What are Sod Plugs and How to Use Them

What are Sod Plugs and How to Use Them

Sod University

What are Sod Plugs and How to Use Them

In this week’s blog post on Sod University, we explore some frequently asked questions on sod plugs and how/when to use them.

What is a grass plug?

A grass plug is an individual turf plant that is grown in a tray; their size can vary, but generally an individual plug measures anywhere between 1.5 to 3 inches in length/width. Planted from 9 to 12 inches apart, they will continue to spread and fill in over time, creating a solid ground cover of your preferred grass type.

The left two images below show a tray containing 3 inch EMPIRE Turf™ Zoysia plugs, while the right two images are of a tray containing 1.5 inch CitraBlue™ St. Augustine plugs.

When are grass plugs used?

Grass plugs are typically used in one of two instances: to repair damaged areas of a warm season lawn, or to establish a lawn when sod is not available or not practical. In short, a tray of grass plugs is to warm season grass what a bag of grass seed is to a cool season grass. Learn more about the differences between warm and cool season grasses and where they tend to grow.

To repair damaged areas of an existing lawn: 

If you have a warm season lawn with small areas of damage (caused by insects, disease, dog urine, etc.), grass plugs are an ideal way to repair these areas, but first,  you must address what is causing the damage (apply an insecticide, fungicide, or keep your dog from urinating on your lawn). Once you have controlled what is causing the damage, installing plugs in the damaged area is the quickest way for your lawn to return to its thick, lush former self.

 Below are photos of two sections of disease damaged Palmetto® St. Augustinegrass that have been plugged with CitraBlue™ St. Augustinegrass, which exhibits improved disease tolerance. How far apart you space the plugs will determine the rate that the plugs fill in to create a solid ground cover. These areas have been plugged fairly close, ensuring a quicker grow in.

To establish a lawn when sod is not readily available or practical:

Grass plugs are alternatively used when sodding a lawn is not possible or practical. Examples of this include when:

  • The grass variety you want is not grown by any nearby sod farm,
  • The amount of grass you need is much less than a pallet of grass and individual pieces of sod are not available for sale nearby,
  • It is not possible to transport pallets of sod to the installation site;

 

For example, Bella® Bluegrass is an improved bluegrass that is not grown or sold as sod—only as plugs.  It requires little to no mowing and is ideal for very small yards or for homeowners who want a low maintenance lawn. Below are photos showing Bella plugged and growing over time in a small lawn area.

Below is an example of a job site at a rooftop metropolitan apartment where it was not possible to deliver pallets of sod. Instead, the homeowner planted grass plugs to install their small lawn area.

Follow our progress in a recent plug planting

Recently, we at Sod Solutions undertook the task of growing in plugs in two large test plots at our office (two 25 ft. x 25 ft. plots) of our newest grass varieties: Innovation Zoysia™ and CitraBlue™ St. Augustine.  We planted approximately 500 plugs of each variety—seven 72-cell plug trays each. The purpose of the plots is largely research, but the project does give us the opportunity to document the process and progress of the grow-in in a large area from grass plugs. Below are the steps we followed in planting plugs at our office. You can also follow these steps for your own purposes.

Step 1: We set up stakes around the edges of the plots to make a perfect square. Then, we applied several applications (2 apps. 10 days apart) of glyphosate to kill the existing turfgrass groundcover and raked out the dead plant material, leaving a clean surface to work with. Next, we measured a grid formation so that each plug would be planted 12 inches from each other. Lastly, we used spray paint to indicate where each plug would be planted.

Step 2: On each spray-painted marker, we used a drill and a three-inch auger bit to dig into the ground and created a hole for the plugs to be planted in.

 Step 3: After planting each plug and covering up any loose spaces with soil, we soaked the soil and then fertilized the plugs with Lawnifi’s Grow, an excellent source of highly available phosphorus, which the grass plugs need for root growth. Because the grass plugs are little plants with fully intact roots, they are not as susceptible to drying out as sod. We watered our plugs every morning for the first two weeks, except for when it rained. After that, they were watered only two times a week or as needed for the following two weeks. Four weeks after planting, we fertilized again with Grow. After another four weeks, totaling eight weeks after planting, we fertilized with Lawnifi’s Maintain. The three bottles of fertilizer came in a New Lawn Starter Box, which is the suggested fertilizer program for newly laid sod or planted grass plugs. After eight weeks, the plugs are aggressively growing and spreading. Our current issue is weed management.

See before and after pictures of the plugs at our office when we planted them on May 23rd, 2019, and eight weeks later on July 8th, 2019.

We will be following up with relevant updates or other tools we end up using to help these plugs grow. Stay tuned to our weekly Sod University emails to see updates and images. If you are not subscribed to Sod U, please sign up below. 

If you are interested in purchasing plugs, view our plugs page here

If you have already planted plugs and need fertilizer, check out our New Lawn Starter Box.

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