I [Kelly] asked a guy I went to school with (a friend from junior high and a classmate all the way through college) who is a landscape architect what he thought would be the best grass for our situation. That situation being about 70% shade and hot as the inside of a toaster oven in the fifth season in Texas, other wise known as August.
For those who don’t live here, August really starts in mid May and usually doesn’t end until the final bits of September and often runs right into October. It doesn’t get hot like Arizona hot. It just gets stiflingly warm and then stays there. Maybe a ten or fifteen degree difference between three in the afternoon and three in the morning. Temps during the waking hours average around 90-95 for several months on end. It works on you like a water torture or like adding a pound a day to a weight on your chest. The first cool breezes from the north are oh so very refreshing. We really love the coming of Fall around here. And, according to my state certified master gardener mother, Fall is the time to sod a yard in Central Texas.
Anyway… so I asked my friend about the best grass for the area and he said there are two choices. St. Augustine and Zoysia. He said that St. Augustine is a water hog and is prone to disease, even though you’d think with a name like that it would be perfect for the fifth season. I also remember as a kid that, even though it looks nice, it is kind of prickly and not pleasant for little ones to roll around on. And in case you didn’t know, we plan to roll around on some grass with some little ones some day, so you have to think about these things in advance.
The Zoysia (pronounced zoi-see-uh), has a silly sounding name but is a hardy grass from Asia and requires very little water. It is thinner and softer so it passes the crawling-through-the-grass test. The only caveat is that we were told to expect to pay one-and-a-half to two times as much for it. I called Barrerra Landscaping and Supply and they had it for only 50% more than the other stuff, so hurray! Ellen and I added three cubic yards of compost, since we got a deal, and I called my buddy Josh, who has a huge gas powered tiller he said I could borrow.
All of the stuff showed up on a Friday afternoon and Jack and I got to work spreading the compost right after dinner. Wanting to get the compost spread before morning, we worked until about 9:30pm by the light of the front porch and with headlamps strapped on. One of the neighbor guys said we were “hard core” for working in the dark. The thing is, once the grass goes on palettes, it has to come back off within a few days or it kills it. No time to waste waiting for light to come back in the morning.
Tilled and ready.
Thanks for the tiller, Josh!
After a mug of hot coffee the next morning, I filled the last low spots with the remaining compost and fired up the tiller. What a beast! That thing chewed through the ground like it was a stale Oreo cookie. The awesome thing is, in addition to several inches of fresh compost, the ground had been covered in leaves every year for over 25 years while that Vinca vine was on there. After mixing it all together with the tiller, we have tons of great soil just waiting for the sod to be laid down on it.
Next step? SOD IT! Sorry, couldn’t resist. Jack would bring me sod rectangles from the palettes and I would carefully remove any last debris from the soil and smooth it out level with my hands and then put the sod in its place. Really, that is about all there was to it. It is just that there was SO MUCH of it to put down! We spent the rest of Saturday getting the smaller patch of grass done and then had something or other to do that afternoon. As a result, less than half of the grass went down on the first day.
Sunday went about the same at first, but my brother Skip came over to help out, so things went a lot faster. Ellen had to work Saturday, so having her help as she lugged the grass patches over to me as I placed them was great. With a larger crew, we worked at a much better pace and most of the rest of the front was done by dinner time. A happy surprise was that we seemed to have about 25% more grass than we estimated it would take. I don’t know if the sod company just tossed on extra grass since the sodding season is pretty much over or if my math skills need serious revision. The upshot is that we had enough left over to do the side yard and the “tree lawn” as folks from Northeast Ohio call the little strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb. I love the term and have willingly added it to my vocabulary. Most of the extra sod went down Monday night after work.
We have been watering regularly, but not too much, for a couple of weeks now and it really looks nice. Some of the tips are starting to get higher, but I have been told not to mow for quite a while. It seems that the the roots grow about the same as the blades and stop growing when the blades are cut. The longer we wait, the better for the roots.
Lots of folks from the neighborhood say it looks great and they always ask what kind of grass it is. I smile and try to pronounce it properly, but I always get a puzzled look and a “What did you say?” in return. I don’t care what it is called, I’m just glad to have a pretty lawn and no more vines.