Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can I plant SOD in the winter in Dallas, Texas: Yes, you can. Si se puede!

I get this question all the time from customers and even friends, "Can you plant SOD in the winter time?" My answer is always, "Yes." Well, for those who live in the "Southern Zone". The United States is divided up into "zones". Dallas, Texas falls into this zone. Basically, we have very warm summers and our winters are warm too, well according to my friend in North Dakota. It rarely gets below freezing. When it does freeze in Dallas, look out! Run to your nearest Kroger and buy milk, eggs and bread. Planting SOD in the winter does sound a bit off, one would think that planting is done in the spring. For the most part, that would be correct. But, we are in Texas. And as we all know everything in Texas is Big and warm. I threw in the warm.

Billions of dollars are made every year off of millions of acres of SOD. People need their SOD. People love a nice green lawn. Those who can pay for it, will most likely hire someone to do it. And that someone is us SODinstall.com. Enough of the ads. Furthermore, SOD farms produce SOD all year long, this means the demand for SOD still exists in the fall and winter seasons in Texas. The requests for SOD installation definitely slows down when Old Man Winter comes to Big D.

We plant SOD in December, January and February because the Texas winters are warm compared to the upper states. When we plant SOD, the roots are protected by the grass plants and soil. Great SOD comes with at least three inches of soil and lush grass leaf blades. In the winter, the SOD may be a little brown, but that's okay. It will green up in the spring. Even if an ice storm hits, or if it snows, the newly planted SOD will more than likely survive. I would say a 95% chance. Of course there are no guarantees when it comes to SOD growth. SOD is a produce product and cannot be guaranteed to grow, even though we are 99% sure it will take every time. It is usually lack of proper maintenance that does the grass in.

If it does freeze and we have just planted SOD, no worries. Be sure to keep your lawn wet. Yes, wet. The SOD needs plenty of water. Ice will form around the roots, protecting them. Just keep your lawn watered for at least 12 to 14 days straight, soaking it every time. Use common sense too. If water runs into the street and it is freezing, you may create a slick spot on the road. If you have to, wait till the freeze is over and begin to water, or water when the temp rises in the afternoon.

I hope this has cleared up the question about planting SOD in the winter in Dallas, Texas. The answer is yes, and please call or click today!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dallas Freezes Over, Damages Trees: The importance of Tree Trimming

Trimming your trees is an important part of lawn care. Recently in Dallas, Texas we had an "ice storm" of sorts. Many people stayed home due to the slick streets. There were a number of auto accidents reported. Driving to Kroger for some eggs and milk, I noticed many tree limbs had fallen from the accumulation of ice. I noticed that all these trees had one thing in common, they looked neglected. Most of them had "suckers" all around their main branches. It's pretty easy to spot a tree that has been serviced withing a year or two. Some trees like Bradford Pears that grow quickly are very susceptible to branches splitting and breaking even without ice. I consider these trees "junk" trees or "builder" trees. That is another post. If you trim your trees at least once a year or once every two years, your tree will be healthier and stronger to withstand moments of stress and disease. If you need your trees trimmed or serviced, you can visit my website and fill out the request form for a free estimate.

Dallas Ice Storm Freezes Lawns :It's all in the Roots

Frozen Lawn
No matter how well you took care of your lawn this summer season, your lawn is now frozen. Many lawns will survive this wintry mix but some will not. Dallas has not had this long of a cold spell in a while. The longer the cold stays in the twenty's and low thirty's, the more lawns will tragically be killed off. Warm season grass is called warm season for a reason, they hate the cold. A few years ago when we got a late winter blast, we replaced about one-hundred lawns damaged by the ice. If you do maintain your lawn, the chances of root survival are better. Let me explain. There are many factors that lead to a healthy lawn: 

Watering, fertilizing, sunlight exposure, aeration, soil conditions, herbicides, nitrogen, carbohydrates, and the "oxygen diffusion rate". Paying attention to these factors will go a long way to a  vigorous and deep root system. Feeding and watering your lawn properly will also insure thick turf. Prepare your lawn for days like this in Dallas. When your lawn is stressed it always looks to it's roots for help. I will be writing another post elaborating on the importance of maintaining your lawn to ensure deep healthy roots. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SOD Installation Companies that Don't use a Measuring Device

