawn damage.
laying dormant sod watering Zenith

I snapped this pic of new dormant Zenith Zoysia being "watered in" at my mom's. Also seen in this snapshot is another important year-round tool, a sod roller, there next to my sister.

Herbicides and Dormant Warm-Season Sod

  • Do not apply herbicides until the sod is well rooted in spring.
  • The only exception is the application of broad-leaf herbicide with 2,4-D, which may ONLY be applied in accordance with label instructions.
  • Winter weeds will usually pop up in newly sodded lawns with proper fertilization and watering. If this happens, mow and discard the clippings.
  • Once the sod is rooted, apply the appropriate fertilizer, fungicide, and weed control products that are approved for your specific lawn type. Check the label on your products to make sure it’s approved.

Spring Green-Up

When your dormant lawn greens up in the warmth of spring, it will begin to develop roots. During that transition, it will need more attention to watering until it's fully rooted in. We have written a collection of sod watering tips to teach you how to properly water your lawn during establishment and maturity.

Once your turf is greened up in the spring, follow our Lawn Maintenance Guide for your specific lawn type. A hint, mowing is one of the most important things you can do for your lawn! 

Harvesting Dormant Sod

Here in the Southeast, conditions are right for both harvesting and laying most types of dormant sod through the winter.

We specifically harvest TifTuf Bermudagrass, Zenith Zoysiagrass, and TifBlair Centipede through the duration of dormancy.

Fine-bladed Zoysias (Zeon, Emerald) don't harvest as well, so we stop harvesting in the fall when they go dormant and resume in the spring when they are greened up again. 

dormant sod harvest

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