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How to Lay Turf

Date posted: 15 December 2014

If you want to create a brand new lawn from scratch, but you do not want to hang around waiting for grass seeds to grow, then turf is the ideal solution. Here we explain how to prepare the area for turf, how to lay it, and how to care for it properly afterwards to ensure a healthy, long-lasting lawn.

What sort of tools will I need?

The only tools you really need are: a garden rake, a spade, a wheelbarrow, a long knife, some wooden planks, and a garden hose and sprinkler. You may also benefit from using a turf cutter if you are removing an old lawn, and some gardeners use a garden roller (usually filled with sand or water) to pack down the freshly-laid turf.

What are the best conditions for laying turf?

Avoid laying turf in harsh weather conditions such as during extended periods of hot and dry weather, or when it is frosty.

How do I calculate how much topsoil and turf to buy?

If you don't have enough quality topsoil (see below 'How do I prepare the area for laying new turf?') you will need to work out how much to buy. Do this by measuring the length, width and depth of the area to be turfed, then multiplying these together to get the volume.
Next, calculate how much turf to buy. As long as the turf you are buying comes in standard rolls of 1m2, you can simply measure the length and width of the new lawn area in metres, then multiply one by the other to calculate the number of turf rolls you will need. Add on an additional 5% to allow for any planned shaping / curves.

How do I remove an old lawn?

If you have an existing lawn to remove beforehand, you will need to kill the grass using a proprietary non-selective weed killer that is designed for this purpose. It may need to be left for about two weeks before you can then remove the lawn easily. You can do this by slicing beneath the grass with a spade – or by hiring a turf cutter (or sod cutter). These are readily available to rent from tool hire shops.

You can simply compost the waste or take it to a local authority household waste recycling centre which has facilities for recycling soil / turf.

How do I prepare the area for laying new turf?

Turf needs sunlight, air, water and nutrients therefore it will thrive best in soil that offers good drainage and does not suffer from any compaction. If the turf is able to root deeply and quickly it will be denser, healthier and more resistant to drought and other extreme weather conditions. Turf needs good soil for a depth of at least 10cm (but ideally 15cm or more) which should be turned and free of clods, surface stone, weeds and other debris. You may need to hire a rotavator to do this properly, particularly on areas larger than about  25 metres sq. Next, rake with a wide rake and tread in the soil, repeating until you have a smooth, firm (but not compacted!) base with a slight tilth.

At this point the ground is ready for the turf.

How do I lay the turf?

  • Unroll a strip of turf to lay around the perimeter of your lawn, avoiding using any small pieces at the edges because these will dry out more easily and could die off.
  • Firm down using the head of a rake (or a piece of wood) to make sure there is good contact with the soil.
  • Next, lay a strip along the longest straight run. Carry on working strip-by-strip across the lawn, staggering the joints to create a brickwork-like pattern.
  • Try to butt adjoining edges and ends up against each other without stretching the turf. Any overlapping pieces or row-ends need to be cut off neatly using a long, sharp knife.
  • Avoid walking on the turf – instead use wooden planks to work from and walk on.

How do I look after my new lawn?

Aftercare is vital with a new lawn. Do not walk on your new lawn for two weeks. Water within half an hour of laying and do this once a day until the roots are established – early morning or late evening are the best times, to avoid water being lost to evaporation. You should be provided with specific advice about watering when you buy the turf, but as a guide it is likely to need about two hours of continuous watering each day across the entire area until well-rooted. Hotter, windier, drier weather will increase this demand. Once established, your lawn will only need occasional watering during dry periods.

You will also need to feed your new lawn, little and often, using a suitable fertiliser –  generally every four to six weeks during growing season.

Do not mow your new lawn until it has rooted. Lift a corner to test whether the roots have become attached to the soil underneath. For the first mow, keep the grass height on the highest setting to avoid stress.

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