Best Topsoil for Turfing
When we’re laying a lawn from turf, we ultimately want the grass plants to thrive, to be healthy, to tolerate being mown and played on and most of all we want them to look good. Plants grow in soil and the soil they are in plays a big part in deciding how well they grow. In this article, we’re looking at the best topsoil for turf.
Right plant, right soil type
Most plants have a preference for the type of soil they grow in. Rhododendrons for example like to grow in acid soil. Whilst meadowsweet (a wildflower) likes damp soil. Grass is generally not too fussy. Look around you and you’ll see it growing in pavement cracks, on road verges, in gutters and of course on the moors and highlands. However, when it comes to our lawns, we’re not wanting to grow a sheep meadow or even a road verge. We want a good looking lawn that is easy to care for and does the job is supposed to do.
When it comes to soil for turfing we’re looking primarily for three things.
- It must be easy to work with.
- It must be able to hold onto the water that the plants will need – but not so much that it gets waterlogged.
- It needs to be able to store – and indeed manufacture - plant nutrients.
Properties of topsoil for turfing
Each one of different naturally occurring soils in the UK has advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want to do with it. What’s right for grazing animals may not be suitable for gardening in – at least not without modifications. That’s what gardening is all about. Modifying and adapting (aka improving) the soil to get the results you want.
First of all, I'd like to dispel the myth that the soil in your garden needs to be the same as the soil the turf has been grown on. Not true. Good quality turf from a reputable supplier should adapt to grow in almost any soil. The garden soil and they way it is prepared will determine how well the turf establishes and thrives long term.
In order to lay turf or sow grass seed, you need to create a level patch of well-drained friable* soil that is at least 15cm deep.
If your soil is clay based, it will be very sticky when wet and hard baked when dry. For a lawn, it’s a good idea to improve that by adding in some good quality topsoil before you lay the turf.
Remember, it’s difficult to make big changes to the natural soil type after a lawn has been laid. With flower beds you can dig in or mulch with bark or grit (depending what’s needed). With a lawn, the best you can do is aerate feed and topdress. These methods are brilliant for maintenance but major improvements will take years and years.
For soils that are sandy or stony, your main challenge will be keeping the soil moist enough to sustain a lawn. Your preparation for turfing will involve lots of stone removal and adding in plenty of organic matter to help retain water and nutrients. Eco-Earth from Stewarts Turf is ideal for this job.
Thin soil needs topping up. Grass really does need 15cm (6 inches) or more or soil beneath it. Preferably more.
If you have deep soil in your garden that holds water but isn’t soggy then you are on to a winner!
*Friable means that you can pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. It will hold its shape until you gently prod it. If you prod the soil ball and it doesn’t fall apart – you probably have a lot of clay in it. If the soil doesn’t form a ball at all – just crumbles – it’s either very dry or most probably sandy.
Preparing your soil for turfing
Watch this video from our sister-company to find out how to prepare the ground and lay turf. There are some good shots of the soil texture that you are aiming at and some hints on how to improve soil.
Where to get advice on soil for turfing
Eleanor and David at Stewarts Turf have been working with gardeners and professional landscapers for a very long time. They understand Scottish soils and know just how to bring them to the right standard for turfing.
Call them on 0333 456 0019 or send an email.
Where to buy soil for turfing in Scotland
Stewarts Turf are based in Edinburgh and supply bulk or bagged topsoil to gardeners all over Scotland. Explain what you need and they will source and deliver the right soil for you – at very reasonable prices.
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