Red Hen’s 2 Choices for an INSTANT LAWN: Kentucky Bluegrass Sod vs. Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod

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Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass

Did you know that Red Hen Turf Farm produces and sells 2 kinds of sod? 

In 2018, we carry both our flagship 100% Kentucky Bluegrass Sod, and more recently our Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod (also referred to as “RTF Sod” or simply “Tall Fescue Sod”).

Of these 2 choices, our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod is a more popular cool-season turf grass that is specific to our Midwest region.

By far, the majority of sod we sell is our Kentucky Bluegrass Sod. 

So what are the main differences between Red Hen’s two types of Sod, and why might you choose one over the other?  We get this question a lot.

Let’s start by focusing on KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS SOD …

Kentucky Bluegrass is by far (in our opinion) the more beautiful of the two turf grasses.  It has a deep, emerald blue-green color with boat shaped blades and spreads quickly via rhizomes, (which are basically underground roots) to form a dense “knitted” type sod.

Kentucky Bluegrass does best in full sun but needs at least 4 hours or more of DIRECT sunlight per day to thrive. Kentucky bluegrass requires regular maintenance.  Routine fertilization is key to maintaining this beautiful, lush turf.

Kentucky Bluegrass has a shallower rooting system than Tall Fescue Sod.  Because of its shallow rooting system, Kentucky Bluegrass has lower tolerances for heat and drought.  This is why it is important to follow good watering habits, especially in the heat of the summer.

Every spring, we have a handful of our new Kentucky Bluegrass sod customers call us early in the spring and ask us why their sod is still brown when their neighbors’ lawns are already greening up.  Kentucky Bluegrass takes a few extra weeks to “green up” than fescues and rye grasses. This is absolutely normal for this type of grass, so it’s nothing to worry about.  You can read more about this issue in our previous blog post,Straight from our FAQ VAULT … It’s Spring, but why is my Kentucky Bluegrass Sod not GREEN yet?”

One of the best things about Kentucky bluegrass is, once it’s established – it has the ability to repair, spread and recuperate quickly from damages.

IN SUMMARY:  Kentucky Bluegrass Sod Maintenance Level Medium to High Follow watering instructions, mow “right”, and fertilize regularly for best results. To keep pests and diseases at a minimum, promote a thick, dense turf by regularly fertilizing.


Now, let’s switch over to focusing on TALL FESCUE SOD …

At this point, Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod is grown in limited quantities, and for this reason, we require a minimum of 2,000 sq. ft. order and a 2-3 day lead time for pickup or delivery.

Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod is slightly lighter in green color compared to Kentucky bluegrass.  It is a deep-rooted, cool-season turf grass that adapts well to a wide variety of soil types.  The deep root system allows Tall Fescue to tolerate drought conditions better than Kentucky bluegrass.

Many of our customers ask if we have “shade grass.”  Our response is, “no grass likes shade.” However, our tall fescue is a great heat and drought tolerant grass that tends to do well in less irrigated areas.

Typically, tall fescue grasses have a “bunch-style” growth habit without the ability to spread like Kentucky bluegrass’s rhizomatous root system.  However, with the advent of this past decade’s turf technology, Rhizomatous Tall Fescue is the only tall fescue variety with true rhizomes, which help its roots knit together, repair and spread better than regular fescue.  This helps with installation and makes for quick establishment.  Re-seeding is still necessary in damaged areas, as the turf can tend to be “clumpy” versus the tightly knit Kentucky bluegrass.

Red Hen Turf Farm Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Field - photo taken 9/16/20

Red Hen Turf Farm Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Field – photo taken 9/16/20

Since less water is needed for Tall Fescue, it is a common choice for those who do not have access to irrigation and desire a lower maintenance lawn.

IN SUMMARY:  Rhizomautous Tall Fescue Sod Maintenance Level:  Low-Moderate: Less irrigation and less fertilizer is needed – once established.  Avoid fertilizing in the late spring and summer (warmer) months.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ready to Learn More?  Looking for a Quote? Call us at 574-232-6811 or visit us our PDF library.

Or, as always, Purdue offers a wide range of free educational, research-based articles about home lawn care in our part of the country – HERE’s THE LINK

Did you enjoy this article?  You can SIGN UP FOR RED HEN’s EMAIL NEWSLETTERS HERE  to have these types of articles sent directly to your Email Inbox

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Doing a Simple “Tuna Can” Sprinkler Audit … IS THE WAY TO GO!

