Lawn Plugs are small 3.8cm x 5cm x 2cm individual ‘plugs’ used for establishment of groundcovers and lawn alternatives; or for lawn repair. They are grown in plastic trays as 21 or 49 packs, much like the way flowers or vegetables are sold. The use of Lawn Plugs as groundcovers and lawn alternatives is discussed in this article. Lawn Plugs for lawn repair is discussed in Lawn Plugs Part 2 – Lawn Repair.
The concept of Lawn Plugs is simple. It involves dense planting (5 – 10 per square metre) of small, inexpensive (approximately $1 each) ‘Plugs’ of groundcover OR lawn species that quickly spread via rhizomes/stolons to form a dense, uniform ‘mat’. Generally when used to establish groundcover or lawn alternatives, Lawn Plugs work best in small or niche ‘low trafficked’ areas, rather than in large expanses like a traditional lawn. Examples of suitable areas include courtyard gardens, between flagstones/stairs, in rockeries or in shady areas under trees. For images of stairshttp://uk.pinterest.com/bluedaleplants/stairs/ For images of pathwayshttp://uk.pinterest.com/bluedaleplants/pathways/
In addition to being inexpensive, Lawn Plugs have the following advantages
· quick and easy to plant as they only require a 5cm deep hole;
· can be planted at a density suited to the situation;
· rapidly become established due to spreading nature of species available;
· require little care once established; and
· cost effective to post.
Bluedale currently sell 7 groundcover and lawn alternatives in Lawn Plugshttp://www.bluedaleplantsonline.com.au/shop/Lawn-Alternatives/ , including: Lawn Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) http://uk.pinterest.com/bluedaleplants/lawn-thyme/, Dichondra or Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens), Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, Native Violet (Viola hederacea), Korean Velvet Grass(Zoysia tenuifolia) http://uk.pinterest.com/bluedaleplants/zoysia-tenuifolia/, Mondo Grass and Mini Mondo Grass.
The key to success with Lawn Plugs is species selection, soil preparation and maintenance. Follow the steps below for great results.
1) SPECIES SELECTION. Select the right species for your planting area. For shady areas Dichondra is the best choice. If the planting area receives some sun, or even filtered light, Native Violet will suit. For full sun, choices are Lawn Thyme, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, Korean Velvet Grass or Mondo Grass. Refer to our website for more information on these species.
2) PLANTING SEASON. Planting during the growing season will achieve the best results. To maximise the amount of growing season available for the plant rhizomes/stolons to grow and coalesce, planting in spring is ideal. This is particularly so for Korean Velvet Grass, which can be slow to establish. Avoid planting in the hottest months as the small volume of plant growing medium in the Lawn Plugs dries out very quickly. If you must plant in Winter, increase planting density to compensate for slow growth rates.
3) WEED REMOVAL. Large volumes of soil stored weed seed will increase the maintenance burden during the Lawn Plug establishment phase. If possible, this burden can be reduced by preventing weeds from seeding on the planting area in the seasons leading up to planting out with Lawn Plugs. Ideally, undertake a number of weed spraying cycles, timing spraying to occur before weed seed set.
4) SOIL PREPARATION. A well prepared planting zone is the key to success with Lawn Plugs. Ideally the entire planting area will be a well cultivated (to at least 5cm) loam, however this is not essential. As a minimum preparation should include some cultivation around the planting zone as described in (6) below. For soils low in organic matter and/or high in clay content, a commercial potting mix or garden soil can be incorporated around each planting hole to improve soil properties and reduce planting shock.
5) PLANTING DENSITY CALCULATION. Calculate the planting density required based on the situation. This will depend upon species selected, season, budget, maintenance schedule and desired timeframe for full cover. For rapid growing species such as Lawn Thyme, Dichondra and Native Violet, in well maintained areas planted at the start of a growing season, densities of 5 plugs for square metre would suffice. For slow growing Korean Velvet Grass or Mondo grass, planting densities of 10 plugs per square metre may be necessary.
6) PLANTING. Dig furrows with a tyned implement such as mattock, hoe or even a rake. Furrow depth should be minimum 5cm, ideally 7cm. Plant in furrows to achieve plant density required. Off set plugs in alternate furrows, rather like brickwork, to form an organic mosaic pattern rather than a planting grid as seen in the planting diagram. Pre-water both plugs and soil prior to planting. Remove Lawn Plugs from trays and plant in small batches, rather than placing many pugs in rows ahead of planting and risking plugs drying out. Be sure to keep Lawn Plugs still in trays well watered prior to planting.
7) FERTILISING. Slow release fertiliser can be included in the planting hole or sprinkled directly around the Lawn Plug. Avoid fertilising the soil surface between the Lawn Plugs by broadcasting fertiliser, as this will encourage weed growth.
8) WATERING. As much as practical, keep the Lawn Plug plant growing medium and surrounds moist to a depth of 5cm. Depending on weather conditions, this may involve watering for short periods several times a day for several weeks. Regular watering will keep the roots of the Lawn Plug alive and actively growing, moisten surrounding soil so Lawn Plug roots can spread and reduce planting shock for the Lawn Plug that has been growing in ideal nursery conditions.
9) MAINTENANCE. No matter how well prepared the soil or fast growing the Lawn Plug species selected, weeds will grow and plant losses will occur. Regular maintenance, particularly during establishment, will reduce both of these. Weeds can be removed by hand weeding, keeping soil disturbance to a minimum. If the zone between Lawn Plugs is sufficient, and with considerable care, weeds can be sprayed. Some sprayers have a cover around the nozzle to reduce spray drift. Alternatively planted Lawn Plugs can be covered with pots or similar to protect from over spray. To prevent tall weeds seeding, they can be mown at a setting height that will not damage the Lawn Plug plants. Regular maintenance will be required until the Lawn Plug species spread and provide a uniform groundcover. Once established, maintenance will be minimal and may include some hand weeding, repair of worn or dead patches or trimming.