I showed up thirty minutes early to a SOD installation estimate. To my surprise, there was  talking to my customer on the lawn. I figured out that they may have called another company to give them an estimate. That was okay with me; a look at the competition is always a good thing. It is always good to see what the other guy is doing. You can  learn a thing or two about the competition. I waited patiently in my car listening to one of my favorite bands, CCR. As the song "Proud Mary" was starting to play, I noticed the other SOD guy walking around the lawn in a straight line, moving from one corner to the next. Before the song was over, my competition had sped off. I gathered my things- measuring wheel, check, business cards, check, ID card, check, tablet, check. I approached the customer and asked her what happened to the other guy. She replied-that he basically walked around her yard then handed her a piece of paper. She showed me the paper. It had an astronomical number that blew my mind. It was followed by, "Have a nice day."

Of course, I introduced myself and handed her my business card. She also said that he had just arrived. I figured he was there about 5 minutes, give or take one. I asked the customer if he had explained what type of SOD she should get because the lawn was blanketed in shade. She said, "Yes, he said that Bermuda would be the best." I almost fainted. I told her that I would measure first then explain the process. She said, "Well, he measured with his feet." I said, "No, Ma'am, we use tape or the orange wheel I bought from Home Depot."

Once I measured, I explained to her that I could give her a discount because she only had patches of grass, and it would be easier to till. Also, I let her know her four Live Oak trees needed to be trimmed. From the looks of it, it had to be at least five years since they were serviced. She told me she was on a budget. The best SOD to be planted was St. Augustine Raleigh. I chose Raleigh because it is the most affordable St. Augustine compared to Palmetto and would do well in the shade. I calculated my measurements. She needed two-hundred and fifty square feet of SOD, about five pallets. Soil amendments were not needed. The soil was a nice loam, perfect for root growth. The trees provided plenty of vegetation to enrich the soil. I tested for earth worms, there were plenty squirming about.

We landed the job. The customer appreciated the time we spent with her explaining the SOD installation process. We also had a detailed invoice that broke everything down: Materials, Delivery, Labor, Tax.

If you called someone out to your house for a SOD quote and they are measuring with their feet and eyes, do not panic. Click here.

How to Choose a Local Business or Contractor for your Home or Landscaping Services

Choosing a company to do anything at your home or business can be a little tricky sometimes. The first thing people do is go online and Google whatever they are looking for. For SOD installation, you may enter "SOD Installation in Dallas" and you end up with a huge list of companies. The first thing to know is a thing called the "Organic" side of Google. That is the non-advertising side of Google or the natural side of Google. The top and sides will be paid advertisements from companies who pay Google to be there. The middle is what you want to focus on because those companies got there for a good reason. They earned it.
 Don't get me wrong, Google's Adsense program works great if you have a budget for it. Many small businesses simply do not have the cash flow for it. I do not want to delve into SEO practices but I want you to know what to look for when using Google to find a SOD company.
You will also end up reading company reviews from places like Kudzu and even Google. Be aware that reviews can be inaccurate and unfair to the company the person is reviewing. There are growing problems with companies making fake reviews about their competitors. Here is a recent Blog Post about such practices. Do not let a few negative reviews discourage you from calling on that company. It is hard to verify the source of the review. Ask them yourself about the review you found online. Most companies resolve any issues they might have had with the customer. Think about where you work. Have you had any customers that were unsatisfied? The answer is probably yes. Most business will make mistakes and most businesses correct their mistakes or errors to satisfy that customer. The bottom line is find out for yourself, look at their "estimate process".
An Estimate Process is basically how the company reacts to your request. Whether it's by phone, email or a website form. A good sign of a good SOD company will be a quick return call or e-mail (not an automated e-mail, those are nice but not personal). Also note that an Estimate Process can be applied to any company that offers you any service. The Estimate Process is made up of 9 basic elements:

Monday, December 2, 2013

SOD Installation: Part Deux

Step 2.) To DIY or Not? 

