Thursday, November 28, 2013

SOD Installation: Part One

High Quality St. Augustine picture
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 ( 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  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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