Is your lawn looking a bit worse for wear?
Perhaps you have some bare spots? Foot, vehicle, or pet damage? Maybe you’re thinking of starting a new lawn altogether?
You might even be considering adding a more drought-resistant or maintenance-friendly species to your yard.
There are a few ways to treat existing lawns or start new ones, and planting grass plugs is one of them.
But what are grass plugs?
Grass plugs are individual pots of a turfgrass species, usually between one and three inches wide/long.
Read on to find out how they can be used to benefit your lawn.
- Lawn Grass Plugs – Too Long, Didn’t Read
- What is a Grass Plug?
- Grass Plug Uses
- Growing Grass Plugs
- How to Plant Grass Plugs
- Grass Plugs vs Overseeding vs Laying Sod
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Lawn Grass Plugs – Too Long, Didn’t Read
If you don’t have the time to read the full article, here’s what we’ll be covering in summary:
Grass plugs are pots of established grasses, grown from seed, and used to start or rejuvenate lawns. They’re an alternative to laying sod, or overseeding from scratch.
They have several advantages (as well as disadvantages) and we’ll be exploring them all in a section towards the end of the article.
You can DIY with grass plugs grown at home, or you purchase them from sod farms, online, or big box stores.
Either way, you should stay with us, and by the end of this article you’ll have a good idea which is the best method for your lawn project.
What is a Grass Plug?
A grass plug is a small, individual pot of grass, grown especially for lawn establishment, maintenance, and care.
They measure about one to three inches wide/long, and are ready-to-plant, generally cheaper than sod, but more expensive than seeds.
Keep reading for more information on growing your own, or research online for the type of grass plugs that are available.
Alternatively, you can contact your local sod farm to find out the best species of grass plug to use in your zone.
Grass Plug Uses
What are grass plugs used for?
Grass plugs are useful for the following three reasons:
- They can be used to treat bare spots and aesthetic damage on your existing lawn.
- They can be used to start a new lawn where laying sod isn’t practical or available.
- They can be used to introduce other species of grass to your lawn – which can improve its look and feel, as well as tolerance to wear and tear, and/or to reduce maintenance.
An ideal use of grass plugs, for example, is for spot-treating areas that have been damaged by dog urine. It’s also great for helping areas of your lawn to recover after winter.
Can you grow your own grass plugs? You most certainly can! Read on to find out how!
Growing Grass Plugs
As an alternative to buying established grass plugs, you might want to try and save some money by growing your own.
Aside from the benefits to your pocket, growing your lawn plugs indoors in a controlled environment can be more successful than trying to overseed in your yard. You won’t have to deal with birds and squirrels – for one thing.
All you need is some grass plug pots, a bag of seed, and a seed starter/compost mix. Water the seeds a little every day until they germinate.
Remember – the temperature of the soil needs to be between 50-55-degrees to stand the best chance of germination, so you might need to use a heat lamp if growing in a garage or basement in colder seasons.
And it’s a great way to get young gardeners involved – as growing anything from seed is really fun for kids, so if you have children, bring them along for the ride.
Then they can help you plant them when the time comes!
Watch the video below, which shows you how one gardener grows some buffalo grass plugs from scratch.
How to Plant Grass Plugs
Planting grass plugs is a relatively straightforward process, but it certainly takes more effort than overseeding.
Follow the guide below for steps on how to plant grass plugs.
- Test your soil – make sure that the soil you have is capable of supporting the species you want.
- Mark out the area to be transplanted – essential for knowing how many plugs you’ll need. You will likely need to employ a bit of math to figure out the coverage – depending on the species used.
- Choose and purchase your grass plugs – find a reputable supplier – or use your homegrown pots.
- Dig or drill holes – an auger is best for this, or you can use a grass plug tool. Holes are typically dug about a foot apart, and to the depth of the plug itself – but it can vary depending on species.
- Treat the area for weeds. Use a quality pre-emergent herbicide if it’s barren ground, or a lawn-safe pre- / post-emergent if adding plugs to an established lawn, and/or there are weeds present.*
- Add a good lawn fertilizer. Soil preparation is key for grass plug success. Follow this link for all the different types of fert available.
- Plant the plugs! Make sure the bottom of the blades are level with the ground, and then fill the space around the plug, and tamp the dirt firmly.
- Water them in – check out this general guide on how to properly water your lawn. For new grass plugs, you should be watering them every day until they have rooted and runners are evident.
The new plugs might take up to a year to become properly established, especially if you’re treating a larger area.
During that time, you should be maintaining them as you would an established lawn. Follow our complete month-by-month lawn care guide for more information.
And make sure you have all the necessary lawn care tools for the job!
A word of caution, however – take care when doing high-stress maintenance on your new lawn – such as dethatching, aerating, and applying pre- and post-emergent weed killers.