 That definitely should be the question. Here are some serious questions you should ask yourself:
  1. Am I capable of lifting 25 to 50lbs for at least 4 hours (or more depending on the size of your lawn) on a constant basis using your back, arms and knees?
  2. Do you have all the proper tools and can I properly use them? 
  3. What is my level of experience installing SOD? 
  4. What is my experience using a gas powered tiller? 
  5. Do I have a reliable source for SOD? 
  6. Can I tell the difference between "good" SOD and "bad sod"?
  7. Am I going to need a soil amendment?
Warning:   If you answered most of the questions with a "No" I would advise you get help from someone who has at least some experience or click here on our website to get a free estimate for your SOD project. You can seriously injure yourself, others and your own property with a tiller. Most tillers are unforgiving and can be "wild" if not handled correctly. Home Depot Rents tillers, I recommend you rent the Mid-Tine tiller. The bigger one will run away on you if you are not careful. I will get into tillers later. 

If you have decided NOT to DIY, click on our website for a free estimate. If you decide to get several estimates, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. One of the answers we get from some customers is, "Well the other company is charging half of what you estimated." I usually answer using a set of standards we use when estimating a SOD installation: (90% of the time the other company has just given them a final estimate with no specifics.)
  • The company will actually come by your home or business and not just give a an estimate over the phone. We do not give estimates over the phone. Anyone who does should only give you a ball park or at least give you a minimum installation charge, ours is $250.00. 
  • The SOD type will be on the estimate.
  • The SOD amount in square yards or square feet will be in the estimate.
  • The estimator will measure the lawn with a measuring device not just "eye ball" it. If they are not measuring your lawn with a measuring device, forget about it! The estimate will most likely be off. 
  • The best type of SOD will be recommended. If your lawn has lots of shade and that company wants to install a Bermuda type SOD, something is very wrong.
  •  The Labor, Materials and Delivery will be shown on the SOD. Trust me, they will charge for delivery because each Pallet of SOD weighs a ton, literally. 

Step 2.) Tool Check 
      You are going to need the proper tools to get this thing done. Here is a list of tools to get a basic SOD job done:

  • Friends, relatives, kids (any HELP you can get!)
  • Weed Eater
  • Lawn Mower
  • Blower
  • Shovels
  • Pick
  • Utility Knife
  • Wheel Barrow
  • Leather Gloves
  • Eye Protection
  • Ear Plugs
  • Leaf Rake
  • Bow Rake
  • 36" Landscaping Rake
  • Hand Trowel
  • Measuring Tape
  • Water Hose
  • Orange Flags (if you have sprinklers)
  • Mid-Tine or Rear Tine Tiller
  • 250lb SOD Roller 
Step 3.) Measure Your Lawn: 
Measure your lawn using a tape measure or measuring wheel. Split your lawn up into squares and rectangles. Multiply length x Width. To estimate the square footage of a triangle first you must measure the base and the height in feet. Multiply these two figures together and then divide by two. Once you have all your measurements add up the total square feet and divide by 9. Let's say your total square feet is 1000 square feet. Divide by nine and you get total square yards. We use square yards because that's the standard when ordering SOD. Rule of thumb is that most SOD companies in Texas sell SOD by pallets that equal to 450 square feet or 50 square yards. So back to our 1000sq. Ft., divide by 9 and get 111.11 square yards. Just round that up to 125 square yards. It's always a good thing to order a little extra, trust me. The cutting of SOD is not always the same, so you will sometimes get a little more or a little less. 

Step 4.) Order SOD
When ordering your SOD be sure to let the delivery guy know exactly where you want the SOD placed (driveway, back alley etc.). Order at least 2 to 5 days ahead of time. 

Step 5.) Flag Sprinklers
Marking your sprinklers with orange flags is a must. Have someone turn each zone on. As each sprinkler head is activated, place a flag beside the head. You can also go ahead and dig a 3" circle around each one with hand trowel. If you are having sprinkler problems, fix that first before installing SOD. 

Step 6.) A Time to Till
Tilling is hard, so be ready with gloves, safety glasses and earplugs. Before tilling you can use a weed eater and lawn mower to remove some of the grass you currently have. Some people will spray Round Up their lawn to kill the grass. I do not recommend this. If you do, wait at least three weeks before planting anything. And be sure not to kill your surrounding plants and shrubs. Once you have removed some of the grass with the weed eater and mower, rake up the debris. Once you have removed all the grass possible, it's time to till. Start tilling. If you have a slope, till from East to West from the slope. basically avoid tilling up and down the hill. You will have to adjust your posture when controlling the tiller. The idea is to till about 3" or so. Don't be

