Thomas J. Koske | 4/22/2005 12:52:19 AM
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Those are the five Ps to remember when sodding a new lawn, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
"Without the right start, a newly sodded lawn can be an expensive failure," the horticulturist says, emphasizing, "Start out by selecting the right type of grass for your needs and the environment that you will grow in." The horticulturist advises consulting the AgCenter Web site or your local county agent.
"All of our warm-season grasses can be established vegetatively, but common Bermudas and carpetgrass are usually seeded," Koske says.
Before laying sod, it is important to have a well-prepared sod bed. This means that the soil should be amended as needed for organic matter, liming and phosphorous, then graded for drainage.
Soil needs are best determined by a routine soil test available through your county agent’s office for $7.00. Allow three weeks for return of test results. Incorporate lime, phosphate and organic matter (if needed) as recommended, to a depth of several inches. Never put sod on hard, uncultivated or weedy ground.
Before laying sod and after amending the soil, establish final drainage grades and contours. Allow grades of 1 percent to 2 percent slope away from the house and plant beds. If you bring in some decent topsoil fill, first establish a rough grade to accommodate the general drainage flow and then cap this with a uniform layer of top soil. If this topsoil is very different from the native soil, lightly till it in to reduce a pronounced boundary between the two different soil types.
If the topsoil is very sandy, mix it well. The right combination of sand and clay makes bricks! To truly lighten a heavy clay usually requires at least three parts sand for each one part of clay; thus a sandy (light) topsoil cap may be a better option.
Create swales (depressions) if need be to move surface water to drains, or lay field drains with pipe in low areas. Figure where the water wants to go, and then help it to do so. Remember, it is going to go somewhere no matter what.
Now install irrigation if you will have a permanent system. Activate the system before laying sod because you will need it.
Lay sod within three days of cutting. Sod left on pallets for more than two days begins to become a compost pile. Keep sod pallets cool and moist.
Lay sod pieces in a staggered, brick-wall pattern. Keep all sod edges tight to the neighboring pieces. If any gaps develop, fill them in with soil. Roll the newly laid sod with a lawn roller to press out any rootzone air pockets and to level the surface.
Irrigate the new sod well to wet the soil beneath. Keep the sod from drying out that first week after laying. Irrigate half as much the second week and even less the third week.
After three to four weeks of reasonable growing conditions, the sod is considered established and may receive its first application of complete fertilizer. Mow weekly or as needed to maintain the recommended height of cut for that grass type and location.
"Remember, it is much easier to fix soil problems and drainage issues before developing a sod cover," Koske says.
For information on related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.