To Sod, Or Not To Sod?

By Robert A. Brame, director, North-Central region
July 3, 2012

Trying to sod small areas is challenging and sometimes yields less than desirableresults.

It sure seems like the pattern of extremes is locked in place. Two extremely harsh weather patterns occurred in 2010 and 2011, and then a record-setting early, warm and dry start to this season. “Dry” has expanded to “abnormally dry” for most areas of the region, and full-blown drought for others. The last few days of June have continued the pattern of extremes with record-setting high temperatures engulfing much of the country and all of the North Central Region. So what’s next? Time will tell, but it is appropriate to say that those who have structured their maintenance program for the worst will fair the best. In other words, always plan for the worst and hope for the best. 

I recently made a Turf Advisory Service visit to a course that had lost a significant amount of turf as a result of the climatic stresses of the past two years. The course lost enough turf on several of their putting surfaces to mandate something more than simply relying on the surviving plants to fill-in. Spot-seeding can help, but often more from the cultivation to achieve seed-to-soil contact than from the seed growth itself. For faster, more reliable recovery, plugging or sodding are better options. 

Generally speaking, plugging works better on smaller areas and sodding works better for larger areas. Trying to sod small areas is challenging and sometimes yields less than desirable results. The demise will commonly start with the sod strips being ever so slightly scalped during mowing. The initial subtle scalping gets worse with each mowing until the life has been completely mowed out of the plant. Next to scalped and declining plants will often be healthy growth that is two or three times higher than the actual cutting height in place on the green. In contrast, plugging is easier to get perfectly level and the hexagon pluggers allow tight planting with no voids. Either sod or plugs will need to be carefully managed through the first season since there is a tendency for the roots to pull up as soil temperatures increase. 

So which is best – seed, sod, or plugs? Why not start with a call or email to your Green Section agronomist to discuss the details of your situation. We’re always available.

 

Source:  Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859-356-3272
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