Saving Native Sod On Your Site

Native Sod with PlantsAnother technique that I have been successful with is actually stripping the native sod, not just the topsoil. Essentially you are saving the native plants to replant on the site at a later date. This is a big investment, as somebody needs to take care of your plants while your construction is being done. However, when you look at the diversity of plants within each shovel of native sod, it is virtually impossible to duplicate by buying native plants later and recreating this. Not all of the plants are commercially available and you are paying the cost of each plant. It is critical that the areas to strip the plants have been inventoried and evaluated for native plants and weeds. You don’t want to spend the money storing native sod that is full of weed species. Below are some of the key steps in this process.

Saving Native Sod

  •  Inventory and evaluate areas for sod removal for native plant diversity and weed content.
  • Identify key areas for sod removal.
  • Look at soil type and decide if there is enough and suitable native topsoil to support the sod. It is really difficult on a gravelly site, with minimal topsoil, to be able to lift native sod intact.
  • Some of the plants, such as small shrubs, have long root systems, and some plants like Balsamroot have a tap root that makes it very hard to transplant in a shallow sod.
  • Scoop the native sod with a small skid steer or tractor with a small bucket.
  • Place the sod into plastic nursery flats or some similar item to store the sod in. We found that 2 ½” deep trays lined with newspaper worked the best. The newspaper created a temporary bottom of the tray but decomposed and allowed the roots to create a matt over time.
  • We removed the sod, placed it in the trays and moved it off site to a hoop house. That way they were watered, fed and taken care of through the two years that construction and site work occurred.
  • After construction, the flats are weeded, then returned to site. They are then replanted.

Minimizing Site Disturbance, and Saving Native Top Soil are two other important factors in native plant conservation on your construction site. Keep tuned for my next blog on native seeding.

–Leslie Lowe L.A, Registered Landscape Architect