Tennessee Sod Farm Grows Turf for Local Sports Fields and Golf Courses
By the Numbers
Though sod isn’t one of the state’s top crops, Tennessee had more than 10,000 acres of sod harvested in 2012, according to the most recent agricultural census data available. The state counted 41 sod farms in 29 counties.
Tri-Turf Sod Farms in Paris produces much of the beautiful grass blanketing many athletic fields and golf courses all over the state. Owned by Henry County Farm Bureau members Jason and Tina Pooler, the West Tennessee farm grows, harvests and installs turf trod by golfers and football, baseball and soccer teams in Tennessee as well as other states. Among the 29 employees on the payroll are their sons, Jacob, 17, and Preston, 13.
Tri-Turf has provided sod for the Tennessee Titans’ practice fields and the baseball fields of the Memphis Redbirds and the Jackson Generals. “At Nissan Stadium, we don’t provide the grass because it’s a specialty grass that we don’t grow,” Jason Pooler says. “But we do the installation for the Titans’ field. On the practice fields, we provide the grass and do the install.”
The farm has built fields for Columbia’s Ridley Sports Complex and the Jackson Sportsplex, as well as at the University of Tennessee at Martin and Mississippi State University. In addition, the sod farm has done several golf courses, including Belle Meade in Nashville, Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan and the Tennessean in Springville.
“We grow and harvest year round as long as Mother Nature isn’t too mean to us,” Pooler says about the farm’s 740 production acres. Warm-season grasses are grown from May 1 until around Oct. 15 and cool-season grasses from Oct. 15 to May 1.
On the farm, the grass is started as a sprig or bare root. “That’s how we get our grass established in our fields,” Pooler explains. Within 10 to 12 weeks, the sprigs are in sod form and ready to harvest. Sprigging is offered to budget-conscious customers, but most prefer the immediate satisfaction of sod.
At the farm, “We usually disk the ground 6 to 8 inches deep to get application in the soil,” Pooler says. Disking means using an implement to break up the soil in order to more easily work in applicants. Then the ground is made “very, very smooth.” They mow the sod twice a week and fertilize it every 10 to 14 days.
Harvest, delivery and installation are usually completed within a day. “It’s not a product that needs to sit on the shelf,” he says. “We try to lay the sod within 24 hours.”
Tri-Turf offers 16-by-24-inch and 24-by-48-inch slabs stacked on pallets. The larger sod slabs offer fewer seams, Pooler says. Many golf courses, athletic fields and others request the farm’s huge rolls of sod, 42 inches wide and 130 feet long, resembling a large rolled rug.
Athletic fields are often sodded with Tifway 419 Bermuda, Latitude 36 or HGT Bluegrass because of these grasses’ ability to recover from aggressive use by sports teams. “They re-heal themselves,” Pooler says.
Golf courses use “a little bit of variety,” he says. Zoysia grass is often used on fairways “because of the way they play,” but fescue or bluegrass might be used for tree-shaded roughs. Also, some athletic fields and golf courses request a sand base for the sod as it’s grown. Others prefer that sod be raised in native soil.
“To get the right percentage slope on a football field and baseball field, we use lasers to make sure there are no low spots,” Pooler says. “That way, you’re not going to have pools of water sitting on the field during play. They’ll slope properly.”
Once installed, sod must be watered twice daily for an hour each time. After a week, one hour daily is sufficient. “Usually after a week and a half or two weeks, you can’t pull up the sod because it’s attached,” he says. “Then you just treat it like your normal lawn.”
For its residential, commercial, athletic field and golf customers, Tri-Turf Sod Farms is licensed to grow eight grass varieties: Latitude 36 Bermudagrass, Tifway 419 Bermuda, Tifway II Bermuda, Meyer Zoysia, Geo Zoysia, Blended Fescue, HGT Bluegrass and RTF Fescue. Learn more at triturfsod.com or by calling (800) 643-8873.