The Q&A Archives: Growing St. Augustine grass In Hawaii

Question: I have no grass in my yard. I want to buy a pallet of St Augustine and put in my yard. The thing is the soil here is red and hard. My question is should I lay a layer of sand so the grass can root faster. What can I do to help the grass to take?

Answer: You'll want to prepare the soil properly before laying the sod or the roots will not penetrate into the native soil and the sod will quickly die. You'll want to rototil the area to mix in some topsoil or at least some sand and some organic matter to help loosen the soil. Here's how to prepare for sodding:

First, remove any large soil clods or debris from your yard. Anything bigger than a golf ball should be broken up or removed. Then spread a 2-3 inch layer of organic matter or topsoil over the area. Then apply fertilizer over the entire yard. The goal is to get the fertilizer and organic matter mixed down to the level of the root zone. If these two layers don't get mixed you may end up with a layer that will actually prevent good root growth.

If you are planning to install an automatic sprinkler system, this is the time you should do it.

Bring your lot to a finish grade. A garden rake is a good tool for this. Level the soil to avoid any low spots where water may stand, or high spots that could be cut too short by a mower.

At this point you may roll the seedbed with a roller to firm it up, then sprinkle lightly with water to settle it.

After you have prepared the seedbed, you can lay the sod. Buy sod that is three-quarters to an inch thick. To test it, lift up a piece by the end. If the sod is good, it will hold together.

Choose a long, straight line when you begin to lay the sod. Lay the sod so the seams from one row fall in the middle of the pieces from the previous and following rows. Press the pieces tightly together, to help the edges knit together.

Cut the sod with a sharp knife to fit odd corners. Avoid using small pieces, because they will dry out quickly. Do not let patches dry out.

It's a good idea to roll the sod with a water roller to make sure the sod has good contact with the soil. Water the sod, keeping it constantly moist, for at least ten days.

Best wishes with your new lawn.

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