Trees and ornamentals are transplanted in the fall or early winter when they are dormant. Because the root-ball is typically buried deeply enough so that low soil temperatures do not stop root growth during cooler months, the plant’s root system has time to get established when there is little demand for water and nutrients.
Planting dormant turfgrass is a little trickier. Soil surface temperatures fluctuate, closely following the ambient air temperatures. Because turfgrass roots lay close to the soil surface the window of opportunity for sod installation begins closing as fall turns to winter.
But with proper management, dormant sod can be successfully planted. Follow the same recommendations for preparation as you would during the ideal season. Install the sod within 24 – 48 hours after it is harvested, to prevent the roots from drying out or sustaining damage from cold temperatures. Dormant laid sod will need only enough water to keep the upper 1 to 2 inches of soil moist. Frequently check soil moisture by pulling up sod ends and edges to make sure the soil is moist.
Top dress the new sod to reduce potential desiccation and cold injury and to smooth shallow depressions and fill seams, conserve moisture, and potentially retain heat near the soil surface.
Successful dormant sod transplanting depends on proper soil preparation, good soil-to-sod contact, avoiding low temperature injury, and most importantly, proper water management to prevent desiccation.