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So, when was the last time you made sure that your lawn sprinkler system is programmed and watering as accurately as you think it is?

… Especially if you’re seeing brown grass in your lawn?

In this article, we’ll go more in-depth, beyond our previous blog article, “Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm“, so be sure to check that one out, too! This previous article explains, for one thing, that an established cool season grass lawn in our part of the country (northwest Indiana / midwest) will need 1 to 1.5 inches of irrigation each week depending on weather, soil type, slope, etc.

But how can you really know that you’re sprinkler system is programmed with this goal in mind?

TIP: If you’re reading this and you’re NOT in the Northwest Indiana area, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service office for precise weekly watering recommendations.

Here’s something many people find surprising… When rains are not part of that irrigation, you’re never going to get as good results as Mother Nature. Natural rainfall reduces the need for SUPPLEMENTAL IRRIGATION, but irrigation is always just that – SUPPLEMENTAL. When considering how long to run your sprinklers, you’ll want to adjust to account for rainfall. A good old-fashioned rain gauge will come in handy for this. To figure out how long to water your lawn during a week when it rains, subtract the number of inches of rainfall from the weekly watering need to get your new weekly watering figure and do the rest of the calculations we’ll be describing below normally.

In “Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm“, we went into in a good amount of detail on how you have a few options on how to approach watering your lawn during a hot, dry, doughty period, and how it makes a difference whether you’re dealing with a fully established lawn or sod / seed that is new or has been in your yard for less for than a year. We’d also recommend checking out the experts at Purdue’s excellent guide, “Irrigation Practices for Homelawns,” HERE

Beyond the information to come below, both Red Hen’s article and Purdue’s Irrigation Guide discuss how the time of day you’re watering, slopes, soil compaction, new seedings / new sod, the choice of letting your lawn go dormant, and more should also be considered.

It’s near the end of August of 2020 now, and here in northwest Indiana, we’ve had a very hot and dry summer, which is stressful on any fully established yard, but when it comes to newly laid sod, it can be quite the task to do all you can to water your sod when it’s trying to re-establish it’s root system in its new home.

Based on the calls, texts, and photos we have been receiving during the hottest, driest, parts of the summer from concerned customers, probably 90-95% of the lawn problems and brown / yellow spots are caused by lack of water, and so often it comes down to a sprinkler system / irrigation issue.

LEFT: Turf has been irrigated during a drought. RIGHT: Turf turning dormant.

Though you might water for the amount of time your sprinkler system has been programmed for… say it’s 30-40 minutes, and you feel it should be “enough,” maybe you’re seeing brown or yellow spots. If this is happening, do you know how many inches of water each individual sprinkler head is putting down?

In other words, have you checked your sprinkler system and/or performed a “Sprinkler Audit” or “Irrigation Audit” or what we sometimes call the “Tuna Can Test”?

Surprisingly (and frustratingly) even a new sprinkler system can have heads that are not operating as you’d want them to!

The thing is… it’s impossible to determine the distribution of water by looking at your sprinkler system while it’s running. It will look fine unless you test it out more methodically.

That’s where a simple Irrigation / Sprinkler Audit can help bring any issues to light.

OUR PREDICTED MAIN TAKEAWAY once you complete your Sprinkler Audit: After following the steps to do an Irrigation Audit, you’re likely to discover that the areas that are browning are probably being skipped by irrigation, or not getting enough water. Adjustments you make will likely take 2-3 weeks to make an observable difference in your lawn, especially with Kentucky Bluegrass. Red Hen’s Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod will likely bounce back quicker than our Bluegrass Sod (HERE’s MORE on the main differences between our 2 types of sod)

Here are the basic steps for a Simple Sprinkler Audit / Tuna Can Test:

