Sod, or turf, is the grass and the layer of soil that are held together by the roots. In some cases, a thin piece of material may be used to hold them together. In Miami and the southern parts of the United States, sod is popular for establishing lawns. Since sod is professionally grown, the grass is healthy, weed-free and uniformly distributed, which makes it ideal lawn material. Not only does it enhance the beauty of the landscape, it also prevents soil erosion by stabilizing the soil.
Since sod is grown in specialist farms that continually experiment on new methods of cultivation, a variety of sods can be found on the market. However, they can be divided into two broad categories: cold season sods and warm season sods. Since Florida has a tropical monsoon type of climate with a hot and humid summer and short, warm and dry winters, the sods mostly available in Miami are of the latter category.
1. Types of Sods:
There are many different types of sods. Some popular types of sods you can find in Miami based on the grass they use include the following:
• PalmettoTM St. Augustine: PalmettoTM St. Augustine is a cultivar of St. Augustine grass. This semi-dwarf grass has a better color, a finer texture, a luxurious appearance, and higher tolerance for cold, frost, heat, shade and drought than other varieties of St. Augustine grass. Its leaf blade is tapered at the tip with a rounded end and soft to touch. It remains green longer than any other St. Augustine cultivar and much longer than Centipede grass and Bermuda grass. Palmetto remains green even in temperatures below the freezing point, provided there is no hard frost. It has a very high drought resistance and has been known to endure droughts of over two months or even more. It does wilt after a long period of drought, but it quickly recovers after water is applied. St. Augustine grasses in general have a high shade tolerance; palmetto’s shade tolerance is exceptional. These qualities make it a popular turf grass in the southern United States.
• EmpireTM Zoysia: EmpireTM Zoysia is a cultivar of zoysiagrass, which is a type of creeping grass that is commonly found in the coastal grasslands. It is tough, versatile, adaptable, and has a high drought and salt tolerance. Its deep roots and rhizomes give it exceptional toughness. Although it grows best in full sun, it also tolerates moderate shade. Unlike other grasses, its growth rate can be regulated so that you can make it grow fast or slow according to your need. Once it becomes established, its dense growth prevents weeds from growing. It is highly resistant to turf pests and diseases. Due to its open growth habit and ideal leaf width, it can be mown with a standard rotary mower. These qualities make EmpireTM Zoysia well suited for the climate of Miami.
• Bermuda grass: Bermuda grass (scientific name: cyonodondactylon) is a grass of African origin. It has a very high tolerance for drought and traffic but doesn’t grow very well in shades. The grass has a dense canopy, which makes it excellent sod material. But because of its aggressive and resilient nature, it can become an invasive weed. For this reason, it is more suitable for golf courses and sports fields than residential use. Celebration and Discovery are two of the several varieties of Bermuda grass suitable for sod. Celebration is a dark, green grass with a fine texture. Discovery has a unique dark blue-green color and an extremely slow vertical growth rate.
Other popular grasses in Miami include St. Augustine Floratam, St. Augustine Seville and Bahia.
2. Installation of Sod:
Sod installation is a pretty straightforward matter. For optimum growth, sod grass needs the right amount of sunlight, air, water and nutrients. Too little or too much of any of these four elements can make the grass decline or even die. Before you can install the sod, you have to make sure that the soil has the necessary ingredients for grass to grow. So, start with a soil test.
• Have the soil tested: Grass obtains air, water and nutrients from the soil. But not all soils are ideal for growing grass. Some are too compact, some are devoid of nutrients and some may have too high of a pH value. Therefore, a soil test is highly recommended. Soil test can be done through a private lab or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Once you receive the result, follow the instructions you are given to improve the quality of your soil.
• Rake the area: Rake the area to remove undesirable objects such as plastic, metal and shards of glass.
• Lay the first row of sod: Once the area is clean, start by laying the first row of sod along a constructed area with a straight line, such as a wall, sidewalk or driveway. You can also stretch a string between two stakes.
• Lay the remaining sods in rows: After the first line is complete, lay the remaining pieces of sod in rows like brickwork. Since the pieces may shrink after installation, it is important to push them tightly together.
• Take measures to minimize compaction: Since grass doesn’t grow well in compact soil, try to minimize soil compaction by using wheelbarrows or plywood boards to move the sod pieces.
• Press with a hand roller: In order to take root, the roots of the grass must be in contact with the soil. Press the sod pieces with a heavy hand roller to make sure that all the roots will touch the soil. Make sure not to spoil the grass when doing that.
• Water the sod: As soon as you have finished the installation, water the sod thoroughly. Ideally, the soil should be wetted down to a depth of 4 inches.
• Add fertilizers: Fertilizers are usually needed for grass to grow quickly and remain healthy. If necessary, add fertilizer to the sod. The best fertilizers for sods are slow release granular fertilizers that feed the lawn slowly over time.
Once the sod installation is complete, you should give it proper care and maintenance. The first thing you should do is make it off limits for walking or any activities until the grass has taken root. You should irrigate it regularly and monitor its growth. If all goes well, your lawn will soon be covered with beautiful, green and soft grass.
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