Tag Archives: grass care

How To Lay Sod

When you get ready to plant a new lawn, you have three choices: seeds, plugs, or sod. Which one you choose depends on several factors, including the species of grass you’re going to plant, the price, and whether or not seed is available of the species you’ve chosen.

For some species, such as St. Augustine grass, sod is the only really practical alternative. For other species such as Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass, it’s one of several options.

One thing is clear, however: using sod is the fastest and easiest way to establish a lush, green carpet of grass in your yard. Even those species for which seed is readily available will take most of a growing season to become established and spread, but sod—when put down correctly—will give you a beautiful lawn in just a few weeks. Best of all, you can lay sod any time during the growing season if you’re prepared to water it enough to help it get well established.

Begin With the Soil

If you want your lawn to be successful, you need to do some preparation before you actually start laying the sod. This means preparing the soil so that you have a good foundation for your lawn.

Start by removing any existing grass and weeds, and then spade the soil to loosen and aerate it. You also need to take the thickness of the sod into consideration, so when you rake the soil, its surface needs to be approximately an inch and a half below any sidewalks, driveways, or other hard surfaces.
Then apply a “starter” fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, and rake the soil again to distribute it well. Now you’re ready to start laying the sod.

Laying Sod

Once the sod is harvested, you need to lay it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out and die. If it’s a big job that’s going to take several days, store the sod in the shade so it stays cool and moist.

Choose the straight edge of a hard surface as the guide for your first row. Place each piece tightly against the last piece so there aren’t any gaps between the pieces of sod, and put the rows tightly together as well.

When you start the second row, cut a piece of sod in half crossways for the first piece in the row. The point here is to stagger the seams like a bricklayer lays bricks. If you’re laying sod on a hill or slope, turn the pieces of sod so they’re perpendicular to the direction of the slope.

As you work, if you need to stand on the sod you’ve already put down, lay a board on top of the sod so your feet don’t dig into the sod you’re already laid. Trim or cut pieces as necessary to go around odd-shaped flower beds, sidewalks, or other obstacles; not everything in your yard will have straight lines, and you want the sod to fit tightly everywhere it can.

When you have all the sod laid down, use the back of a rake to tamp down all the edges so the roots are in firm contact with the soil underneath. The object of this is to get rid of any air pockets that will cause the sod to dry out.

The last task in this process is to water the sod. Plan to water long enough to get the top 6 to 8 inches of moist; this encourages the grass to put down deep roots. Do the same thing each time you water, but space out your watering days so the soil doesn’t get soggy.

Watch it Grow

Try not to walk on the lawn until the sod has rooted well and it starting to grow. The way to tell if it’s getting established is to lift up on the grass. If it “sticks” down, it’s rooting into the soil.

At the end of a month, the sod should be starting to grow well. Apply lawn fertilizer according to the needs of whatever grass species you have chosen, and start a regular schedule of watering and mowing. Enjoy your new lawn!

Growing A Shady Lawn

grass for shady lawnThe earliest grasses grew on the plains—open areas of full sunlight. If you look around in nature you will see grasses in open sunny fields but not in dense forests.

While some grasses adapt better to shade than others, none will grow in deep shade. By choosing a grass that tolerates shade and that is adapted to your growing area you can establish a lawn in a lightly shaded area that gets several hours of full sun per day.

Shade Tolerant Grasses

Among the grasses that grow in cool areas of the country, called cool season grasses, creeping or red fescue and velvet bentgrass are the most shade tolerant. Used by itself or as a mixture red fescue is good in all types of turf areas, including lawns, parks, ball fields, cemeteries, and airfields. With its fine texture, thickness, and low growing habit, velvet bentgrass is a popular choice for golf greens in the far north.

Rough bluegrass, creeping bentgrass, and hard fescue have good shade tolerance in northern areas, but not as good as red fescue or velvet bentgrass.

St. Augustine grass and manila grass have excellent shade tolerance in warm season areas from the Texas gulf to the Carolinas. St. Augustine grass produces a thick dark green lawn in full sun or moderate shade. Manila grass is a fine-textured, dense type of zoysiagrass.

Maintenance for a Shady Lawn

Mow grass in shady areas one-third higher than in sunny locations. The increased blade surface absorbs more sunlight. Remove leaves and grass clippings from the lawn because they reduce the sunlight that reaches the grass. Trim surrounding trees, especially lower branches, to increase sunlight.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deep watering penetrates the roots of the grass, where shallow watering encourages tree roots to come to the surface and compete with the grass for water and nutrients. Too much water, however, leads to disease problems. Watering a shady lawn is not the same as watering a sunny lawn; it may take time to achieve the correct balance between too much and too little water. A walking sprinkler can be set to put the correct amount of water on.

