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Planting with Plugs

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Planting with plugs (or plugging) is a process by which small 2-4 inch wide pieces of sod are placed in holes equally spaced along your yard. Plugs are either cut in circular or square pieces from sod or are usually grown on trays of 18 plugs that will plant roughly 50 square feet. Plugging is usually done only with warm-season grasses such as St. Augustine, Zoysia, and Centipede grass. Since Zoysia grass tends to grow at a slower pace then the other two, plan on planting more Zoyia plugs if you want quicker results.

Planting your lawn with plugs can have advantages and disadvantages to other methods such as laying sod, seeding, etc..

Advantages of Plugging



  1. Plugs have more roots then sprigs and can grow horizontally across, and usually establish a full lawn in less time the springing and seeding.
  2. Plugs can cost a little less then sod if they are planted and spaced in excess of 3 inches apart.
  3. Plugs can be purchased at a local sod farm or even ordered by mail. Click here for a sod farm near you!

Disadvantages of Plugging


  1. Digging small trenches and/or holes for each plug can take a good deal of time and effort.
  2. Since plugs are really little pieces of sod, they can dry-out and go bad if exposed to heat, sunlight, and high winds. Much like regular sod, try to have your plugs as freshly cut as possible and planted as quickly as possible to avoid these problems.
  3. Plugs can be much more expensive than simply seeding or sprigging your lawn.
  4. Choices of seed mixtures can be greatly reduced when choosing plugs.
  5. Plugs should only be planted just prior to your grass's prime growing season (usually late spring).
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Once you have created your lawn plan and graded and prepared your soil, you are now ready to pick-out the plugs for your new lawn. To help determine how many plugs you will need, it is a good idea to measure you lawn with a plan that you will plant plugs every 6-12 inches apart in each direction. Since Zoysia grass tends to grow at a slower pace, it is a good idea to space them no farther then 6 inches. The quicker you want you plugs to grow and fill-out your lawn, the closer you will want to space them. Hence, the more you will need to buy. Each homeowner must make this decision based on his or her own desires.

Planting your Plugs



There are two basic ways to plant plugs: planting in rows, and digging individual holes. Once your grading is done and your soil is amended, then it's time to plant.

Planting in Rows


  1. Take a hoe and dig rows to the depth of your plugs. When digging, space each row 6-12 inches apart. Place each plug into the rows spaced from 6-12 inches apart based on your needs. Remember, the closer the plugs, the faster your lawn will fill in. Depending on the plugs that you use, this is usually a good time to sprinkle a starter fertilizer around the base of each plug. Apply a starter fertilizer that is high in phosphorus such as a mixture of 1-2-1. Click here for more on fertilizing.
  2. Lawn Roller
    Lawn Roller
  3. Once you complete a row, fill it in with the displaced soil so the top of each plug is flush with the ground level.
  4. Once each row is completed, apply a starter fertilizer to the soil surface (if needed) that is high in phosphorus such as a mixture of 1-2-1 and take a half-filled (with water) lawn roller to help press-down the soil. Click here for more on fertilizing.

Digging Individual Holes

  1. The easiest way to dig holes while planting plugs is through the use of bulb planter tool, a bulb auger, or even a golf course putting hole digger. No matter what tool you use, remember that the best tool is the one that will cut a hole that is the same diameter as your plugs. Any hole bigger than the plug will require constant filling with soil to eliminate any air pockets or seams that might exist. Click here to find a bulb cutting dealer near you! When you dig your holes, remember to space them 6-12 inches apart in each direction depending on your needs. Start with one row, and then stagger the plugs in the next row in a checkers-like fashion.
  2. Planting Plugs
    Planting Plugs
  3. Once you start digging your holes is usually a good time to sprinkle a starter fertilizer at the base of each hole before you insert the plug. Apply a starter fertilizer that is high in phosphorus such as a mixture of 1-2-1.
  4. Once each row is completed, apply a starter fertilizer to the soil surface (if needed) that is high in phosphorus such as a mixture of 1-2-1 and take a half-filled (with water) lawn roller to help press-down the soil. Click here for more on fertilizing.

Caring for your newly planted lawn


  1. Once you have completed planting, thoroughly water your lawn and continue to water on a daily basis for the next 2-3 weeks. The important point to remember is that you don't want the plugs to dry-out during this time. After 2-3 weeks of daily watering, you can cut-back to every other day for the next 3-4 weeks until your lawn is well established. Click here to learn more about watering.
  2. Protect your lawn from people and animals that might disturb its growth. If you need to, use a string and/or fence to protect these areas until grown.
  3. After a few months of growth, you can fertilize your lawn again. Click here for more on fertilizing.
  4. Once your lawn is establishing, you can begin to mow it. Mowing will actually help spread the grass growth so try not to bag your clippings for a few mowing. Click here to learn more about mowing your new lawn.


About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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