Turf growers like Stewarts Turf in Scotland are experts in their field. They know exactly what’s needed to grow good turf. And whilst they want to offer their customers really good value for money, they know that ther are risks involved in cutting corners with the growing process to produce cheap turf. Let’s have a look at the turf growing and harvesting processes to see why cheap turf isn't necessarily a bargain.
What do we need to grow good turf?
We need fields of good quality soil to grown the turf in. The land has to be either bought outright or rented from farmers. If you've ever tried to buy or rent land, you'll know that it's not cheap.
Tools and machinery
Then there’s the machinery to prepare the soil. Tractors, ploughs, harrows, cultivators etc. Those things don’t drive themselves. So we hire skilled people to do the work. And it is skilled work to prepare a seedbed for good quality turf.
Commercially grown turf is produced on large fields using specially selected blends of grass seeds and large machinery.
Seed, Fertiliser and other inputs. Grass seed comes in a myriad of different blends and qualities. Cheap grass seed tends not to make very good quality turf and so a good turf grower will try to find a compromise between quality and price. Just like consumers do at the supermarket. It’s all about gaining experience, knowing your suppliers, watching the market and being savvy.
Mowers. It’s the mowing that makes a lawn what it is. Turf growers use huge mowers that are pulled by tractors. More expensive, but essential machinery. These mowers need a lot of maintenance to keep the blades sharp and prevent damage to the grass. They’re used 2-3 times a week in the growing season. Which means labour and diesel. We could mow less often, but the turf wouldn’t have develop such a strong root system and it would take longer to produce a crop.
Harvesting machinery. Turf harvesters are a massive financial investment. So are the pallets the turf gets stacked on.
Haulage. Haulage is never cheap these days, but it’s especially costly for perishable products that need to be delivered in double-quick time.
Customer service staff – the most valuable part of any organisation but especially turf. Our customer service staff do so much more than answer the phone, they make sure turf gets harvested and delivered correctly for each and every order we receive.
Could turf growers cut costs in order to produce cheap turf?
We’ve looked at the main costs of growing turf. There are also a few more considerations like crop failures and wastage due to wildlife or weather.
Now. To make turf cheaper, any turf grower would need to spend less on one or more of the inputs. Everything we do as an industry is done to ensure the customer gets really good value for money. For example, we could mow less often. That would reduce the amount of diesel we use and maybe some overtime costs. BUT, it would affect the quality of the turf.
Likewise haulage. If we were to use a 2-day service instead of a next day service. Customers would be very upset with the results. To start with, there’d be no next day deliveries. Turf buyers would need to wait longer for their products and would be less able to work with the weather or fit in with other tradesmen. Plus, if turf sits on a pallet for long periods of time it deteriorates to the point where it may not be strong enough to root into the soil once laid.
Some garden centres or turf suppliers may reduce the price because the turf has been sitting on the pallet for a while. In this case, be very wary. Your cheap turf may not be viable. This is what it looks like 24 hours after harvesting (fresh), 48 hours after harvesting (less fresh) and 72 hours after harvesting. In the older turf those dark areas are dead grass.
How to tell if that cheap turf is a genuine bargain
From time to time, you may see cheap turf advertised. Your job as a buyer is to be absolutely sure that it is a genuine bargain. Otherwise you may spend a lot of time laying a new lawn that looks no better than the one you are replacing.
Ask yourself these questions?
- Have I heard of this turf supplier? Do I trust them?
- Is this turf reduced because it’s old stock and no longer fresh?
- Can I see the turf before I agree to buy?
- Are there extra hidden costs like delivery, pallet charges or VAT?
- Will the supplier stand by their product if it doesn’t grow?
- Is this meadow turf? Great for cows and sheep but it won’t make a pretty lawn.
If you are not happy with the answers to any of the questions above, then be very cautious about buying this so-called cheap turf.
The pros and cons of cheap turf
The pros of cheap turf are of course, that if you find a genuine bargain you’ll be able to save some money.
The cons of cheap turf are that you may find your finished lawn is more expensive to maintain. You may need to overseed patches that don’t establish, treat it for weeds or work hard to cope with coarse and tufty pasture gardens.
If I were buying turf, I’d buy from a reputable turf grower. I'd check the online reviews and maybe talk to the grower to see if there any savings to be had by collecting from their yard or sharing a load with a neighbour. In this day and age it’s important to look after the pennies – but it’s not hard to get really poor value for money.
The price of good turf
Stewarts Turf do have an economy grade of turf which, although it may not be the cheapest on the market, it is a decent quality turf that will make a strong and beautiful lawn.
See our range of turf products here
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