  1. Put out 10 to 12 containers of the same size in a zone, placing them in both in the green areas and the brown/dying areas. Tuna cans or plastic cups work great!
  2. Run your irrigation system for a set period of time. For instance, 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour, would be a good amount of time for this Sprinkler Audit.
  3. At the set period of time, promptly turn the heads off, and take some time to get down and really look at your sprinkler heads…
    • Is each one popping up out of the ground, perpendicular to the ground?
    • Is each head functioning properly?
    • Any heads that are not popping up fully or are tilted will lead to non-uniform distribution of water.
    • If you’re watering around curves, it is probably going to take some adjusting so that all areas are covered.
  4. Now, look at how much water is in each of the cups.
    • Are there any vast differences of the amount of water collected in the cups? If so, go back to that area with the sprinkler heads and take another close look.
    • Are you noticing a correlation between a head that is not functioning properly and the limited water output?
  5. Now measure how many inches of water the cups are showing that you’re putting out during this time period.
    • Let’s say for this test, you have applied 1/4 inch of water in 10 minutes. Based on this output, if you were to run your system for 30 minutes), then 1/4 inch X 3 (since 10 minutes X 3 = 30 minutes) means you’d be putting down .75 inch of water per each 30 minutes of running your sprinkler system. To get 1.5 inches per week, for this example, you’d need to run it twice a week for 30 minutes.
    • As stated above, right now, between rain water and irrigation, most lawns will need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water/week if you want to keep it greened up (versus letting it go dormant).
    • Even if you choose to let your lawn to dormant, you’d need 1/2 inch of water every two weeks just to maintain hydration to the grass plants’ crowns. (Again, refer to THIS RED HEN ARTICLE for more details on different approaches to watering during hot, dry periods)
  6. Start again with step 1 for any other zones you have that you’d like to test out.
  7. REPEAT OFTEN???!!!! It’s a good idea to do this type of Sprinkler Audit at least once a year, and more often if you’re noticing possible issues such as mysterious brown / dying areas. Even if you’re sprinkler system is new, it’s a good idea to test it out.
Sprinkler Audit Math Example

Remember that this Sprinkler Audit is showing you the results of one single application of water. If your cups are not equally – or uniformly – filled, this means that over a period of months or years, some parts of your lawn may be getting twice as much (or three times as much) water as others. This can add up to 10 inches annually versus 20 inches, or 10 inches versus 30 inches. A difference as small as 1/4 inch during each irrigation cycle can add up to dozens of inches per year.

Even if you’re running your sprinkler system twice per week for … say… 30 minutes because that’s what you feel should be right, it may not be enough water. Take into account that the type of your sprinkler head affects how much water is being put out during your 30 minute rounds. Generally, rotor heads will take a longer time to put irrigation out, so depending how how much water your Sprinkler Audit shows you’re putting out, you may have to run these for three times per week to achieve the desired inches of watering per cycle.

Besides determining how uniform your sprinkler system heads are putting out water, and the output levels, other factors to consider when facing browning grass in the midst of an especially hot, dry summer include, but are not limited to:

  1. Areas of your lawn in full sun versus shade tend to need more watering
  2. Areas exposed to extra heat coming from nearby sidewalks, concrete, stonework, or perhaps even a white or light-colored fence that is reflecting sunlight / radiant heat onto your grass can make a bigger difference that you’d think, so if you’re seeing browning in these areas, you’ll need to adjust for more water.
  3. Hilltops tend to dry out faster than lower areas, so they will need more water.

When comparing Red Hen’s 2 types of sod, Kentucky bluegrass may take 2-3 weeks to recoup and start turning green again. On the other hand, tall fescue will tend to bounce back quicker from a droughty period.

If any questions come to mind after reading this article and the links we’ve included, let us know!

To chat by phone with one of Red Hen Turf Farm’s knowledgeable customer service team members, the number to call is 574-232-6811. (Our Business Hours are HERE)

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True or False – Sodding vs. Seeding

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Having a hard time deciding whether to sod or seed? Here are some tips to help you decide.

True or False: It takes more water to establish sod.

False.

Typically, in the hotter months, a large amount of water is needed to install sod, but once sod has established a root system, less water is needed. Rooting for new sod takes about 2-3 weeks. New seeding requires multiple daily applications of water to maintain adequate moisture to prevent the seed from drying out. Germination can take 3 days to 3 weeks depending on the type of grass and the quality of the seed, but more water is needed during this establishment time frame. It takes 12-18 months to fully establish a lawn from seed so more watering is needed overall for seeding.

New seeding requires 12-18 months of intensive nurturing to establish into a lawn.

True or False: Sod requires more fertilizer and herbicides.

False.

