Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, zoysia, or St. Augustinegrass, are usually planted as sprigs or plugs because they don't set viable seed.
Starting a lawn with these individual plants is much less expensive than using regular sod, although both sprigs and plugs are rooted pieces of sod.
Sprigs are thin 3- to 6-inch pieces of grass stems or runners without soil. Plugs are 2- to-4-inch chunks of sod, either round or square, with soil around their roots.
Spring is the best time to plant sprigs and plugs. Before planting, prepare the soil well. Till or dig in organic matter and add granular, slow-acting fertilizer. Smooth out the soil with a rake.
The biggest problem you'll face will be weeds. Digging the soil brings weed seeds to the surface -- they'll sprout wherever there is bare soil when they're exposed to sun and moisture. Because there's a lot of bare soil between the sprigs or plugs of grass for quite a while, it's worth the time and effort to deal with the weeds first. Water the prepared soil and allow a week or two for the weeds to sprout. Remove or kill the weeds, then plant the grass, disturbing the soil as little as possible. It's grass knits together into a solid lawn, pull any other weeds you find.
Plugging is an ideal way to repair small sections of lawn that have died. It's also an easy way to revitalize a lawn in stages as time and money allow. The day before planting, mow the surrounding lawn area very short and water the space heavily. Plant the individual plugs 3 to 10 inches apart in a pattern that suits the empty space.
1. Buy fresh plugs and keep them moist. Clear the site of weeds, stones, and debris. Dig in some organic matter and granular, slow-acting fertilizer, then use a rake to make the soil smooth and level.
2. Plant plugs as soon after purchase as possible. Set them on the soil equidistant from each other in a grid pattern. The closer together they are, the sooner the grass will spread to form turf.
3. Dig a hole for each plug, deep and wide enough to accommodate its root system. Set plug in hole and gently press soil over roots and against crown.
4. Water the plugs well and often. Eliminate weeds that sprout between them. Mow when the grass is 3 inches tall to stimulate it to spread.
Sprigging is the least expensive and fastest method of establishing or repairing a lawn of warm-season grass. However, sprigs require more initial and postplanting care than plugs, and are less likely to survive adverse conditions. Remember that whether you use plugs or sprigs, it is of utmost importance to keep them from drying out before you plant them.
There are three different ways to sprig a lawn. The broadcast method is the fastest way to install sprigs. You simply toss shredded stems evenly over a prepared, moist soil bed, then cover them with a light layer of soil. Invariably some will be completely buried and fail to grow, but the roots of most sprigs will take hold.
The furrow method is more time-consuming. Dig 3-inch-deep furrows in the soil 4 to 12 inches apart. Plant each sprig so that the roots are buried and the foliage is above soil level when the furrow is smoothed over.
A third option is to plant sprigs individually in a grid pattern.
Whichever method you choose, aftercare is critical. Walk over the area or roll it with a lawn roller at half weight to firm the soil around the crowns of the newly planted sprigs.
Water immediately after planting. Continue watering frequently so the young plants don't dry out while they become established. Keep the area free of weeds. It may be necessary to fill in between the sprigs with extra soil to bring the planting bed up to grade level. This helps the horizontal runners sent out by the sprigs establish themselves quickly. When the grass is 3 inches tall, mow, cutting less than 1/2 inch off the blades of grass.