Seed or Sod
Well to begin with you have to decide what you already have in your yard and what you are trying to accomplish by having sod in the first place. Personally, I think lawns should be illegal as they are huge water wasters and one of the leading causes of over fertilizing and chemical use, but that is a topic for another day ;-0 So first lets decide what is best for you, are you looking for a soft place for the kiddo’s, somewhere for the dogs to hang out?? Do you have full sun or deep shade? There is a lot to know about grass. I am going to try to keep this simple.
First you should know that most of us here in Austin and the surrounding area either have St. Augustine or Bermuda and some lucky ones who spent a little more to have it, have Zoysia. Zoysia in my opinion is the best for this area hands down.
Bermuda and Zoysia can be seeded or planted as sod or plugs. These are both spreading grasses which is nice when you are trying to cover a large area, but they can also be a nuisance as they are prone to spreading into your flower beds becoming annoying to control. Both grasses tolerate full sun and traffic as well as pet issues and use low water once established.
St. Augustine has to be sodded and spreads through runners that can be convenient when checker boarding the sod (alternating sod compost/sod, compost) and allowing the runners to connect the sod together. Augustine is a big drinker and wears badly. It also compacts easily by traffic and this makes it a bad grass for yards with pets and kids. It is also susceptible to fungus.
There is really no good grass for shade even though some boast success in shade it is typically short-lived. 6 years seems to be the cut off. You will need to replace the sod in time and I have yet to hear anyone tell me otherwise. If any of you have had success with a shade grass for longer than 6 years, please let me know what you did and what you used.
This is the time of year to seed and sod. If you have a large area you are covering be sure to start with a quality soil. It should be dark and rich, not orange and sandy. a few inches of good soil will assure your sod has a good start.
If you are repairing sod, maybe from drought damage, cinch bugs or chemical damage, you will do well to aerate or till the area you are repairing. If you are covering a large area, tilling will give you freshly oxygenated soil to plant or seed on. If you aerate only, you will be planting on compacted damaged sod and you will be giving an unfair disadvantage to your sod/seeds. The more air in your soil the better!!
Your seeds and sod will need to be watered daily until established. Sod is established when the roots are attached to the soil and the sod cannot be easily pulled up. Seeds are established once the grass is tall enough to be cut. You should avoid walking on your turf until established.
Buy yourself a really good quality self-propelled mulching lawn mower. It is worth its weight in gold. The mulching mower shreds the clippings into free fertilizer in the form of nitrogen. You should mow your lawn once a week and no more than every 10 days, never cut more than 1/3 of the length of the existing lawn. Also be sure to leave your St. Augustine lawn 4″tall at all times, cutting your lawn to short damages your sod and sends it into shock making it more difficult to recover in the TX heat. Be sure to sharpen your blades and spray with Lysol after mowing to prevent spreading of fungus.
As for fertilizing your lawn. Medina makes some great products and the lawn fertilizer is one of them. Compost each spring to 1/4 inch and water every five days to the depth of one inch. Deep watering encourages your sod to reach deep for water, watering too frequently or too shallow keeps your roots close to the surface and requires more water. Never use chemical fertilizers, they will make you lawn reliant on them, good old fashioned compost is what your lawn needs and if you give it some time , you lawn and planet will thank you.
If you must have sod, be sure to follow some basic rules for success and remember that healthy soil produces healthy grass and a full, thick lawn has no weeds.
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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