Compared to seed, sod is professionally grown, healthy and mature. Properly grown sod has minimal (if any) weeds and pests therefore, there is no need to apply herbicides. All you need to do is feed it a few times a year with a standard fertilizer to keep it green, thick and healthy. As long as it’s thick and healthy, chances of getting weeds or pests are slim. Seeding will need multiple treatments of herbicides and starter fertilizers throughout it’s establishment. Not to mention young seedlings are more susceptible to disease causing bacteria and fungus than mature turf grass.

Grass seedlings.

True or False: Sodding is more expensive than seeding.

Trick question – you decide!

Initially you may think sodding is more expensive than seeding. However, add all the herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, watering’s, wash outs, dirty pets and kids tracking in mud, and the time and labor it takes to carefully crop your seedlings into mature turf grass for 18 months, you may think twice. You must decide the trade off and if 18 months of your time and labor is worth it. In the end, do you have a quality product even close to what is grown on a turf farm? In the long run, we feel sodding and seeding costs are fairly equal. There is also soil quality to think about. Seeding on less than desirable soils leave you with questionable results. You may have to add top soil into your current soil to get better nutrients to grow grass from seed, which adds to your expenses. Sod can survive and thrive on all types of soils.

Red Hen’s Kentucky Bluegrass field.

If you aren’t that picky about the quality of your lawn, like to watch plants grow, or have the time to nurture and learn about growing turf from seed, then seeding may be for you. If you want instant gratification, no washouts, no weeds or fungus, clean floors and the desire to have a great quality lawn (100% Kentucky Bluegrass or Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (aka RTF) sod) then choose to sod your lawn.

Let’s not forget one important factor in seeding. There is a small window of time to plant grass seed whereas sodding can be done anytime (as long as we are harvesting). Click here to find out when the best time to seed is: Establishing Turfgrass Areas from Seed: Purdue

Some customers are quite successful at seeding. Here’s an example of before and after photos from a customer who over-seeded his lawn using a slit seeder.

Photo Cred: David Losh
Photo Cred: David Losh
Photo Cred: David Losh

We hear it a lot from those who have seeded and failed, “I wish I would have sodded my lawn.” Seeding is not for everyone. Never fear, we are always here to help with questions whether you decide to seed or sod your lawn. Measure up your area, call us and we’ll give you pricing on both sod and seed, fertilizers, herbicides and more. We don’t do installations, but can recommend a good landscaper in your area if you aren’t interested in D-I-Y projects.

Until next time,

– Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!

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More Adventures in Installing Sod – Part 2

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By Michelle Sadowski, Customer Service Specialist, Red Hen Turf Farm

In Part 1 of this story, I shared my experiences as I planned for, prepared for, and installed my new Tall Fescue sod, and then worked to keep it watered enough for the very hot and dry July we had in 2018.

If you missed Part 1, which we shared this past May 2019, HERE’S THE LINK.  Now, in late August 2019, as things are slowing down a bit this week, I wanted to take advantage of a little extra time and share Part 2.

It was getting closer and closer to my big party last year in August 2018, when I decided it was a good time to boost with another round of starter fertilizer to really bring out the best my Tall Fescue sod had to offer my guests.

So on a nice cool afternoon, after a few glasses of wine, I started my fertilization.  Right away I knew something wasn’t right … too much fertilizer was coming out of my spreader! I accidentally dumped the starter fertilizer all over the place – and before I could catch it it was too late.

My first instinct was to get the shop vac. But instead I tried watering it down.  I should have chosen the shop vac because watering only made it worse.

I sat back and did the only thing I could do at the moment. I had another glass of wine. How could I have dumped all that fertilizer out? What was going to happen?  Actually, since I work at Red Hen, I knew what was going to happen.

And it happened in a matter of days, just like that. I burned my lawn only a couple weeks before the big party.

Fertilizing and wine do not mix! Be careful to check your spreader for the right setting, too!

The party came and went and no one even really cared about the chemical burn on my newly installed lawn.  It was already starting to repair itself. I was so impressed and amazed at its repairing ability.  Still, I didn’t have high expectations after the chemical burn, and figured I’d seed the bare spots at the end of August (the ideal time to seed in the midwest is typically August 15 – September 15).  But as September rolled around, my turf had nearly repaired itself completely without any assistance.  There were several small spots I had to remove dead grass and re-seed but I was very happy to see the sod had repaired itself so well.