Thursday, November 28, 2013

SOD Installation: Part One

High Quality St. Augustine picture
from www.sodinstall.com
The process of installing SOD is no easy task even for a small lawn. The weight alone of just 450 square feet (one pallet) of SOD is One Ton (2,000lbs). People across the country install SOD in different ways. I am writing this post to inform you about the way I install SOD. And by the way I personally have installed hundreds of lawns with great success.  I have been installing SOD since I was just a boy. Some of my friends these days still tease me about not being able to play with them because my Father had me digging up a lawn. I will take you step by step on how to install SOD in your lawn. I also have to give credit to Richard L. Duble, author of  "Turfgrasses: Their Management and Use in the Southern Zone". I recommend this book for anyone that wants to learn more about "turf". The book is a bit scientific in detail but is a great resource for your lawn library. 
Step 1.) Your Ugly Lawn Assessment: The first thing to do is look at your lawn. Try to find out why your lawn looks the way it looks. In most cases, the home owner has neglected the lawn for a few years or inherited the mess from a previous owner. Most ugly lawns will either be over run with weeds or just covered with a few patches of grass. And remember a weed is any plant or vegetation that is not wanted. So if you have a St. Augustine lawn and Bermuda is creeping in, that Bermuda grass is a weed. There are other factors that lead to an ugly lawn. I use the term ugly lawn because that's exactly what it is an ugly lawn. 
Other factors:
  •  Contractors love to plant "weed trees" one of these culprits is the Bradford Pear Tree. This tree grows fast and casts deep shade on a lawn that kills or seriously thins out a lawn. The branches on these trees commonly break off or split the more they mature in size. If you have a "weed tree", get rid of it and plant an Oak, Pecan, Ash, Elm, or other non-weed tree.  
  • Drainage problems can keep your grass from growing. If your lawn does not drain well your grass will not grow in that area. You can test your drainage by digging a hole about a foot deep and about six inches wide. Fill the hole with water and keep track of how long it takes to drain. If it takes more than three hours, you may have a drainage problem.
  • Poor Soil  can also keep your grass from growing. There are basically three types of soil you may have, Clay, Sandy and the one you want is Loam. Clay is full of nutrients but drains very slowly. Sandy soil drains quickly but lacks the nutrients. Loam is the perfect mix, good nutrients and good drainage. There is also another quick test to determine your soil type. Grab a handful of dirt and place a tea spoon of it on your mouth, no just kidding! Place a handful of soil on your hand and squeeze tightly and then relax your hand holding the soil in your palm. If the soil quickly crumbles as you open your hand, you have sandy soil. If the the soil stands firm to the touch you have clay. If the soil slowly crumbles when you touch it, you have loam and that's what you want. You can also dig up some soil and place it on a piece of cardboard. If there are worms, this is  good sign of good soil.
  • Not enough water, too much watering can affect your lawns growth. Each lawn is different and so is each type of grass. Typically St. Augustine will require more water than Bermuda or Zoysia. The rule of thumb is about 1" to 2" of water per week. If you have sprinklers you can lay a few tuna cans around the system and run them until the cans fill up with water. This is how much they need per week. You may need to add a little depending on your lawns status. 
  • Using the wrong fertilizer (weed and feed). Some customers that have called me have accidentally killed their lawn. Be sure to read the fine print before spreading fertilizer on any lawn. Check out Scott's guide on Fertilizer.
  • Disease, insects and animals may be killing your lawn. There is a massive amount of information on each of these things so I will write another post about them, click here to see my websites "natural ways" to killing some of these critters. Grubs love to eat roots, so if your lawn is slowly but surely dying and the pattern of the dying grass looks random, you may have grubs. If you can grab the grass leaves and easily pull them up, this may be a sign of the grub worm attack. I recommend using Bayer 24hr Grub Killer

Check out my next post that continues this conversation. You can visit my website for more information (SODInstall.com). You can also fill out the contact form if you need a lawn assessment from me (Dallas, Ft. Worth area only). Or in the form you can indicate that you are out of the service area but would like an assessment through email. If you fill out the form, I will email you and you can send me a picture of your lawn issues and I will do my best to help at no cost to you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

SOD Installation: The best way to Install St. Augustine, Bermuda or Zoysia

This is www.sodinstall.com  installing St. Augustine.
There are a multitude of landscaping companies as well as SOD companies in Dallas and on the Gulf Coast. The best SOD in my opinion comes from the Texas Gulf Coast. There are some local farms around the Dallas, Ft. Worth area that produce high quality grass. I am writing this blog to inform the public about SOD, SOD installation and how to choose a Landscaping Company for your SOD installation. First things first, Your BUDGET. SOD installation is the most expensive way to replace your lawn. But it is the BEST and fastest way to get a new lawn in just a day or two. 

