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Tips for Growing Grass Lawns - FAQ'S

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LawnPlugs.com - An Informational Site From Seedland.com

Grass Lawn Plug From SeedlandGrass Plugs for lawns -- Questions and answers to the most commonly asked questions about planting, fertilizing, watering and growing grass lawns from grass plugs, sod or seed.

A must read guideline to help you maintain a healthier, more vibrant lawn and landscape. A compilation of our most commonly asked questions with valuable water absorption tables as well as soil types and mowing chart by grass species. If you have more specific or technical questions, we suggest you contact your County Extension Office.

Brought to you by Seedland.com.

Planting Grass Plugs or Sod

Q: What amount of sod or how many plug trays do I need to cover my yard?

A: To determine the proper amount of plug trays required for your installation, check our plug calculator charts.

Q: Where can I buy grass plugs?

A: Click here to order direct from Seedland.com online now.

Q: How do I prepare my yard before installing sod?

A: For best result, rototill or spade the area to a depth of 10 to 15 cm. (4 to 6 in.). Eliminate drainage problems by having soil slope away from foundations, etc.

Soil test your lawn area with the assistance of qualified service in your area. Then rake in fertilizer, lime, peat, compost, etc. as need to a depth of 7 to 10 cm. (3 to 4 in.). Rake and smooth the soil removing rocks, roots, and large clods. Roll the area lightly with a lawn roller 1/3 full of water. This will firm the soil surface and reveal low areas that need more soil. Keep the grade 2 to 3 cm. (1 in.) below sidewalks or driveway.

Water the prepared area to settle soil and provide a moist base for turf. Moistening to a depth of 15 cm. (6 in.) is recommended for most soils.

Q: What should I keep in mind when installing sod or plugs?

A: Install your lawn immediately upon delivery. Begin watering lawn within 30 minutes of installation. Turf is a living plant that requires ground contact and moisture to survive!

In hot weather, protect grass plugs or unlaid turf by placing stacks in shade, covering with moist burlap sacking, and/or sprinkling.

Begin installing turf along the longest straight line, such as a driveway or sidewalk. Butt and push edges and ends against each other tightly, without stretching. Avoid gaps or overlaps. Stagger the joints in each row in a brick-like fashion, using a large sharp knife to trim corners, etc. Avoid leaving small strips at outer edges as they will not retain moisture. On slopes, place the turf pieces across the slope.

To avoid causing indentations or air pockets avoid repeated walking or kneeling on the turf while it is being installed or just after watering.

After installing the turf, roll the entire area to improve turf/soil contact and remove air pockets.

Watering Lawns

Q: How can I care for my lawn in the event of a drought?

A: Homeowners, armed with a weather forecast predicting severe drought can take proper preparations that can greatly improve the chances of their home lawn surviving, even with very limited water.

The Lawn Institute in suburban Chicago has assembled the following tips to manage turf during a drought.

  1. Reduce or eliminate nitrogen fertilizer because at this time of year it overly promotes leaf growth, at the cost of rooting activity. Plan on fertilizing in the fall when top growth slows-down and root growth increases.
  2. Avoid all weed killers (herbicides) because most can also lessen the vigor of grass roots, the last thing you want to do prior to or during a drought.
  3. Reduce thatch and compaction as early in the year as possible so that moisture and air can reach the roots as easily as possible. Thatch can act like a sponge, capturing water before it reaches roots while compaction will increase rapid run-off at the cost of deep saturation.
  4. Sharpen the mower blade several times during the turf-growing season because dull blades shred rather than cleanly cut grass and shredded turf can greatly increase water losses.
  5. Mow less or when it's cooler because no matter how you cut it, grasses lose moisture after every mowing. Less plant moisture will be lost when mowing takes place at cooler times of the day.
  6. Mow as high as possible to promote deep rooting and maximize soil shading. Although studies have shown that taller grasses can use more water, there is a greater benefit to deep roots and reduced soil moisture loss from evaporation.
  7. Leave clippings, not clumps to add moisture, nutrients and a mulching effect; however, remove clumps because they will block the sun and heat up as they decay, killing the under-lying grass.
  8. Water Correctly... defend your right to use water to save your landscape by participating in public water hearings, while practicing proper watering techniques.
    1. Water late at night or early morning to take advantage of cooler temperatures and less evaporative losses to the afternoon winds and hot sun.
    2. Water infrequently and deeply to encourage roots to go deeper where moisture remains available for longer periods of time.
    3. Let the grass go dormant naturally by withholding water, except for a quarter-inch every four to six weeks to keep the vital grass crowns hydrated and capable of greening up when temperatures cool and moisture is again available.
  9. Reduce traffic on the lawn at all times if possible, but especially during the heat of the day when foot traffic and even lawn mowers can injure the grass plants and cause almost immediate dehydration.