Critters.

By mid to late August, the turf looked great.  In September, just as it was repairing from the chemical burn, I was inspecting my new turf like I did often when walking on it.  Suddenly, the ground beneath my feet sunk through the turf into runs of tunnels left by critters.   After some investigating and attempts to trap what we thought were moles, we found the culprits to be ground squirrels or chipmunks – there is a difference but we couldn’t figure out which ones were creating the damage.  We had at least a dozen or more all over the yard … under the decks, in the mulch, in the garage, everywhere.

Of course, I did some internet searching that included the word “Purdue” since – because I work at Red Hen – I know that Purdue University Extension provides a huge amount of FREE, REGIONAL and SCIENCE-BASED information on all sorts of topics including lawn care and wildlife management, and Googling the terms Purdue Chipmunk Squirrel led me to THIS GUIDE and THIS GUIDE to find out how to get rid of these rascals.

After doing some reading, the very first thing we did was take away their food source.  Eventually with some other trapping methods, we were able to eliminate most of the critters. We also LIGHTLY rolled the turf daily until we felt the problem was eliminated.

By the end of September 2018, the Tall Fescue Sod was improving, but the damages were evident.  I was hoping for another round of amazing self-repair.

Our turf at the end of September repairing itself after underground critters wreaked havoc.

By the end of October 2018, my new sod had filled in again!  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so green.  Sure, there were a few bare spots, but after everything this turf had gone through, it bounced right back.

One thing I didn’t get a chance to do was to get a fall/winter fertilizer treatment down. In general, Tall Fescue sod needs less fertilizer than Kentucky Bluegrass sod to maintain it’s best condition, and especially since mine is in a shady area, it would need even less fertilizer. I was confident that a good spring fertilizer would do wonders, and as I write this in August of 2019, I can happily say that I was right.

Because we have critters, oaks and other problematic trees in this particular part of the yard, we’re always going to have some issues and cleanup to do.  But in the end, we’ve got a gorgeous backyard we can enjoy.

And as long as I continued to follow Jeremy’s advice, “Mow right, water right and fertilize right,” I think I’ve got this.

This was a great learning experience for me, and with the help from my co-workers I will continue to learn more and more.

It also makes it easier to tell our customers, I’ve been there, done that – and here’s what I did to correct it.

Sometimes you just have to wait to see what happens.

Grass is funny like that.

It takes time to grow.

October 30 – our tall fescue turf is looks amazing!

Hopefully you have learned a little bit from my experiences and maybe you can relate to (or laugh at) some of my failures.

Either way, don’t let it get to you.  It’s just grass.

Until next time,

~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Adventures in Installing Sod for the First Time – Part 1

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By Michelle Sadowski, Customer Service Specialist, Red Hen Turf Farms

In the summer of 2018, I took on a D-I-Y project to sod my back yard.  Now that several months have passed, I can share my funny moments, achievements, and failures with all of you. It’s easy to give advice when you read from a script or manual on a daily basis,  but when you actually experience the complete prepare, install and care of sod, you get a better understanding what customers are going through first hand.

If I may start out by giving a bit of advice … if you have a smaller project like mine (1,800 Sq. Ft.), it’s manageable for the D-I-Y’er. If you’re working on a larger job, consider hiring a landscaper.  Landscapers have the equipment and manpower to get the job done easier and more efficiently. If you need a few leads on hiring a landscaper, just call Red Hen Turf Farm – 574-232-6811

I have a slight advantage over the typical residential homeowner.  I’ve been working for Red Hen Turf Farm for 2 seasons now, and I have been equipped with the knowledge of preparing, installing and caring for the sod day in and day out.  And if I really want advice or an answer I cannot find in my trusted sources (Purdue & Michigan State), I can easily just ask Jeremy, our Turf Operations Manager.  Although I am still very much learning the ropes, he knows pretty much everything there is to know about the turf industry, as well as other off topics I don’t need to know (but he tells me anyway).

When I expressed an interest in sodding my back yard, I wanted to make sure I chose the right type of (two) turf varieties Red Hen grows, harvests and sells, which are Kentucky Bluegrass sod and Rhizomatous Tall Fescue sod (also referred to as “RTF Sod” or simply “Tall Fescue Sod”). You can read a more in-depth article about our two turf varieties HERE – Red Hen’s 2 Choices for an INSTANT LAWN: Kentucky Bluegrass Sod vs. Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Sod.

