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How to Make Grass Plugs Spread Faster

Grass plugs and sod pods are becoming increasingly more and more popular for lawn-loving homeowners. Whether their core function is to repair damaged or bare spots or to install an entirely new lawn from scratch, grass plugs are a simple, easy way to create a beautiful home landscape. They’re also cheaper than a sod installation project. Oftentimes, many struggle with the time it takes for them to fill in. After all, one of the cons of installing grass plugs is waiting for them to fill in and form a smooth, seamless canopy. Here at Sod University, we want lawn care nuts like ourselves to get the most out of a gorgeous home lawn. Take a look at some of the ways you can make grass plugs spread faster and get a good-looking lawn in no time.

Determine Your Soil’s Health

When it comes to any sort of lawn advice, the first thing we like to tell people is to collect and submit a soil analysis. This will be nothing short of beneficial and insightful as a decent soil analysis will not only inform you of which nutrients your lawn is excessive in and lacking—it should give you product recommendations. Doing this before any planting takes place will help you guarantee a successful growing environment for your grass plugs. If the soil is lacking certain nutrients for grass plugs to establish, you can select a fertilizer that matches your soil’s needs and make amendments. Conduct an analysis using the product below or reach out to your local extension agency directly for soil testing instructions. Gardening Products Review has a state-by-state directory for every soil testing lab here.

Soil Kit | Soil Test Kit

Install Grass Plugs Properly

Although it may seem a little obvious, ensuring proper installation techniques can help promote increased spreading. A proper installation process is one of the most important steps in ensuring correct grass plug growth. During installation, do a quick look over of the grass plugs and make sure they are healthy. Begin by using a one inch auger bit to drill holes into the soil for the planting areas. Depending on the size of your grass plugs, you will want to evenly space out the holes enough for grass plugs to spread efficiently. For most of our 72-count plug trays, plugs measure about 1.25 inches x 1.25 inches. We recommend planting plugs 9–12 inches apart (measured from center of the plug) in a grid for best results. Spaced 12 inches apart, each plug will cover one square foot.

Tip: Use Soil Moist Granules to ensure your grass plugs get the proper amount of water over time. Learn more in How to Use Soil Moist Granules with Grass Plugs.

After planting each plug and covering up any loose spaces with soil, soak the soil and then fertilize the plugs with LawnifiTM‘s Grow, an excellent source of highly available phosphorus. Phosphorus helps with root growth, which grass plugs need during the establishment period. Lawnifi Grow is available as an individual bottle or as a part of the Lawnifi New Lawn Start Box.

Follow our grass plug installation guide for more details or refer to the plug installation project we conducted at one of our offices here.

Plant at the Right Time of Year

The right time to plant grass plugs largely depends on where you live and the climate you live in. Spring is the best time to install grass plugs because temperatures aren’t exceedingly high yet. It is also a great time for warm season grass plugs because they will have more time to establish before going into winter dormancy. This also ensures that they grow in faster.

However, it’s still possible to plant grass plugs during other seasons like the summer and fall. If you plant grass plugs during the summer, be ready to water them—a lot. Be wary of overwatering because you don’t want to create conditions for disease outbreaks. During the fall, grass plugs will still go through a 30 day establishment process after installation. However, they will stop growing during the winter and will not spread any further until spring the next year. Read more in When is the Best Time to Plant Grass Plugs?.

Plant Plugs In The Spring
Maintain Proper Establishment Practices

Once the grass plugs have been planted, they will go through a 30 day establishment period before transitioning to regular maintenance practices. If these establishment practices aren’t properly performed, you could introduce some form of stress to your grass plugs, which prohibits or even reverses growth. Our lawn establishment guide covers instructions on when to mow, how long to water, which fertilizer to use and other helpful tips. Be sure to check it out here.

Fertilize Properly

Even after the first 30 days of establishment with the recommended Lawnifi New Lawn Starter Box, you will still want to continue fertilizing the grass plugs to promote quick, healthy growth. We recommend the continued use of Lawnifi. Depending on the season you decide to plant, use the Lawnifi Summer Fertilizer Box, Fall Fertilizer Box, or Spring Fertilizer Box linked below.

Each box contains application instructions and three bottles of liquid fertilizer that you can apply throughout various times during the season. Powered by Catalyst TechnologyTM, Lawnifi’s nutrients are nano-sized for a more efficient, increased uptake of fertilizer. Simply hook any bottle of Lawnifi’s balanced mixture of nutrients to the end of your garden hose for an even spray application to any lawn or garden ornamental.

For those who love traditional, granular fertilizers, Lawnifi Foundation is the perfect granular fertilizer for lawns and gardens. Each 25 lb. bag of Lawnifi Foundation covers 5,000 sq. ft. and feeds for three months. Learn more about Lawnifi Foundation here or read Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.

Irrigate Appropriately

A common maintenance practice that has to be performed for sod, grass plugs or seed is watering. All living things require water. Too much water creates waterlogged soils and too little water causes drought stress. Following proper irrigation practices reduces the chance of disease or drought stress and promotes overall growth. Follow the establishment guide for a proper watering schedule during the first 30 days of establishment and then conduct an irrigation audit to make sure your grass plugs are receiving the appropriate amount of water during a watering period. Once the establishment period has ended, grass plugs only need about one inch of water per week including rainfall.

An irrigation audit will help you learn about your soil’s water holding capacity, how much water different zones of your lawn receive and how long you should let your irrigation system run. It can even help you make adjustments so that you can save money on irrigation bills.

Mow Regularly

Although it seems counterproductive because you are removing grass blade, mowing encourages new growth. When mowed at the proper height and the right frequency, stress from the removal of grass is eliminated and grass will continue to spread. Refer to our Care page for proper mowing practices for each grass type. Be sure to sharpen your mower blades as a dull blade “whacks” grass and tears the vegetation, which leaves it vulnerable and open to disease. A sharp mower blade neatly slices the grass for a clean cut.

