Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, sod web worms, and two freezes in January, many folks are replacing grass right now. So, I thought it would be good to clarify a few points in my two-decades-old tip sheet about lawn renovation – “Kill-Till-Fill ‘n’ Sod.”
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about using a rototiller for the "till" part. Many listeners are rightly concerned about the effects a rototiller can have on tree roots. If there are no trees in an area that needs renovation, you can certainly use one. Just be sure to go through the tilled-up area again with a steel-tined rake to get all the dead debris out of the soil.
Anyway, I'm talking about using smaller-than-average rototillers. Those with engine sizes of around 20-25cc and with blades that don't go down into the soil more than a couple of inches. Large rototillers, such as those employed by professional landscapers, should probably be avoided around tree roots. Those usually have four-cycle engines of 200cc or more.
I'll admit that when I first concocted the Kill, Till, Fill 'n' Sod technique 20 years ago, it was for people who needed to replace small sections of lawn because of damage from chinch bugs or broken sprinklers. However, all our recent turf tragedies have made grass replacement a virtual necessity for many this spring and summer.
By the way, if you are in the market for pallets of grass, don't freak out at this year’s prices. Many turf farms that are normally productive year-round also suffered from Harvey and freezes. For example, King Ranch Turfgrass, a GardenLine sponsor, suffered from the colder-than-normal January at all 10 of its farms around the state, and a couple suffered doubly thanks to Harvey.
Add the rising cost of fuel to the weather setbacks, and you'll understand why pallet prices have increased and may continue to rise for the foreseeable future. All the more reason to take better care of the grass you already have!
Finally … if you’ll be laying new sod, and you’re not familiar with some of our insider tricks for getting grass to establish quick and look good fast, check out our tip sheet from two weeks ago on that subject.