Jeremy helped me choose the type of sod best suited for my project by asking me a few simple questions. These are some of the same questions we ask our customers to make sure their sod projects are successful, and include things like:

  1. Do you have irrigation in the area you are sodding? This is important because although both types need enough water to get established, fescue is drought tolerant and will bounce back better after a drought than Kentucky Bluegrass.
  2. What type of soil do you have? Is it closer to beach sand or hard clay? Again, this is important for the capacity to hold nutrients properly.  Sandy & clay soils need to be watered and fertilized a little differently as well. For more on SOILS, check out FROM THE RED HEN FAQ VAULT: Soils for Lawn – Considerations for Seeding and Sodding
  3. How many hours of direct sunlight does the area you want to sod actually get? Our fescue sod is not a “shade grass” like some people think.  Both turf grasses need direct sunlight to thrive.
  4. How much time and money do you realistically want to spend on maintenance?  Kentucky Bluegrass is a higher maintenance turf than fescue.  Fescue will need less water and fertilizer once it’s established than Kentucky Bluegrass.
Red Hen Turf Farm grows, harvests and sells 100% Kentucky Bluegrass AND Rhizomatous Tall Fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass makes up most of our sales, but the Fescue is another option for homeowners with little or no irrigation and/or want less maintenance.

The “BEFORE PHOTO” … We had a lot of work ahead of us including removing a fire-pit and walkway.

CHOOSING THE BEST-SUITED TURF TYPE

I knew that my backyard was not going to be the best fit for the Kentucky Bluegrass sod. There’s no in-ground irrigation, it’s got some shade and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or money maintaining it.    I didn’t mind having an “imperfect” lawn, especially with our pesky squirrels and moles.  So I chose Rhizomatous Tall Fescue for the project. It was end of June when I decided it was time for my project to begin since I was planning a huge birthday party in August and I was on a time crunch.

Keep in mind that our Tall Fescue sod is not a shade grass – no grass likes shade.  However, in theory our Tall Fescue sod MAY do better in shaded areas than our KYB sod.

Ultimately, if your grass is thinning out due to shade, there are things you can do to improve your growing chances such as trim trees and create more airflow. Here’s a great link for those wondering about growing grass in shaded areas:  Red Hen’s Grass In Shade

INSPECTING THE SITE

I first wanted to make sure the soil was going to be fertile enough for my turf but I knew it would be fine because there was already grass growing in the area I was planning on sodding. The initial reason I wanted to sod is because I had large dirt patches everywhere. Seeding could have been an option but I am impatient. I didn’t want to wait a year to pass a “sock test” and who doesn’t want an beautiful, instant lawn?

We found out later (after closer inspection) the reason grass didn’t grow in certain areas was due to compaction and rocks under the soil. Grass doesn’t grow well on rocks or in compacted soils.  To learn how to correct compaction issues, Purdue has a great link here:  Mowing, Dethatching, Aerifying and Rolling Turf.

Rocks made grass impossible to grow next to our old driveway. It was a tough and long job to remove them to make way for turf.

My soil was on the sandy side, so I considered mixing topsoil in.  However, from what I have learned while working at Red Hen, I knew it was not necessary because I had success growing grass in that area before. Additionally, I knew our sod grew well in many types of soil as long as it was taken care of properly. I also learned that having sandy soil meant you may just have to water more frequently and in smaller amounts. Here’s a great Purdue article on sandy soils: Maintaining Lawns on Sandy Soil

When homeowners tell us they have new construction, we often suggest to mix topsoil in – just because (typically) with new construction the top layer of soil  (where a lot of the nutrients are) is often stripped out to make way for concrete, garages, homes and roads.  If you are unsure, always get a soil test before you seed or sod.
MEASURING

We recommend using a measuring wheel or other measuring tool designed for this purpose.  We have found that house plans/prints are not reliable enough when deciding how much sod to order.

Make sure you measure more than once and allow for any trimming.

Red Hen makes it easy to measure – just go here:  Measuring Tips  I measured a few times with a measuring wheel and after I got the same number twice, found 1,800 sq. ft. was the magic number.