Pallets of St. Augustine SOD
One Pallet of SOD is equal to 450sq ft
 in most cases
There are basically three costs to look at: Delivery, Labor and Materials (SOD). All these costs will vary because when it comes to SOD installation there really is not a standard rate for these three things. But I can give you a good idea on what to look for. A new lawn can cost anywhere from $250.00(small lawn), $2,500 (large lawn), to $10,000(very large lawn). Again, this all depends on WHO is installing your SOD. You should ALWAYS see Materials, Labor and Delivery on your Estimate for new SOD. The materials part will usually be SOD and Soil. NEVER place fertilizer on new SOD, not even a "SOD" starter. This can damage your SOD, I do not recommend it. Out of the hundreds of lawns I have replaced with SOD, I have NEVER used fertilizer or a SOD starter. Once you have determined that you do have a budget for new SOD (base your budget on the size of your lawn). For a quick budget estimate, multiply total square feet (measure your lawn with a tape measure) by .333 then double that. This will be about how much you will pay, it will at least get you in the ball park. For example if you measured a total of 800 square feet, you would get (800 x .3) =  266.40 x 2= $532.28 (plus tax). Delivery will vary between $50 to $120. Note: SOD costs fluctuate with fuel prices. One pallet of SOD weighs about 2,000 pounds! That's a lot of pounds to haul around. Furthermore, some companies have a minimum SOD installation requirements. That is they will charge you starting at a certain rate. I have a minimum charge of $250 unless it is a job for senior citizen or a disabled person or some other special circumstance that contributes to society. After all who doesn't like to do good deeds. 

Now that you have an idea of what a lawn replacement will cost you, we can move on to the next step, Lawn Analysis. There are many reasons why your lawn is ugly. You could have a drainage problem, too much shade, not enough watering, too much watering, broken sprinkler heads, improper sprinkler coverage, grubs, insects, dog traffic, dog urine, weeds, poor soil, mowing too low, etc. I could go on and on. Finding out why your lawn is ugly is important before planting new sod. SOD is an investment, so protect that investment. I recommend leaving it to a landscape specialist if you do not have experience with basic lawn service (SOD, Sprinklers, Drainage,Grass Diseases, Grass types, etc). 

Once you have determined your budget and have found out why your lawn is so sad, you need to determine what type of grass best fits your lawn. There are a wide range of grass types in the world, hundreds of them. But only a few can survive constant mowing. That brings us to our region or as some might say our own country Texas, specifically, Dallas/ Ft. Worth. I have narrowed it down to three basic "Turfgrasses" for the "Southern Zone" or "Warm Season": Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia. I will not get into great detail about these turfgrasses yet, I will write about them in my next blog or you can visit my site here. If your lawn is shady, I recommend using St. Augustine or Zoysia. If you have full sun I recommend Bermuda. 

You have your budget, the reason(s) why your lawn is ( insert word here), and have an idea about what type of SOD you want. Now ask yourself this: "Am I a DIY person?, Do I ave the time to install a lawn? Can I do this in a day or two? Can I haul around SOD in a wheel Barrel? Do I have all the proper equipment and techniques to properly install my SOD?" These are serious questions you definitely should ask yourself. Time and time again I have come across frustrated customers who have tried to take on a SOD project and have come up short. Of Course we are happy to help. Yes, planting SOD is not rocket science but it actually is science and art in one. My method of laying SOD has been proven to work 99% of the time. Out of the hundreds of lawns I have planted only a few have failed. And the few that did was due to some unforeseen circumstance like a grub attack or a customer placing fertilizer on freshly planted SOD. One thing to remember is that SOD is a produce product and is not guaranteed to take root. But with my method (I will explain this in my next blog) I am 99% sure that it will grow and take root. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave some on this blog or on my website #sodinstall

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