Shady lawns do not need as much nitrogen fertilizer as lawns that get more sunlight. Use deep root feeding to feed trees in lawns in order to prevent high levels of nitrogen from reaching the grass.

Avoid walking on shady lawns. Foot traffic is more damaging to shady lawns, which are in general more fragile.

Alternatives to Grass for Shady Areas

In high shade areas where sunlight cannot be increased by trimming branches of trees, plants other than grass may be more successful as groundcovers. As with the grasses, suitable plants depend on climate and growing conditions. Possibilities include pachysandra, ivy, moss, periwinkle, sweet woodruff, and many others.

Where no plants will grow straw, woodchips, or mulch can provide effective and attractive cover for the ground. Paving stones, bricks, or gravel are other options that can be incorporated into the landscape in places where plants do not thrive.

How to Start a Healthy Lawn in a Cold Climate

Cool season turf grasses are excellent choices for lawns in the cool states. If you prepare the soil properly, use the right type of grass, seed or lay sod at the right time of year, and take good care of your lawn you can have a healthy lawn to enhance your home and garden.

Types of Turf Grasses for Cool Season Lawns

Kentucky bluegrass is a general-purpose turf grass that tolerates low winter temperatures very well. It’s great for lawns and athletic fields in well-drained soil, but does not thrive in shade. The seeding rate for a 100 percent Kentucky bluegrass lawn is one pound per 1,000 square feet.

If you need a more shade-tolerant lawn, use a half-and-half mix of Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue. Sow the mix at a rate of three pounds per 1,000 square feet. Red fescue alone, sown at three-to-four pounds per 1,000 square feet, is a good choice for dry, infertile, or acid soil and shady conditions.

Although it’s considered a weed in bluegrass lawns in the north, tall fescue is good for slopes and banks and near waterways. Tall fescue is very tolerant of hot summer temperatures, is highly wear resistant, and thrives in soil that is too moist for other turf grasses. Sow it by itself at five-to-seven pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Perennial ryegrass is hard to mow and some varieties are not hardy in northern areas. It is, however, an excellent nurse crop in seed mixes because it grows fast, filling in until other grasses get established. Sow a 20 percent perennial ryegrass and 80 percent Kentucky bluegrass mix at two pounds per 1,000 square feet. A 50-50 mix needs thicker sowing—about three pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Another popular mix for northern lawns is 50 percent Kentucky bluegrass, 30-40 percent red fescue, and 10-20 percent perennial ryegrass. Sown at four pounds per 1,000 square feet or a little less, this mix is adaptable to most growing conditions.

When to Seed or Sod

In northern New England the best time to sow grass seed is August 15 through September 15. At that time of year the warm ground and the warm sun encourage germination and there is little competition from weeds. You can also sow mid-summer, but you have to be vigilant about watering. If you are planting in a weed-free location you can even sow in early spring.

Laying sod gives you a lush lawn without waiting. You can install sod any time from May to September, but once again you will need to keep on top of irrigating in mid-summer.

How to Prepare the Ground

Grading allows you to create the perfect contour for your lawn. A large area may require heavy machinery, but you can grade a small area with a rake and a wheelbarrow. Grade the lawn so it slopes away from the house, garage, and garden areas. It’s okay to leave some clods of soil. After you get the grade right rake in four-to-six inches of loam to create high quality topsoil.

Have a soil test done before you add anything to the seedbed. Local cooperative extension services provide low cost soil testing that tells you what your soil needs in order to grow a great lawn. Based on the soil test results you may need to add granular fertilizer, compost, lime, or other amendments before you seed or sod.

Seeding the Lawn

To make sure you get good coverage, divide the seed into two portions and sow half in one direction and the other half at right angles. Rake the seed in about one-quarter inch and water well, but don’t over saturate the soil. Once the seeds germinate water only when the ground is dry.

You can protect the seedbed from wind and direct sunlight and conserve moisture by mulching. Mulching is more important if you seed mid summer than if you seed late summer. Straw is good mulch for seedbeds; stay away from hay unless you are sure it does not have weed seeds. If you spread one bale of straw lightly over 1,000 square feet you won’t have to remove the straw.

Once your lawn is off to a good start you can focus on maintaining it by controlling weeds, mowing, and fertilizing.