You can also try using a website called Lawncrack to help you figure out the size of the area.  You simply type in your address into the Lawncrack Area Calculator, and an aerial view of your property pops up for you to draw the area you want to sod, while it calculates your square footage.  there are lots of trees on your property, it might not provide you a good enough aerial view.

You can use a measuring wheel like this for small projects, or a larger wheel for larger projects.

PREPPING THE SITE

We were finally ready to break ground.  I would suggest reading our instructions on Preparing, Patching and Installing sod.  It was end of June and it was very hot (90’s)  Jeremy did warn me about heat stresses on sod during these temps but I pushed forward with the project anyway.  I was able to hire a friend to scalp the remaining sod off the site. Using a sod cutter, it didn’t take any time for him to remove the upper layer of the lawn to get it down to bare dirt.  We removed the fire-pit and stone walkway, then we were ready for the tilling. Some landscapers suggest to use grass killer herbicide and till it up afterwards.  If you decide to go this route, ensure you pick a herbicide that allows you to replant grass or seed within the time frame you want to seed or sod.  (always read the label/instructions).  I had pets so I didn’t want to risk any harmful chemicals around them.

Renting a sod cutter is one way you can prepare your site for new sod.

Once the old grass was removed it was time for tilling and grading.  My husband rented a tiller and tilled the soil deep to about 4-6 inches.  We then took metal rakes and leveled the area into a smooth surface.

The final grade.

DELIVERY & INSTALLING

I made sure I planned ahead to order my sod, ensuring at least 4-5 days for scheduling.  It was July 5th.  My sod and enough starter fertilizer (12-12-12) to cover my area was set to arrive after lunch.

With a bit of planning and communication to the Red Hen Team about where the delivery semi would be parking and placing the pallets of sod, (HERE’s an article we recently wrote on that topic), our awesome Red Hen driver Bob, arrived promptly and set the pallets exactly where we needed them.

We were ready to start installing.

I fertilized the graded ground with starter fertilizer (12-12-12) at 8 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft so I used just about 15 pounds total for my 1,800 sq. ft. area.

An easy way to calculate how much fertilizer you need:  Take your total square footage divide it by 1,000 (sq.ft) then multiply it by the rate of the fertilizer.  IE: 1,800 sq. ft divided by 1,000 = 1.8 multiplied by the rate of the starter fert of 8 lbs per thousand sq. ft  equals 14.4 lbs needed for the entire area.

Not sure if your spreader is set to the right setting?  Click HERE for Red Hen’s Guide, Fer tilizing Tips & How to Calibrate that Darn Spreader.    I always tell our customers if you are unsure on the amount of fertilizer to use, go lighter to start.  Don’t go too heavy … you will see why in Part 2 of my story … 

And the work begins…

With help from a wheelbarrow, we hauled our sod to the opposite side of the yard to start our first long straight line of sod.  I made sure as the sod was put down, it was constantly soaked with water using my hose and sprinklers.

Since neither of us had installed sod before, it took us about 2 hours to install each of our three 600 Sq. Ft. pallets, whereas the average professional landscaper could probably do it in half of the time.    My husband hauled the sod and set each piece down, while I firmed up the seams and made sure each piece was deeply soaked with water, just like it says in Red Hen’s Early and Long-Term Care Guide.

We laid the sod making sure each seam was tight with the next until we had a completely installed lawn.   I was extra proud of the fact that I ended up being spot on with the measurements!  It took us about 7 hours total for the entire installation.  This included a few much needed water breaks. We were racing against a thunderstorm that was heading our way and we just made it in time for mother nature to help us with some watering.

Our project was coming along nicely!

WATERING, WATERING, WATERING

We kept the freshly installed sod deeply soaked for the first 5 days, then continued to monitor it everyday for any additional waterings.  As you might remember, July 2018 was extremely hot and dry, and during basically doughty weather, you will need to water your freshly installed sod more often so it does not dry out.

I made sure I watered early in the morning – between 4-6am because according to Purdue’s Irrigation Practices for Homelawns – “at this time water pressure
is usually the highest, there is little distortion of the watering pattern by wind, and the
amount of water lost to evaporation is negligible.”  On the other hand, if I was unable to water early in the day, I knew that watering at a less-ideal time was much better than skipping it altogether.