When cooler, wetter weather returns you can help your lawn recover from a drought by watering deeply. This will wash dust off the leaves, re-hydrate the dormant crowns and initiate root growth.

Q: I've just installed a new lawn. How much should I water it?

A: Give your new lawn at least 2 to 3 cm. (1 in.) of water within 1/2 hour of installation. Water daily, or more often, keeping grass plugs moist until it is firmly rooted (about 2 weeks). This allows the root system to become firmly established. After a couple of weeks, water the grass plugs or sod as an established lawn.

Q: How can I measure my watering rate?

A: No matter what kind of irrigation system or method you use, check and adjust it to the soil's absorption rate. A good rule of thumb is to apply water at a rate equal to or slightly less than the soil ability to absorb it. Most irrigation systems apply water faster than necessary, which wastes water through run-off. Also, don't forget to check if the system is applying water uniformly!

The best way to check both of these functions is to set out a series of straight-side, flat-bottom cans for an in-ground system or a few cans for a movable sprinkler system. Run the watering system for 30 minutes and measure the amount of water collected. You can determine the length of time needed to apply one inch of water with a little simple math. If you know the soil type, check the water absorption chart below to figure how long the system needs to run in order to soak the lawn to a desired depth of 4 to 6 inches. Remember to stop the watering for an interval if you see run-off occurring.

The City of Toronto has an excellent webpage about soil types and watering lawns along with water absorption charts. Measurements are in centimeters -- 1 cm = 0.4 inches -- almost 1/2 inch.

Hilly or sloping areas may require a soaker hose to reduce run-off and allow better water penetration into the soil. Soakers apply water slowly over a small area and are quite efficient.

Q: Does my type of soil make a difference when it comes to watering?

A: Yes. Water soaks in at different speeds, depending on the composition of your soil type. If you know your basic soil type, use the following table as a general guide to watering. (Soil test kits and instructions are usually available at lawn and garden centers, and at better hardware stores. Soil test services and information are often available through your local County Extension Office).

Water Absorption Chart

Soil Type Infiltration
Inch Per Hour
Time For 1 Inch
To Soak In
Sand 2.0 inches 0.5 hours
Sandy Loam 1.0 inches 1.0 hours
Loam 0.5 inches 2.0 hours
Silt Loam 0.4 inches 2.25 hours
Clay Loam 0.3 inches 3.3 hours
Clay 0.2 inches 5.0 hours

Q: What's the best time of day to water my lawn?

A: The best times to water your lawn are early morning or early evening, when there is generally less wind and heat. Watering then allows for less evaporation into the air, greater penetration into the soil, and less run-off.

Q: Once my lawn is established, how often does it require watering?

A: The healthiest lawns are produced when they are watered heavily at infrequent intervals. On an average, the lawn needs about one inch of water per week, either by rainfall or in combination with irrigation. This one inch rule will normally soak the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, allowing the water to reach deep into the root system.

Let the lawn completely dry out between watering intervals. Most lawn grasses can tolerate dryer conditions over a reasonable period of time. Water only when a probe or screwdriver is difficult to push into the ground or shows that the soil is dry 4 to 6 inches down.

Mowing Lawn Grass

Q: How short/tall should my grass be?

A: The following table gives the suggested mowing heights and frequency for the most common grasses in North American lawns. The "rule of thumb" is not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface area each time the lawn is mowed.