Mowing Lawn In The Summer
Keep an Eye Out for Weeds

If you want your grass plugs to fill in as fast as possible, you should remove all external stressors that may prohibit growth. This includes weeds. When you have weeds, they will compete with your grass plugs for space, sunlight and nutrients. Preventing and controlling weeds will give your grass plugs more room to grow and keep them from having to compete to live. Weeds are more likely to sprout up in bare or thin spots of your lawn, which may be the reason you planted grass plugs in the first place. Apply pre-emergents in the spring and fall to prevent summer and winter weeds, and spot treat areas for any currently exiting weeds. Do not apply herbicides to your plugs when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside as this will cause the herbicide to “burn” vegetation and damage the plugs. This is why it is best to spot treat current weeds or apply pre-emergents to prevent weeds ahead of time.

  • Coverage: 5 lbs. covers between 50,000–80,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Prodiamine 65%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires tank mixing and application with a sprayer.
  • Best Used On/For: Established turfgrass before weeds appear.
  • Coverage: One gallon covers between 71,000–171,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): 2, 4-D, 2-ethylhexyl ester 9.02%, Dichlorprop-p, 2-Ethylhexyl ester 5.19%, Dicamba acid 0.59%, Carfentrazone-ethyl 0.47 %.
  • Ease of Use: Requires tank mixing and application with sprayer.
  • Best Used On/For: Broadleaf control in established grasses.
  • Coverage: A 1/2 gallon bottle covers 44,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Dimethylamine salt of quinclorac: 3,7-dichloro-8-quinolinecarboxlic acid 18.92%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires tank mixing and application with sprayer.
  • Best Used On/For: Broadcast and spot treatment applications for grassy weeds.

If you plant St. Augustine or centipede grass plugs, use an Atrazine-based herbicide like Hi-Yield Atrazine.

Prevent and Control Disease Outbreaks

If you appropriately prevent and control any disease outbreaks, this further reduces stress on the grass plugs and allows for promoted growth. Disease loves wet areas that may be caused by overwatering or shady areas that don’t receive a lot of sunlight. For fungus to spread and be present, there needs to be three main factors:

a) a host, living or dead organic matter (thatch and leaves),

b) the right environmental conditions, such as shaded, moist areas to grow in,

c) and the pathogen.

These three factors are also known as the disease triangle. All three must be present for the fungus to grow and spread. If a fungus is present in your lawn, it will likely present itself in circular or irregular patterns of damage if your plugs have grown in enough. You can see this in the image below. Sometimes, it can be hard to notice patterns if your grass plugs haven’t begun connecting with each other. Instead, look for any spots or discoloration in the grass blades of your plugs. If they’ve been overwatered, this could be due to disease.

Disease Damage Grass

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, preventive application rates are significantly less than curative application rates for lawn disease. Since you will apply more fungicide at a curative application rate, you will also spend more money. If you play it safe and apply fungicide at preventive rates, the likelihood of experiencing lawn disease in the first place is less—plus, you apply at smaller application rates and therefore save more money. Learn more in our Lawn Disease Control Strategies blog and check out some of our disease control products below.

  • Coverage: One bottle covers 2,500 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Propiconazole 1.45% and Lamda-cyhalothrin 0.08%.
  • Ease of Use: Hooks up to your garden hose for even spray application.
  • Best Used On/For: Outdoor topical/contact fungus and general insect control.
  • Coverage: 10 lbs. covers between 2,500–5,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Azoxystrobin 0.31%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires a drop or broadcast spreader for application.
  • Best Used On/For: Systemic strobilurin fungicide used to control certain turfgrass diseases.
  • Coverage: 2 lbs. covers between 21,000–53,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Trifloxystrobin 8.33%, Tradimefon 41.67%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires tank mixing and spray application.
  • Best Used On/For: Preventative disease control.
Watch for Insect Damage

Similarly to weeds and lawn disease, preventing or controlling lawn insects will keep damage from occurring so that your grass plugs don’t have to work as hard to repair themselves and can focus their energy on growing instead. Insects like chinch bugssod webwormsfall armyworms or grub worms love to eat grass and grass roots. Overtime, this can cause significant damage. Applying a broad-spectrum insecticide helps keep insects away. If you’ve noticed insects in your lawn already, find out which kind of insect you are seeing and treat it with a broad-spectrum insecticide labeled to treat that specific insect. Learn more in our Insect Identification blog.

  • Coverage: One bottle covers 2,500 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient(s): Gamma Cyhalothrin 0.08%.
  • Ease of Use: Hooks up to the end of your garden hose for even spray application.
  • Best Used On/For: Outdoor general insect control.
  • Coverage: 25 lbs. treats 5,000–17,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient: Bifenthrin 0.2%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires a drop or broadcast spreader for application.
  • Best Used On/For: General outdoor insect control.
  • Coverage: 30 lbs. cover between 16,000–21,000 sq. ft.
  • Active Ingredient: Imidacloprid 0.5%.
  • Ease of Use: Requires a drop or broadcast spreader for application.
  • Best Used On/For: General outdoor insect control.

Overall, the best thing you can do to help grass plugs spread faster is take proper care of them. When issues like insects or improper irrigation techniques take place, it really stunts growth and energy the plugs could otherwise use for rapidly filling in bare spots. Appropriate fertilizer applications will also increase growth. Over-applying fertilizers heavy in nitrogen may result in nitrogen burns and damage the plugs. Conduct a soil analysis and use Lawnifi fertilizers to give your plugs what they need to establish and grow over the different seasons of the year.

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