Laying turf is by far the quickest and easiest way to create a beautiful new lawn. When you buy good quality turf, all of the hard work of getting a nice thick and even sward has been done for you. You don’t need to worry about keeping the birds away from seed, getting even germination or coping with weeds. All you need to do is unroll your instant lawn and start enjoying it.
1: Choose your turf
There are a great many turf suppliers in the UK. Some produce high-spec turfs for golf courses or sports stadiums. Others specialise in lawn turf for gardens and general landscaping.
Unless you are a trained greenkeeper or you really love lawn care, it’s wise to steer away from what is generally known as “fine turf”.
Fine turf is used to create bowling greens or golf greens. It’s usually a mixture of fescue grasses and bent grasses. These grasses are very fine leaved, and tolerant of extremely close mowing. They look beautiful when they’re in good health, but these are the poster child of the turf world. However, they are very high maintenance.
For a garden lawn, I always recommend a turf that contains either ryegrass or the recently introduced poa supina. Poa supina is more shade tolerant than most lawn grasses and does well in partial shade.
Always buy the best quality turf you can afford. If you can, buy direct from the grower and have the turf delivered fresh to your site. If you find bargain turf at your local DIY store, examine it carefully before buying. Turf should be moist, but not sodden. The grass should be green – not yellow – and it should smell fresh and earthy. The slightest whiff of sourness or decay could indicate that the turf is not as fresh as it could be, and might not give you the results you want.
It’s OK to order turf online, just be sure to order from a reputable dealer and check the reviews if you can.
Don’t order yet though. – Make sure you’re ready to lay your turf first.
2: Prepare the ground
Always prepare the ground BEFORE you order your turf. This gives you a chance to double-check the measurements and quantity you need. More importantly, turf is highly perishable and MUST be laid as soon as it is delivered. Avoid delays by preparing well in advance.
First of all, clear the area. Remove all old vegetation, sticks, rocks, builders’ rubble, etc. If you’re using a herbicide to kill off the old lawn, allow 3 weeks for it to work properly.
When the lawn area is free from debris, dig it over to a depth of at least 15cm (6 inches). If there’s not enough topsoil or if the soil seems poor quality, order in some good quality topsoil and mix it in. This might seem like an extra expense, but trust me, it’s very difficult indeed to improve garden soil once it’s underneath a lawn.
If you have a large area to prepare, it’s well worth hiring a rotovator from your local tool hire shop.
Rake over the soil to break up larger lumps and remove any bricks or stones that are bigger than a baby’s fist.
Now it’s time for the gardener’s shuffle. Taking tiny shuffling steps, walk over the whole of the area to flatten the soil. You’re aiming for a firm surface that won’t sink when you walk on it. At the same time, it mustn’t be solid. You should still be able to push a screwdriver into the soil fairly easily.
The final job is to lightly rake the surface again. Try to get a nice crumbly texture. If you’re using a pre-turfing fertiliser (highly recommended), apply it at this stage.
3: Ordering your turf
Measure the length and width of your lawn in metres. Multiply the two figures together to calculate the area of the lawn. This is the amount of turf you will need.
Most turf is sold in square metres. One roll = one square metre. Check with the supplier though before telling them how many rolls you will need. It’s always wise to order 5% more than you think you’ll need. This allows for trimming. For a circular or curved lawn, – I would order an extra 10%. You’ll be surprised at how much you trim off and discard.
4: Your turf delivery
Some suppliers are happy for you to collect your turf from their farm or depot. Make sure your vehicle is big enough and can manage the weight. If it’s going in the car boot, protect the upholstery with polyethene. Turf is dirty stuff.
Have all your turf laying equipment ready before the turf arrives. You’ll need gloves, a set of laying boards, a turfing knife and a hosepipe.
If your turf is being delivered, make sure that the lorry will have easy access. Turf comes stacked on pallets and is unloaded via a tail-lift and pallet truck. Pallet trucks can’t jump kerbs, they can’t run on loose gravel and they are hard to handle on slopes. Preparing your driveway in advance will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Examine the turf before accepting the delivery. If you’re at all worried, contact the supplier before you sign for the delivery. Follow up the phone call with an email. Turf is perishable and you can’t send it back to the supplier in the same way as you could a TV or a sofa.
Start laying your turf as soon as it is delivered.
5: How to lay turf
Working from laying boards, start by laying turves along one edge of your lawn. Ideally, this will be the edge furthest away from you. That way you can work backwards and avoid stepping on the new turf.
Unroll each turf and gently manoeuvre it into position. Press it down with your hands to ensure the roots have good contact with the soil. Butt each piece up close to the next one. You will be able to see a line where two turves join, but you shouldn’t be able to see any soil between them. Trim the turf to fit if needs be.
Keep working steadily until you’ve finished. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and lift carefully to avoid hurting your back. Before you know it, you’ll have a pristine green lawn in front of you. All you need to do now is water it.
6: Watering new turf
Water your new turf as soon as the lawn has been laid. Give it a really good soaking. It’s vital that the water soaks through into the soil beneath. Lift a corner to check.
Your turf will need to be watered at least once a day for the first 10 days. Once the roots start to establish, (it will be harder to lift the turves and when you do you’ll see tiny white roots on the underside) you can reduce the watering to every other day and then gradually stop all together.
After 2-3 weeks, the turf will be established enough for its first cut.