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Grass is greener on the other pallet

I ordered two pallets of Floratam sod from Balogh Sod and Garden Center in Port Richey to be delivered on Monday, May 24. I was told delivery would be made late in the afternoon because the sod would be cut fresh that morning.

The driver arrived at 5:30 p.m. After I signed the invoice, the pallets were unloaded. That's when I saw that the sod was old and partly dried out.

I told the driver I would not accept it. He claimed it had been cut on Sunday. But it was too withered for even that recent a cutting.

Half an hour after leaving with the sod, the driver called again to ask if I wanted to have the same sod delivered. I said I wanted fresh sod. He then stated that the sod had been cut on Saturday.

Over the past four years we have always received fresh sod from Balogh so I called and asked for a credit of $236. I've called two more times about getting a credit without success.

Please pursue this on my behalf. Timothy Healy

Response: According to Frank Balogh, after your sod was unloaded you told the driver you wanted the sod that was on the truck, which was a different, more expensive kind of sod. But you didn't want to pay the difference.

Your sod was resold to someone else who is happy with it, Balogh said.

He will issue you a credit and redeliver the same type of sod (plus a $20 redelivery fee), or sell you the more expensive sod if you pay the difference, Balogh said.

Balogh said you were never told you would get sod cut the same day.

According to some local sod retailers and wholesalers, Floratam sod (a variety of St. Augustine grass), typically is cut and delivered to the dealer one day and laid the following day. That means there is usually no sod available for laying on Mondays unless it has been left over from Friday.

In the heat and humidity of Florida summers, sod starts to heat up as soon as it is piled on a pallet, said Dennis Wickham, owner of Willow Tree Nursery in St. Petersburg. Like a pile of mulched grass, it gets hot enough in the center of the pallet to produce steam. What isn't killed off by the heat will be damaged by mold.

St. Augustine grass can be left on a pallet for 24 to 48 hours, said T. Kosiek, a dispatcher at Tom's Sod Service in Clearwater who has been in the sod business for seven years. After that time its chance of survival diminishes. In hot weather, Floratam will only last two days, he said.

Consumers needing sod should use the same approach that works best in other areas of business _ find a dealer with a reputation for satisfied customers. Sod dealers may periodically get deliveries containing dead sod, but a reputable dealer can be expected to replace those pieces.

Sod laid during Florida's cooler months suffers from less stress than sod laid in summer, Wickham says.

Look for fresh, green pieces of sod, Wickham and Kosiek said. Bahia grass (which propagates from seed) is better at withstanding heat and drought. It can be expected to turn green with regular watering even though it looked yellow or brown on the pallet. Bahia grass is almost impossible to kill, Kosiek said. As for St. Augustine grass (which propagates itself by runners), "when it looks dead _ it is dead," he said.

To prepare your lawn for sod, Wickham and Kosiek say you should treat the area for weeds with Round Up, scrape off the dead grass, treat with Dursban or some other common insecticide and spread with an organic fertilizer that will not burn new grass (such as Milorganite).

They agree that the two biggest mistakes homeowners make when they lay their own sod are (1) waiting a day or two before laying it instead of laying it and watering it immediately upon delivery, and (2) not watering it thoroughly every morning for the first month.

Neater neighborhood

We have a dead-end street in my neighborhood where you can find trash, furniture, metal scraps, deserted cars and boats and homeless people.

In response to our complaints, the city of St. Petersburg has written up various citations, but the situation still exists. Most recently someone cut holes in the city-owned fence in order to go fishing on the lake.

Is there anything you can do for us? J.B.

Response: The city's codes compliance people inspected the area and issued violation notices to appropriate property owners, said Eva Andujar of the Mayor's Action Center. The trash on city property will be removed and the fence repaired. Also, police have been asked to monitor the area, she said.

If you have a question for Action, or your attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

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