The lifting and translocation of sods, turves or plugs from a Semi-natural grassland or Marsh habitat involves digging to remove a section of sod containing the leafy green vegetation above ground and the root system below. Typically a 300mm depth of sod or less is adequate. The size of the sod selected will vary depending on the extent of habitat to be created. Typically a 300mm x 300mm size of sod is sufficient (this may be smaller where hand tools are used for lifting).
In order to minimise impacts on the donor grassland, sods should be lifted from scattered locations within the grassland habitat.
Sods can be lifted by hand using a spade or by the bucket of an excavator. Where excavators are required, measures will be needed to reduce the extent of disturbance to the donor grassland habitat from the tracks or wheels of the machine e.g. one dedicated access point and route through the grassland for machinery should be selected.
The recipient site must be prepared prior to translocation of the sods especially where 'Improved agricultural grassland' or 'Amenity grassland' is present. This may require the removal of the existing sod or top soil so that sub soil is exposed to support the establishment of the semi-grassland habitat.
It is important that the recipient site is ready prior to the lifting of the sods to avoid the requirement to store the sods while preparing the recipient site. Where storage is required the sods may require watering to keep them moist in order to prevent the exposed roots from drying out and to provide enough water for the plants and seeds within the sod to survive storage.
In certain situations a more limited application of sod translocation may be utilised so as to encourage the process of natural recolonisation. This entails lifting small “plugs” of sod (or even individual plants) which are dispersed across a recipient site to assist natural recolonisation.
It should be noted that in order for sods to successfully establish, the soils and hydrology of the recipient site must also be similar or compatible with the donor site.
In relation to landscaping contracts and larger scale translocation projects, it is desirable to relocate directly to the donor site so as to avoid having to recreate interim matching holding/storage conditions. The added stress factors (desiccation, water-logging, etc.), in relation to the storage of sods increases the potential for failures of plants within the sod. However, the immediate transfer of sods is likely to result in the restricted programming of works and accordingly, must be clearly identified at an early stage in the design or implementation stages. After translocation, monitoring (by way of follow up survey of the receiving site) will be required to assess site conditions and sod re-establishment. Hydrological adjustments, such as increasing or reducing water levels or moisture content of the site, may also be required.