It’s important you allow the lawn plugs to develop strong roots, and grow into healthy plants, before hacking at it with tools or dousing with harsh chemicals.
With fertilizers, for example, I highly recommend making your own DIY organic product – and you can follow that link to find out how.
It starts with good composting, and this article has more excellent eco-friendly lawn care tips for you to try!
For mowing, you should wait until the grass is at least three inches in height, and never take off more than 1/3-inch each time you trim. This article on what height to cut grass will tell you more.
*And don’t forget – using harsh chemicals and similar products on fledgling lawns is not advised. Take care when using weed killers, for example.
Don’t use any residual herbicides that will stay in the soil for a long time and potentially prohibit new grass growth. This article on the different types of herbicides is an excellent guide.
Likewise, the same can be said for fertilizer. It is possible to have too much of a good thing – particularly when trying to establish a new lawn. Check out when to fertilize new grass for more info.
Grass Plugs vs Overseeding vs Laying Sod
Now you’re more familiar with this type of lawn care, it’s time to put it up against the other two main lawn rejuvenation practices.
Overseeding and laying sod.
If we include planting grass plugs in that list – which of the three methods is right for you? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Grass Plug PROS
- Straightforward to install.
- Grass is already established – no seed waste.
- Accurate distribution – only plant where you need to.
- Wide selection of grass varieties.
- Quicker results compared to overseeding.
- Can help choke out weeds faster as the grass is already grown in.
Grass Plug CONS
- Can be expensive.
- Results can take a while – especially over larger areas.
- Extensive planning is often required.
- Proper planting takes time and effort.
- Spring or fall installation offers the best chance of success.
- Very easy to apply – use one of these tow-behind broadcast spreaders for a large area.
- Low initial costs.
- Fast application time.
- Extensive grass seed choices – check out that link for examples.
- Successful seeds will develop strong root systems in place.
- Can be a rewarding/satisfying process.
- By far the slowest option – results can take months – and even years.
- Seed loss from birds and other wildlife can be a problem.
- Likewise, erosion is real – seeds can wash away easily.
- Broadcast spreading can be haphazard, with no real control over distribution. Waste can easily occur.
- St Augustine seeds are not available – you need to use sod or plugs for this species.
- New grass seed might struggle against competition from weeds.
- Can only be applied in spring or fall for the best chance of success.
Laying Sod PROS
- Instant results – the fastest method to achieve total coverage – hands down.
- Full control of where the grass sod goes.
- Roots will establish quickly – usually within a month.
- Can take regular lawn traffic once roots are in – kids and pets don’t need to wait!
- Little or no weeds from the outset – when using a quality product.
- Can be applied year round – but should be avoided in summer.
Laying Sod CONS
- Very high initial cost.
- Can be a labor-intensive job.
- Often requires professional installation.
- Limited choices for grass species.
- The grass might not take to your soil – as growing conditions can differ from planting conditions.
So, what’s the verdict?
There isn’t a clear “winner,” as each option has its place, depending on individual needs. The beauty is – there’s always going to be a way to achieve a beautiful lawn, or to improve an existing one.
The best way to figure out which method is right for you, is to think about your goals, the area that needs to be covered, your timeframe, and your budget.
Then, take a look at our pros and cons guide above, and the solution should jump out at you!
The video below offers tips and advice for installing St Augustine grass plugs (a species that is unavailable as seed), and can be used as a general guide to the process of grass plugging.
Are grass plugs worth it?
Yes. Providing you’re using them correctly, grass plugs are definitely worth it for repairing an existing lawn or establishing a new one.
Particularly if you’re spot-treating certain areas, and/or you don’t have the budget for laying down grass sod.
However, if you’re looking for superfast results (that garden party is only a few weeks away), then laying sod is going to be the better option.
How long does it take for grass plugs to fill in?
Plug roots should take between 7-14 days to become established in the soil, but it can take up to a year (and sometimes more) for the plugs to properly cover, or “fill in” an area.
It depends on so many factors, including the species used, the soil conditions, the size of the lawn, and the lawn care tools and products employed in its maintenance.
Do grass plugs work?
Yes. But it’s not guaranteed. You need to put the work in to make sure they have the best chance of success.
Ensuring the soil is healthy and suitable for the plugs to take root is essential, and probably the number one reason why grass plugs fail if and when they do.
What are grass plugs? Another useful method in creating your dream lawn, that’s what!
While they might not be for everybody, they can be very useful for achieving desired results – if you’re prepared to put in the work, and have a little patience.
Let us know your thoughts on grass plugs in the comments. Have you used them yourself? Do you have any tips or advice you’d like to share about installing them? Drop us a line!
Stay safe out there, and happy plugging!