The Ultimate Guide to Laying Turf
When it’s time to overhaul your lawn, laying new turf is the quickest way to revitalize your space. Rather than sowing seed, which can take weeks to grow in, turf provides instant results and is easy to lay. If you aren’t sure where to start, this is the guide for you. Our Ultimate Guide to Laying Turf takes you from preparation to aftercare, with step-by-step instructions. .
When is the best time to lay turf?
You can lay turf at any time of the year, as long as the ground is not frozen, waterlogged, muddy or very dry. The main thing is that you prepare the ground properly so that your turf can establish itself quickly and take root.
Spring and autumn tend to be the best times for laying new turf. The ground is just right with cool, soft soil, and there is plenty of rain to water your turf too. You can also leave the new lawn undisturbed as you won’t need to mow.
Laying Turf in Spring
Before you lay your turf, you may need to water the soil so that it is not too dry and then water your turf regularly. Increasingly, April and May are providing us with lots of warm, dry weather so you will need to ensure that your turf is not stressed or dried out.
You should also avoid mowing your new turf for several weeks while it beds in.
Laying Turf in Summer
The summer months aren’t ideal because of the heat, but you can still lay a new lawn if you want to. Water the soil before you lay the lawn to make sure that there is plenty of moisture and try to lay your turf as soon as possible once it’s delivered.
You will need to give your new lawn a lot of water as it settles in and avoid walking or playing on the grass. If you have young children, pets or love hosting garden parties, the best advice is to wait until the autumn.
Laying Turf in Autumn
Autumn is often cited as the best time to lay turf and September to October is ideal. Laying turf in November should be fine, as long as the frost hasn’t set in yet. Again, you may need to water the soil before you lay the turf but then the rain should take care of your grass from then on.
Your turf will have a good six months - right through to mid spring - to settle in and start growing healthily.
Laying Turf in Winter
You can technically lay turf in the winter but as the ground is likely to be hard and the weather very wet and windy, it isn’t the best idea. Instead, wait for the weather to warm up a bit and for the last frost to thaw. Around March, you will have much better conditions for laying a new lawn and plenty of time for it to settle before the summer months.
How Do I Choose the Right Turf For My Garden?
Start by finding a reputable supplier in your area – good quality turf should be raised from seed and available in several grades to suit different situations.
Domestic turf is very hard wearing and contains dwarf perennial ryegrass, whereas fine turf is believed to be better suited for a showpiece landscaping project as it contains grasses such as fescues. Drought-tolerant turf is also available and perfect if you live in an area of low rainfall.
The type of turf best suited to your garden depends on the light and shade, tricky spots such as areas around trees and ponds and whether you have children and pets who require a hard-wearing lawn to play on. Your supplier will be able to advise what is best for you.
Don’t be afraid to unroll a few of the turfs to check the quality when you’re looking to buy. Look for these qualities:
- Each roll should be similar in appearance and size
- The roll should hold together when lifted and be moist underneath
- There should be no yellow or brown patches - just rich green grass
- There should be no weeds
- Each turf should have sharp edges and be evenly mown
- Each turf should be between 3 - 6mm in depth with a uniform thickness to ensure fast rooting and moisture retention
You should arrange delivery as close to the time you plan on laying your lawn as possible – ideally within 24 hours.
Measuring For Turf
Many suppliers will measure your lawn for you, but it is easy to do yourself.
To measure a square or rectangular lawn, measure the length and width and multiply the two numbers to get the area.
To measure a circular lawn, measure the diameter, divide this number by 2 to get the radius. The area is equal to the radius squared and multiplied by pi. You can use this online calculator to help you!
To measure an irregular lawn, split it into easier areas of circles and rectangles and then add up the results. You may need to take an educated guess in some places.
Always get around 5% more turf than you estimate to deal with trickier areas.
How To Prepare For Laying a Lawn
Preparation is the most important part of creating a perfect lawn; taking your time at this stage will make all the difference to the growth and nourishment of the lawn.
How To Level Soil Before Laying Turf
You need to create a level surface before laying your turf to ensure a good finish and healthy grass.
- Remove any old grass, weeds and any other plants and roots as well as stones and other debris. Flatten any lumps and bumps and fill in any hollows.
- Rake the soil to break it up and create a level surface.
- Tread the area thoroughly - get the whole family involved to cover the area quickly! Use your body weight on your heels and shuffle over every little bit of the area to get rid of air pockets. This will prevent sinking later on.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the area is uniformly firm and level.
- You may like to sprinkle granular fertiliser over the soil and rake it in at this stage.
- Water the soil so that it is moist but not muddy.
Why is My Soil Poor Quality?
Turf needs healthy topsoil to take root. If you have poor soil, you can either add a new layer of topsoil or use fertiliser to improve the quality of the soil you have.
To work out the volume of topsoil you need, multiply length x width x depth.
Prepare the soil as above and then pour over your topsoil. Rake and tread as before until you have an even surface.
Laying Your Turf
Once you have prepared your ground and you are happy that it is even, you can start laying your turf.
Tools You Will Need:
- Wooden planks
- A sharp knife
- A spade
How To Lay Your Turf
- Start at the far edge of your new lawn area. Lay the first piece by matching the edges and then unrolling the turf gently.
- Pat down the turf using your hands to get rid of air pockets and make sure the roots are in contact with the soil below.
- Continue along the row to create your border, leaving no gaps between the pieces. You shouldn’t be able to spot where the joins are.
- Put planks of wood along the row to stand on and work from so that you don’t disturb the soil below.
- Start laying your second row, staggering the edges to create a brick wall effect. Leave no gaps between the rows. If you have to, put a smaller piece of turf between two longer pieces to prevent it drying out.
How To Create An Edge For Your New Lawn
A straight edge is very simple to achieve.
- Place a plank so that the edge is where you want the lawn to end
- Use your spade or a sharp knife to cut away the excess turf
To cut a curved edge, all you need is a length of garden hose.
- Lay the garden hose and arrange it into the shape you want
- Use a sharp knife to cut away excess turf
Always add handfuls of soil around the edges to prevent the edges drying out after cutting.
Always Water After Laying Turf
Your turf needs water to help the roots establish and connect with the soil below. Set up a lawn sprinkler for an hour or give it plenty of water using a watering can with a rose attachment.
Make sure that the whole lawn area gets a good watering. Move the sprinkler around the lawn if you need to.
Now your new lawn is in place, it’s vital to take careful steps to look after and maintain it.
- Water, Water, Water: Daily watering is essential in the first couple of weeks or so - especially in dry weather. You should be able to reduce watering after this time (unless it’s particularly warm or dry). If the weather is hot when you have laid your turf, it’s best to water early in the morning or later in the evening to stop the water evaporating in the sunshine.
- But not too much… Over-watering can be just as damaging for your new turf as not watering enough, as it can encourage lawn disease. The underside should be moist and dark, but not soaking wet.
- Keep off the grass! It takes time for the roots of your new grass to bed into the soil, so avoid walking on it. This can take a number of weeks, but you’ll know when they’ve rooted, as you’ll no longer be able to lift up a corner of your new turf easily. Keep your pets off the new turf too.
- Mowing: Once the grass has grown to approximately 2 inches and is growing vigorously, it should be fine to use a lawn mower and cut the grass. First, ensure that the turf will take yours and the lawn mower’s weight without leaving an impression. Have the blades set high, taking just the tips of the grass off – little and often is key.