03 Jul What are Sod Plugs and How to Use Them
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. Read below to find out the common purposes a sod plug serves and how to care for them, and follow our progress in a recent plug planting we conducted here at the Sod Solutions office. Check back in for updates on our growth progress throughout the fall, spring and summer seasons.
What is a sod plug?
A sod 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.
When are sod plugs used?
Sod 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. You can also purchase a small plug tray to test out how well the certain breed of grass will perform in yard—like areas of shade, full sun or even areas that receive too much rainfall. In short, a tray of sod plugs is to warm season grass what a bag of grass seed is to a cool season grass. However, Sod Solutions still offers cool season sod plug varieties. 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.), sod 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:
Sod 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 sod 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 sod plugs. Below are the steps we followed in planting plugs at our office. You can also follow these steps for your own purposes.
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.
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.
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 sod plugs need for root growth. Because the sod 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 sod plugs. After eight weeks, the plugs are aggressively growing and spreading. Our current issue is weed management. You can learn more about Lawnifi at Lawnifi.com.
See before and after pictures of the plugs at our office when we planted them on May of 2019 and ten months later in March of 2020.
If you are interested in learning about our sod plug planting progress, read our updates here: Fall Sod Plugs Update and Spring Sod Plugs Update. These two articles will also inform you of any maintenance or obstacles we encountered as the plugs established. We will continue to follow up with relevant updates or other tools we end up using to help these plugs grow.
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