Turfgrass Optimum Height Mow When It Is
Bluegrass 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
Perennial Ryegrass 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
Tall Fescue 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
Fine Fescue 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
St. Augustine 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
Buffalograss 2.0 inches 3.0 inches
Bermudagrass 1.5 inches 2.25 inches
Centipede 1.5 inches 2.25 inches
Zoysia 1.5 inches 2.25 inches

Q: What should I do with grass clippings after mowing?

A: By leaving your grass clippings on the lawn, you are adding nitrogen almost continually, which can reduce the need for fertilization by as much as 25%. And, leaving the clippings on the lawn (grass cycling) helps the environment by keeping clippings out of our community landfills and nitrates out of your water supply!

Q: When should I fertilize?

A: The best time to fertilize a lawn is in the Fall and then Spring. For Northern lawns (cool season grasses), begin the fertilization program as the grass begins to grow in the Spring and reduce applications as the weather gets hotter. When cooler weather returns in the Fall, the lawn can be fertilized again. A late Fall fertilizer application after the first frost can increase lawn quality the following spring.

For Southern lawns (warm season grasses), the fertilization program should start just after Spring green-up and stop about two months before the average frost date in the fall. Frequency of fertilizer applications depends primarily on the amount and form of nitrogen used. The slow-release type fertilizers can adequately feed the lawn from 6 to 10 weeks. If the lawn still looks good and is growing well after 6 to 8 weeks, wait longer for the next application.

Q: How much fertilizer should I use?

A: Fertilizer application rates should be as low as possible and still produce a high quality lawn. Over-fertilization weakens your lawn and causes excess leaf growth. As a general rule, if the amount of Nitrogen (N is the first number in the analysis) is between 5 and 12, the application rate should be 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

If the N number is between 12 and 18, the application rate should be 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Any N number over 19 should be applied at a rate of 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Always follow the recommended rate stated on the bag by the manufacturer.

Q: What fertilizer should I use?

A: Most turf experts recommend that a lawn fertilizer, organic or chemical, should have at least one-half of its nitrogen in one of the slow-release forms mentioned above. In most cases, both cool season and warm season grasses will do well when a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio of N-P-K is used on an established lawn. Some analysis numbers that meet these ratios include the following:

12-4-8
15-5-10
16-4-8
21-7-14
20-5-10

Since individual soil types vary greatly, perform a professional quality soil test. Check with your local County Extension Office for further information. For a better understanding of fertilizers, how much for which grass and what the numbers mean please visit http://lawnfertilizers.com/info/lawnrates.html.

The above information is meant to serve as a general guideline to help you maintain a healthier, more vibrant lawn and landscape. It represents a compilation of our most commonly asked questions. If you have more specific or technical questions, we suggest you contact your County Extension Office.

Important Shipping Information About Grass Plugs

PLUG ORDERS SHIP ON MONDAYS!
YOUR ORDER MUST BE PLACED BY 10:00 AM EST ON FRIDAY...
FOR THE ORDER TO SHIP THE FOLLOWING MONDAY*
*Subject to any ship delay caused by adverse weather (rain just prior to shipment)
Orders placed after 10 AM Friday will be scheduled for shipment on the next cycle (2nd Monday).

Important - Shipping Restrictions: Due to state agricultural regulations on soils, we can not ship our Grass Plugs to the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, & Wyoming. Due to shipping time constraints we do not ship any plugs outside USA mainland States. (IE: Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, US Islands). There are no restrictions on seeds shipped to these states.

Shipment Dates: Our grass plugs ship seasonally* every Monday for all orders placed the previous week. Orders must be placed by 10 am EST on Friday in order to ship the following week. Occasionally shipments may be delayed due to weather issues (heavy rains result in plugs too wet to ship). Since we ship orders ASAP once they are placed, please order only if you are ready to plant.

*Note: Seedland only ships Grass Plugs during the spring months of February, March, April, and May.  Some varieties may also ship in September and October - Call for availability.  We do not ship during summer months as the heat during transit can damage the plugs.

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