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How to Plant Grass Plugs

Innovation Zoysia Grass Plug On Grass

Grass plugs are ultimately used for one of two reasons: to repair damaged areas of your lawn, or to establish a lawn when sod is not available or practical. Grass plugs are also great if seed is not a viable option. If you want a St. Augustine lawn, for example, there’s no such thing as St. Augustine seed so grass plugs are the next go-to choice. Our grass plug installation guide covers all the necessary steps on how to properly install grass plugs.

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How to Plant Grass Plugs
Step 1: Test Your Soil

If you’re planning to plant grass plugs throughout your entire lawn, the first step we recommend is testing the soil. This should be done before you apply chemicals, like glyphosate, to kill off your old grass and before you begin installing plugs. Your soil’s health is what determines the overall health of your grass. Working from the ground up is the best way to ensure superior grass quality.

It also helps balance your soil’s pH so that when you apply nutrients found in fertilizers, your grass is able to actually absorb them. In other words, if your soil’s pH is off, nutrients won’t be absorbed as effectively, meaning the fertilizer you apply may be a waste of money.

Taking a soil analysis and sending it to a laboratory is affordable, but typically takes about two weeks to complete depending on where you send it. Keep this timeframe in mind before installing sod so that you have enough time to receive results and determine what your soil needs.

Lastly, this step should be completed before applying a non-selective herbicide in step 2 below. Once applied, the chemicals in the herbicide may alter your soil pH temporarily before returning back to normal. Take a soil test before applying a non-selective herbicide for a more accurate reading. Be sure to check out our article How to Test Your Soil for more information on soil tests.

Step 2: Choose a Type of Grass to Install

There are several different reasons you could be using grass plugs:

  1. To start a new lawn,
  2. To fill in damaged or bare spots in your lawn, or
  3. To test out how a type of grass does in your lawn before completely committing to using a new type of grass for your entire yard.

As with any of the above scenarios, you’ll want to make sure the grass performs well based on your environment and climate—don’t just select a type of grass because of its color and aesthetics. Here are a few things to consider:

  • How does the type of grass perform in your area and climate? If you live in the northern regions and have a cool season grass like bluegrass, maybe you should consider planting grass seed instead of plugs. 
  • What are the different grass characteristics that are most important for you? Low maintenance, shade tolerance, wear tolerance for pets and kids, drought and insect resistance are just a few characteristics that may be important for you.
  • What sort of visual differences like color, blade width or texture are important to you?

Learn about some of the various types of grass in Types of Sod for Your Lawn.

Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area

This step is an important one because it’ll help you ultimately determine how many square feet you need to cover and how many grass plugs you’ll need to purchase to make this happen. 

One option is to use measuring tape to measure the area that will receive the grass plugs. Make sure to take areas with sidewalks, driveways, shrubs, trees or other landscaping into consideration. 

Another option is to use the Area Calculator Tool. The Area Calculator Tool is a digital resource for homeowners to type in their addresses and then draw out the areas in their lawns for installation. The amount of square footage automatically generates with each drawing. 

When using the Area Calculator Tool:

  • Start by entering your address.
  • Draw an overlay shape for where you plan to install new sod.

Find more detailed instructions here or watch the video below.

When making the decision to purchase grass plugs, it is important to know that they will be planted anywhere between 6–18 inches apart from each other. Our plugs come in 36 and 72-count trays that cover 64 sq. ft. and 72 sq. ft. respectively. 

The 36-count tray of plugs contains plugs that measure 3 inches x 3 inches, whereas the 72-count tray contains plugs that are slightly smaller and measure 1.25 inches x 1.25 inches.

Learn more about how to use the Area Calculator Tool here.

*Our plug trays cover 64 and 72 sq. ft. based on planting each plug 12 inches apart from the center of other plugs.

Step 4: Prepare Your Soil

When Planting a New Lawn

Before installation, you’ll need to clear the area of any currently existing grass or weeds—especially when it comes to installing grass plugs. Weeds WILL compete with your grass plugs until they become fully established. We recommend following these steps to help:

  • Begin by making an application of a non-selective herbicide product 10–14 days before sod installation takes place.
  • Wait 3–4 days and then make a second application if the grass isn’t dying quickly enough.
  • Once your grass is dead, use a sod cutter or rototiller to remove the top layer of grass and debris.

We have a few product recommendations and rental locations for sod cutters and rototillers on our blog here.

When Filling Damaged or Bare Spots

If you’re planning on repairing bare spots with grass plugs, you will want to first rid the area of any problems that may exist. These issues could include weeds, insects or fungus. This can be as simple as pulling the weeds out by hand in the area or as difficult as treating the area with an herbicide, insecticide or fungicide. 

Browse through our online products here.

Step 5: Drill Holes

The next step following the preparation of your soil is to drill holes into the ground to plant the grass plugs in. A good tip is to thoroughly water the soil first as this serves to soften the ground. Then, use a drill and the auger bit we sell on our website to dig your grass plug holes. 

Use spray paint to mark the areas in the soil where you intend to plant the grass plugs beforehand—that way you can simply follow the spray-painted marks with the auger bit. 

You can plant the plugs either in a grid formation or a checkerboard pattern. The holes will need to be anywhere from 6–18 inches apart from one another or existing grass. When drilling the holes, the tops of the grass plugs will need to be level with the ground, so don’t drill too deep.
When Filling Damaged or Bare Spots: Measure the bare spots in which you are filling in. If the spot is larger than 1-sq. ft., we recommend planting two plugs in that area.

Step 6: Fertilize Before Planting

Yes—fertilize the holes you have just drilled. Select a fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients your soil may need according to the soil analysis results you should’ve received by now. Your new sod needs plenty of phosphorus at this time.

Phosphorus helps roots grow so that the new sod can establish successfully. Sometimes it can be hard to understand a fertilizer label so we discuss a few ways to interpret and find what you’re looking for here. We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer.

Grow, the first and second bottles of the New Lawn Starter Box, is especially useful during the establishment process. It serves to promote healthy root growth of newly installed grass plugs by providing nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and carbon.

Step 7: Plant the Grass Plugs

Now that you’ve created an environment to successfully grow healthy grass plugs, you can begin installing them into your soil.

 Firmly press the plugs into the fertilizer-primed hole with NO space around the edges. Fill any excess space with loose soil to help fit the grass plug snuggly into the hole you have previously drilled. The base of the grass blades should be level with the ground.

Citrablue St Augustine Grass Plug Planted
Step 8: Water the Grass Plugs

Once you’ve finished installing grass plugs in the soil, go back behind them and water them. Use the remainder of your first Lawnifi Grow fertilizer bottle and water thoroughly to remove air pockets for optimal performance.

Step 9: Post-Installation Care

For the next 10–20 days, water your grass plugs every day, but take rainfall into consideration. Use the rest of your New Lawn Starter Box according to its schedule and keep the soil moist at about 6–8 inches deep. After 10–20 days, your plugs should be rooted. 

Gently pull on a grass plug to see if it is starting to take root in the soil. Be careful to not completely uproot the grass plug. You should see new runners appearing. Once this has been confirmed, you can begin decreasing your water schedule to twice a week.

When is the best time to plant grass plugs?

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. Learn more here.

When is the worst time to plant grass plugs?

Summer is probably one of the worst times to plant grass plugs. Although it can be done, you will need to water your grass plugs frequently to keep drought from occurring during the hot temperatures. Watering your plugs excessively, though, creates prime conditions for disease to take over. Learn more here.

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