By: David R. Chalmers and James McAfee
Sod is an excellent choice for outdoor areas that need ground cover. Unlike seeding, sodding gives you immediate coverage that keeps soil from turning into dust or mud. Because sod is sold as slabs or rolls, it provides immediate erosion control. Quality sod is weed free, easy to care for, and can be installed nearly year round.
Turfgrass species and varieties
Bermudagrass tolerates drought and traffic but does not grow well in shade. Varieties are available for use as lawns, golf courses and athletic fields. Many improved hybrid bermudagrasses have a finer leaf texture than the common-type varieties. They generally require more frequent mowing and fertilization than the common bermudagrasses. Some bermudagrass varieties available as sod are Baby, Celebration, CT-2, Common, GN-1, Grimes EXP, Quickstand, Tifgreen, Tifway, TifSport and Tifton 10.
Buffalograss is best adapted for areas with 25 inches or less annual rainfall. In areas with higher rainfall, or when watered excessively, buffalograss is easily invaded by other grasses and weeds. It does best in open sun. It makes a good low maintenance lawn turf from Central to West Texas. The more popular sodded varieties include Density, Prairie, Prestige and 609.
Centipedegrass is adapted to East Texas. It is slow-growing, coarse¬leafed, and grows well in full sun to light shade; it does not tolerate traffic or prolonged drought. It requires little fertilizer and infrequent mowing. Varieties available as sod include Common and TifBlair.
St. Augustinegrass is the most shadetolerant of the warm-season turfgrasses. It is used as a lawn grass in most of Texas but is sometimes killed by very cold winters in the northern third of the state. It is less tolerant of prolonged drought than bermudagrass and zoysiagrass but can be grown in Central and West Texas if irrigated. It is well adapted in Southeast Texas. It requires low to moderate maintenance. St. Augustinegrass varieties include Amerishade, Captiva, Delmar, Floratam, Palmetto, Raleigh, Sapphire and Seville. Zoysiagrass is adapted to a similar area of the state as bermudagrass.
Zoysiagrass is drought-tolerant but may turn brown during prolonged drought. It has moderate to good shade tolerance and does well on lawns and recreational areas with moderate traffic.
Zoysia japonica types are medium-textured and do well with “normal” lawn maintenance. Zoysia matrella types have a finer leaf texture, are more shade-tolerant, and need closer mowing. Z. japonica varieties include Carrizo, Crowne, El Toro, Empire, GN-Z, Jamur, Meyer and Palisades. Z. matrella varieties include Cavalier, Diamond, Royal, Y-2, Zeon, Zorro and Emerald (an older variety similar to Z. matrella types).
Before you call the grower or landscaper
Know how many square feet, square yards or pallets of sod you need, allowing for a small percentage of waste that occurs during installation. Sod is sold by the square foot or square yard. One square yard of sod equals 9 square feet and a pallet contains about 450 square feet.
You need 111 square yards of sod per 1,000 square feet. An acre is 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square yards.
Do not assume the grower will grade the site, fertilize, or install the turf. You will need to negotiate these services separately.
Once you select a grower, distributor or landscaper, call as far ahead of installation time as possible to ensure that sod will be ready when you need it.
Sod survives best when planted on well prepared soil that is relatively moist. Follow the recommendations in B-6239, “Turfgrass Establishment in Texas” (http://agrilifebookstore. org).
Sod is perishable and performs best when installed within 36 hours of harvest. Lightly rake the area to be sodded just before planting. Lay the first line of sod along a straight line such as a driveway, sidewalk, or a string stretched between two stakes. Then stagger the sod pieces in the adjacent rows in “brickwork” fashion.
Push the sod pieces together tightly as they may shrink if allowed to dry out before rooting. Try to minimize soil compaction and ruts in the planting area by moving sod in wheelbarrows over plywood boards.
Roll the installed sod with a heavy hand roller to reduce air pockets and ensure the uniform soil contact needed for good rooting. Immediately after planting, water the sod thoroughly until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 inches. Examine the soil under several pieces of sod to make sure it is wet.
Maintaining new sod
To encourage rooting, water every 2 to 3 days or just often enough to make sure the soil is moist (not wet) to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Warm-season grasses sodded in late fall or winter may not be well rooted until spring and may need watering until spring rooting begins. In weather above 80 degrees F, new sod may need watering daily until it is well rooted.
After the sod is well rooted, irrigate deeply and infrequently. This will help the grass roots grow deep into the soil and make the grass more drought tolerant. Mow the sod once it is rooted and is being watered less frequently. Heavy mowers may cause ruts if you mow the grass too soon or if the soil is not firmed before planting.
For more information on turfgrass selection, establishment and care, visit the Texas AgriLife Extension Bookstore (http://agrilifebookstore. org). For additional information see Extension publication L-5519, ”Turfgrass Selection for Texas” (available at http://agrilifebookstore.org).
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Ecological Turf Tips: How to Select and Install Sod
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