A sign stating “Tree City USA” now sits near three newly planted flowering trees at the edge of the lawn stretching gently downhill from Woodland’s skateboard park. In late April, City of Woodland employees and volunteers laid sod to convert the area surrounding the skate park from a muddy mess into a lush lawn.
I’m not a stranger to laying sod, so I was curious when I saw the pallets of healthy grass being delivered to Horseshoe Lake Park. My husband and I installed sod in our front yard in 2005 because of its ease of installation and immediate results. We also liked the idea that it would be less susceptible to weed invasion than a seeded lawn. Those were all good, logical reasons, but the main reason I wanted to lay sod was that I had done it once before, and it was fun.
My first sod-laying experience was 15 years ago when my son, Steve, bought a home. It was a hot day, and I remember being busy with the hose, watering the pallets of sod so they wouldn’t dry out and keeping the already-laid sod and the bare soil moist. Looking at Steve’s brown yard, and then at the pallets of sod, I couldn’t have predicted the rewarding transformation that took place that day, into a dense, green, healthy lawn. As Steve and I carried the sections of turf and placed one tightly against another, a beautiful lawn quickly formed. We were filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Don Schmitt, owner of Far West Turf Farm and Circle S Landscape Supplies, LTD., made the grassy slopes surrounding the skateboard park possible by donating 16,000 square feet of sod. Schmitt’s turf farm and nursery, formerly located on Old Lewis River Road, moved to its present location at 35306 NW Toenjer Rd. a little more than a year ago. The Circle S nursery also has a location in Fairview, OR. Schmitt’s grass is grown from perennial rye grass seed produced in the Willamette Valley. The Port of Woodland donated soil to prepare the area for landscaping. Before laying the sod, City of Woodland employees graded the area and then applied fertilizer and lime on top of the finished grade.
At the skateboard park this April, frequent spring showers took care of keeping the sod cool and damp during installation, and sprinklers have been keeping it moist since then. City employees and volunteers quickly learned that when laying sod, it helps to be able to touch your toes; the task requires repeated bending in order to place the five-square-foot sections of lawn on the soil. The sod is grown in meshed net for support and to aid in installation, and it is cut into sections before delivery. Installers start with the longest straight edge, and work towards irregular boundaries. They fit the pieces close together, without overlapping, staggering the sections like bricks.
One thing I like about working with sod is that it is forgiving. If you need to move a section, you simply pick it up and move it. If you need to create a better fit or round a corner, you cut it with a sharp knife, a garden spade, or shears. Rather than disposing of the scraps, you can keep them damp for possible use later in the installation. These scraps can mean the difference between finishing the project or ordering more sod.
Once sod is in place, it is usually rolled with a half-full water-weighted roller to provide good contact between the roots and the soil, and to eliminate air pockets. Conditions were too wet for using the roller, so workers placed plywood on the grass to keep the soil from being disturbed when walked on and to help the grass roots bond. Large boulders from Kalama were placed around the grassy area, separating it from the parking lot where fishermen gather at the northeast side of Horseshoe Lake.
City employees Scott Summers, Paul Trice, Mark Sarvela, Brent Shelton, Jason Sloan, and Mark Cook, along with volunteers Ken Huston and Blayden Wall, worked on the project. The sod is in place, but that doesn’t mean the job is over for city employees. In a few days, the lawn will be ready for mowing.
The new sod completely transformed the landscape around the skateboard park. Brown soil almost instantly became a lush green carpet of grass, As it turned out, this carpet was rolled out just in time as Woodlanders gathered next to the new lawn to celebrate receiving, for the very fist time, the title “Tree City USA” from the National Arbor Day Foundation.