The Ultimate Guide to Laying Turf

If you’ve decided to give the garden a bit of an overhaul and lay down some new grass, or perhaps extend the area of greenery in your outdoor space, you’ll find laying turf can be a quicker and more instantaneous way to transform your garden compared to sowing grass seed. For those who are unsure quite where to start, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to laying turf – from preparation, right the way through to aftercare.


When is the best time to lay turf?

Technically, this is something you can do at almost any time of the year as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid, excessively muddy or too dry. Preparing the ground is key, as is the need for the new turf to establish itself and root correctly.

With the above in mind, early spring or autumn tend to be the times most cited as ideal for laying new turf. Rain tends to be more prevalent, meaning plenty of much-needed watering, and minimal mowing is required during these months so the freshly laid grass can be left relatively undisturbed.

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.

For example, 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 should you live in an area of low rainfall.

Chat to your supplier and talk them through your requirements and where the grass will be going in your garden – mention areas of light and shade, any tricky spots you need to work around (i.e. trees or ponds), whether you have pets or children and therefore need your lawn to be more hardwearing etc. They will then be able to advise the best turf for you.

Don’t be afraid to unroll a few of the turves to check the quality when you’re looking to buy – key things to look out for include:

  • Each roll should be close with regards to appearance and size
  • They should hold together when carefully lifted and have a moist underside
  • The grass should be a rich green colour with no yellow or brown patches and be weed-free
  • They should have sharp edges and be neatly mown
  • Each piece of turf should have a uniform thickness, ideally between 3mm and 6mm to ensure quicker rooting and less chance of drying out
  • Arrange delivery as close to the time you plan on laying your lawn as possible – ideally within 24 hours.

Measuring for turf

If you are purchasing the turf yourself without a supplier measuring your garden for you, you can use a simple online turf calculator such as this one or work it out yourself.

The level of detail you need depends on the shape of your lawn. If you have a square or rectangular lawn measuring the lawn is simple as you can just measure the width and the length, multiplying the two together giving you the full surface area.

If your lawn is an irregular shape you can measure it most accurately by breaking up the area into squares. Any irregular corners or areas you can add together and make an educated guess on how much turf you will need to cover those areas.

It is advised to order 5% more turf than you estimate so you can use it to cut in tricky areas.

Preparation is key

Ensuring that the soil you wish to lay your new turf on is well prepared will make all the difference to the growth and nourishment of the lawn.

Start by skimming off any old grass, pulling up weeds or existing plants and roots removing any large stones and other debris. The soil needs to be able to drain, so remove any impermeable material also (i.e. concrete or rubble.) Flatten lumps and bumps and fill in any hollows.

Next, it’s time to rake the whole area to create a fine, level surface before treading thoroughly – depending on the size of the area you’re looking to turf, it might be an idea to get family and friends to help with this part! Place most of the weight in your heels and move in a shuffling motion – every square inch of the prepared area needs to be covered as it’s the only way to get rid of any pockets of air and remove any likelihood of sinking later on.

Rake the area again and repeat treading until the whole area is uniformly firm and level. It’s hard work and good exercise, but it’ll be worth it! At this point, you may wish to sprinkle a granular fertilizer over the soil, lightly raking it in before watering.

If the existing soil is of too poor quality you may need to add a layer of new top soil onto the earth. The ‘top soil’ is the layer of soil on top of the earth which needs to be healthy for the turf to grow successfully.

To work out how much top soil you need, simply measure the length, width and depth of the area to be covered before multiply together to give you the volume of soil. Once you have the top soil and have prepared the earth underneath add the topsoil evenly and prepare as above.


Laying the turf

Now you’re fully prepped, it’s time for the main job. You may find it useful to have the following tools and equipment within easy reach before getting started:

  • Wooden planks: For standing and kneeling on when laying the turf – this will minimise disruption of the soil and stop you from walking on the grass.
  • A sharp knife: To cut any excess turf and neaten edges.
  • A spade, rake or home-made ‘tamper’: Any of these tools will help you to pat down the turf as you go along, ensuring good contact with the soil underneath.

Take the first piece of turf and lay it along one of the new lawn edges, slowly unrolling to avoid damage. Create your first row as a ‘border’, ensuring each edge is butted right up to the next without leaving any gaps. When finished, set up a few planks along this row to work from and create a ‘walkway’, gradually working forwards. This should prevent the soil from being disturbed, maintaining an even surface.

As you come to place the second layer of turf, start to stagger it similarly to the pattern of a brick wall. Butt ends and sides as closely to one another as possible, leaving no gaps or overlap – you shouldn’t be able to see any of the joins at all.

Either use your hands or one of the tools mentioned above to pat down each piece of turf as thoroughly as possible – this will ensure the roots are in contact with the soil and get rid of any air pockets, dips or hollows.

If you need to create a longer piece of turf at any point, place the smaller connecting piece in the middle of the two bigger pieces rather than adding it to the end, as it will dry out quicker if you do.

When it comes to tidying up the edges, use one of your planks as a guide and the sharp knife or spade to cut. For more tricky, curved edges, use a length of garden hose. After cutting, place handfuls of soil under the edges of the turf to prevent it from drying out.

Once you’ve laid all the turf, set up a lawn sprinkler for an hour or more, or give it a few good doses with a watering can. The water should soak through to the ground below. If your new lawn is bigger than the reach of your sprinkler, be sure to move it every 15 minutes or so to ensure all the turf is being covered – a tip to remember for your aftercare as well.


The aftercare

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. Check the underside of the turf to know when to water – it should be moist all the time for about a month after it has been laid. 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 any pets off the new turf also, encouraging them to take their bathroom breaks in another part of the garden.
  • Mowing: Once the grass has grown to approximately 2 inches, you should be fine to mow your new lawn. Of course, first ensure that the turf will take yours and the 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.

Sources: BBC Gardeners’ World, Telegraph Gardening, Grass Clippings, Garden Lines, RHS, Lawnsmith

Hover Vac 280
Hover Vac 280 Left Facing
Power 1300 W
Cutting width 30 cm
Cable length 10 m
Mighti Mo 300 Li
Battery voltage 40 V
Cutting width 30 cm
Roller No
Robotic Robtoic Lawnmower 1200 R
Working area capacity (±20) 400 m²
Typical charging time 50 min
Alarm Yes
Contour 500E
Contour 500E Left Facing
Power 500 W
Cutting width 25 cm
Lawn edge facility Yes