Spread a lawn with sod

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Maintaining ideal soil conditions when installing sod helps spur root growth

Have you ever driven by a construction site and seen bare soil everywhere? Then the next day you drive by and the bare soil is now a green lawn. Wow -- what a change in such a short time. For those who want instantaneous lawn, sod is the way to go.

I can think of three different reasons why you would want to sod your lawn. Obviously the first is that you want an instantaneous lawn. Seeding a lawn requires time and patience.

Usually a seeded lawn will take anywhere from four weeks to two months before it can be considered a mature lawn. The exception to this time period is a technique used in sports fields. I can get a playable turf in just six days if all of the conditions are right.

The second reason to opt for sod is to cover critical slope areas, such as drainage ditches and hillsides. Seeding an area like this can be done, but all of the environmental conditions need to be just right for these areas to take without a lot of erosion to contend with.

The third reason has to do with zoysia grass. If you have a new lawn area and want it to be zoysia, the best way to get it is with sod. Zoysia seed is expensive, and it has a low germination rate. Therefore, your least expensive option is to sod.

There is one reason why you should not sod. If you are having trouble getting a lawn in a shady area or a wet area, the placement of sod will not give you the results you want. Eventually the sod will fade out in areas under shade or in moist places, just the same way that new grass from seed would fade out.

If you have decided that sod is the way for you to go, then keep in mind some tips so that your investment of time, energy and money is well spent. First your sod must be laid on bare mineral soil. If you place sod over an area with a lot of organic debris such as leaves, or growing plants you will find that your sod will not root as rapidly as it should.

Secondly, make sure that your soil is graded properly. The laying of sod will not eliminate bumps or erosion channels under the sod. Make sure that you have a good base on which to lay your sod.

Run a soil test in the area where you are going to lay sod. Make sure that the pH is between 6.2 and 7.0. The proper soil pH is just as important for new sod as it is for a newly seeded lawn.

When you are ready to lay sod, apply a high phosphorous fertilizer to the soil before laying the sod. The phosphorous will encourage the new sod to produce roots -- roots that are needed so that the sod can "take" to the soil.

Lay your sod as a bricklayer lays bricks. Lap the pieces of sod, so that you don't have a seam running the entire width of the sodded area.

This will reduce any erosion that may occur.

After the sod has been laid, roll the sod so that you have good sod soil contact. Roots do not grow through air spaces very well.

Next, water your new sod thoroughly -- to the point that the sod is mushy, and the soil underneath the sod is mushy. By applying this much water at first, you will have an easier job of keeping your new sod moist while it begins to root into the soil.

Now, keep your new sod moist. You should water it every day until the sod has rooted into the new soil. You can determine if the sod has rooted by trying to roll back a section of sod. If it is tacked firmly to the soil, you will know that it has rooted properly.

After rooting, slowly back off on the moisture until you get to one watering per week with about one inch of water each application. Continue this watering schedule for the first season.

About a month after the sod has been laid you can apply a high nitrogen fertilizer so that the new sod can take off. Make two more high nitrogen fertilizer applications in the fall and late fall season. These applications should get your new sod on a strong footing for the next season.

If you find that weeds are beginning to invade your new sod, you can apply herbicides after the sod has been mowed once or twice. Applications earlier than that can reduce root growth.

If you want instantaneous lawn, or have a critical sloped area that would erode easily, consider sod. By following a few simple tips, you can have that instant green lawn in your front yard.

Send your gardening and landscape questions to Paul Schnare at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0699 or by e-mail to news@semissourian.com.

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