Tips to establishing a lawn

It is too early to tell if the winter freeze has done any damage. However, it is not to early to start planning a new lawn.

Establishing a lawn involves selecting the turfgrass, preparing the soil, planting and post-establishment care. The way the turfgrass is planted determines the cost and the speed of the establishment of the lawn.

The slowest and cheapest way of establishing turfgrass is by seed. Several bermudagrass seed varieties are available. Arizona common and two other varieties, Riviera and Yukon, produce the best results. Unfortunately, those varieties are not sold in stores here. They will have to be ordered.

When seeding, divide the seed at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds of pure live seed per 1000 square feet into two equal amounts. Then spread each portion in a different direction to ensure proper distribution. The small seed can be mixed with sand or similar materials to increase the amount of bulk material to be spread.

The temperature and moisture conditions must favor rapid germination and establishment. Bermudagrass should be seeded when the daily mean temperatures of the upper soil surface range from 69 to 95 degrees. In Southwest Oklahoma this usually means seeding around May 1.

After seeding cover the seed with soil to approximately 1/8 inch by lightly raking with a garden rake or by dragging a flexible floor mat over the area. To ensure proper seed to soil moisture contact for rapid germination, firm the soil around the seed by rolling with a weighted lawn roller or by some other means of packing the seedbed.

Keep the upper 1-inch surface of the seedbed moist by lightly watering two times every day for at least 10 to 14 days. After the seed germinates and become established, practice deeper, less frequent watering.

Bermudagrass sod provides an almost instant lawn but is the most expensive. Establishing by sodding allows the homeowner a better selection of bermudagrass varieties, such as sunturf, tifgreen, tifway and U-3. Sod is sold all over the state including Lawton from sod farms. Choose the variety that is well adapted to the environmental conditions of Oklahoma and one that is suited to your planting site and interests.

It is important to have the seedbed moist prior to the arrival of fresh sod when sodding. Moisten the upper 5 to 6 inches of seedbed several days before sodding. Sod transplanting involves the manual placement of individual slabs or rolls of sod in a staggered or checkerboard pattern.

It is helpful to place the first sod pieces along a straight edge, such as a sidewalk or driveway, and then working toward the middle. Snugly fit the sod pieces against each other to prevent exposure and drying of edges. Tamp the sod with a roller and water immediately.

Plugging involves the transplanting of small pieces of sod into the same size hole. The advantage of plugging is that it is faster than seeding and less expensive than sodding. The disadvantage of plugging is that it takes more time to obtain total lawn coverage and its more labor intense than the other two.

Plugs can be either square or round with at least a 1 to 2 diameter. Pugs are planted on a 6-to-12-inch centers. That is, there are 6 to 12 inches between rows of plugs and there are 6 to 12 inches between individual plugs.

Roll or tamp the soil around each plug after planting. Keep the upper surface of the soil moist until the grass is well rooted and spreading. Plug bermudagrass at least two months before the first frost in order to allow enough time for adequate spreading and rooting.

Sprigging is a fourth option but since it requires expensive equipment, it is not used in this area for lawn establishment.

Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column for The Lawton Constitution.

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