Although my new yard was Tall Fescue sod and, once fully established in a year or so, will be drought tolerant, all new sod (until it’s established) will need to be soaked with water for the first week to root properly, and even more so in the hotter temperatures like we were dealing with.  If you are unsure if your sod is getting enough water, lift up on a corner, see if the soil underneath is getting soaked through.  If it is not, water more. Here’s a great link on properly watering your lawn from Purdue: Irrigating Home Lawns

The finished project!

Throughout the hot month of July with no rain for several weeks,  it seemed no matter how much I watered, it just wasn’t enough. After all, my hose and sprinklers did not put out as much water compared to in-ground irrigation.  I was determined to keep my new sod green, but it had been a few weeks and the sod hadn’t even rooted in places. I started seeing a few brown spots so I took some pictures and showed Jeremy.  Just as I suspected, I still was not putting down enough water.  I had my watering cut out for me!

A few heat stressed areas were visible after a few weeks.

In the meantime,  at The Red Hen Office we were getting calls from customers who were having similar issues, even with irrigation systems on timers, we we knew it was the perfect time to write our blog, Irrigation, droughts – and strange weather … HOT, DRY SUMMER TURF TIPS from Red Hen Turf Farm.

It was difficult watching my sod turn brown during the hot weather. But just when I was losing hope, in early August cooler weather came around and Mother Nature graced us with some much needed rain, and guess what?  My fescue started repairing itself.  I was relieved and excited to see it come back to life.  I decided it was a good time to boost it with another round of starter fertilizer before my August party … and THAT’S WHERE MY NEXT ADVENTURE BEGINS in Part 2, which you can read HERE.

Until next time,

~Michelle & The Red Hen Crew!Facebookpinterestlinkedinmail

Where did the rain go? And what do I do about my thirsty lawn?

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Well – ONCE in a while – I am wrong (unless you talk to my wife).   You see, around the middle of June, I was telling many clients, landscapers and farmers not to worry about all the rain we were getting. I was sure July 1st would hit, and we would not see another drop. Well I was wrong by 18 days.

The last measurable rain at the South Bend Airport was on July 19, 2015. We got a ½ inch that day and over 1-¾ inch the day before that.

Today, after visiting a few of my favorite internet weather sites it does not look like we will see any rain for a while longer, other than a 30% chance this Sunday. We could very well see three more weeks without significant rain.

With that in mind, the question you might be asking yourself is, “What do I need to do with my yard?  

Keep in mind that there are two different types of yards right now:  

  1. yards that are recently established by seed or sod (less than 1 year old); and
  2. yards that are already well-established (1 year or older).

If you are planning on doing a NEW seeding or sodding with Red Hen’s products, you should already have our instructions – so stick with that or let us know if you need those instructions.

CLICK on this PICTURE for Tips for Improving Grass Seed Germination

But what about a 1-year-old or older established yard? There are basically 2 different ways to go about it.

  1. You can let it go, stop watering, and let your lawn go dormant until we get enough rain and hope for the best. Some grasses will make it through and others will not. Some types like perennial and annual ryegrass may not make it. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass do have a much better chance or surviving longer periods without rain or irrigation… or
  2. You can keep up with watering, BUT REMEMBER THE KEY IS TO “WATER DEEPLY AND INFREQUENTLY“. For my own lawn, I am planning on watering deeply every 3 days until the next rain.

If you choose to keep up with your watering, and you need to keep an eye on your water bill and are looking to help conserve water, here are some good pointers:

  1. With more shade, grasses need less water than in areas than full sun. And keep in mind that as trees grow taller, they naturally create more shade. Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly in shady vs. full sun areas.
  2. Look for areas in your yard that are greener than others. Areas that are less-green need more water.  For instance, you’ll see that on a hill, the grass at the bottom is usually much greener.  Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.
  3. As discussed in our previous post about irrigation efficiency, you should consider calibrating your sprinkler heads.  Sound complicated?  Not really.  Basically, you set cups out across a zone check to see if they have the same amount of water, or at least close.  If not, adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.  CLICK HERE to check out the WikiHow website’s step-by-step visual guide for calibrating home lawn sprinklers

Until next time,
Jeremy Cooper & the Red Hen Turf Team
Call us at 574-232-6811 .. for our location and hours, click here.

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