New machine provides great benefits
The sod harvester is a curious machine. It looks rather like a tractor crossed with a conveyor belt, topped with a smart canopy to protect the harvester’s operator from the sun.
“The harvester has had such a positive impact on my business, and on the quality of our turfgrass, in so many ways,” says Sean Fong, owner of Hawaiian Turfgrass. “It’s been a great addition to our company.”
What’s made this new machine such a hit with owner, crew and clients alike?
SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES, BETTER RESULTS
For starters, all of the residential grass varieties at the 67-acre Mililani farm will now be grown in native soil, not on plastic, a practice enabled by the sod harvester. Fong says he recently migrated from plastic to soil-grown turfgrass for several reasons.
“It’s more sustainable and environmentally friendly,” he explains. “There’s much less waste; no more dumping a lot of plastic rubbish. We’re growing it in soil so the customer still gets a high-quality product. It’s field-grown, and when the tractor harvests, it separates the piece from the soil, but the roots are still with it.”
Last fall, Fong made a decision to plant turfgrass directly in the ground, rather than on sheets of plastic, as is standard in the industry in Hawaii.
“I noticed a beneficial outcome,” he recalls. “The grass was greening up faster, and there weren’t any dry spots. We could use less water and get the same results — if not better.”
Planting in soil rather than plastic, and using a machine to harvest sod, represents a new way of doing things, Fong says.
“All the sod growers in Hawaii are used to plastic-grown sod. On the mainland, they’re all growing inground. I decided to be more sustainable.”
Soil-grown turfgrass uses less water and fertilizer because there’s less runoff, Fong adds.
“Now the fertilizer will go into the soil instead of running off the plastic,” he explains. “We’re working toward more economically sustainable practices, leading to a more environmentally friendly operation.”
SMALLER PIECES FOR EASIER PLANTING
Manufactured by Brauer Kesmac, a family-owned Ontario company in business since 1966, the sod harvester is capable of cutting short slabs or long rolls of turfgrass. Perhaps most appealing are the smaller pieces that the harvester is able to deliver.
“Before, each slab was 2 feet by 4 feet,” Fong says. “The pieces cut by the harvester are just 16 inches by 24 inches. They’re lighter, so much easier to handle and plant. Each piece is almost a third the size of an old one.”
Fong reports that a couple of his commercial landscaping clients weren’t sure about the smaller pieces, simply because they’re used to bigger slabs.
“But I just talked to a landscaper who said his crew likes the smaller slabs a lot now that they’ve worked with them, because jobs go by so much faster. The smaller size is much easier to handle for homeowners who do their own installation.”
And now that the sod is mechanically harvested, the pieces are consistently sized every time.
“The parameters are precisely set on the machine,” Fong says. “It’s cut at a set depth.”
It’s a new way of doing business, and it’s paid off for this Mililani turfgrass farm. Fong says he’s already ordered more harvesters, which will enable his crew to use dedicated machines on different varieties, to avoid possible contamination.
“We’re trying to be more ecologically and economically sustainable, and use less water,” Fong concludes. “That was basically our motivation for growing in the ground, and it’s paid off. We now grow a stronger healthier plant with deeper roots!”
Late summer discounts are hotter than ever with Hawaiian Turfgrass. Call 808-371-0527 to order a new lawn with gorgeous El Toro Zoysia by Sept. 30 and receive a discount of $1 per square feet on your order; add turnkey installation (minimum 400 square feet) and receive an additional discount of $500. If you prefer to install your own El Toro Zoysia, you can still get the sizzling $1 per square feet discount. Visit hawaiianturfgrass.com to order and arrange for pickup or curbside delivery. Use discount code SUMMER22; minimum purchase 100 square feet. Sale ends Sept. 30.
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ADDRESS 94-840 Lanikuhana Ave., Mililani