Have you ever wondered how turfgrass gets from the field to your garden? In this article we’ll show you how turf is harvested.
How is Turf Grown?
Lawn turf is grown in fields. A bit like wheat or barley but with much more intensive maintenance. We grow turf in the same way that you would grow a lawn from seed – but we use much bigger machinery. Our mowers for example are several metres wide and pulled by tractors with low-compression tyres.
Mowing a field of turf. Wide tyres spread the weight of the tractor so that they don't compact the soil. These mowers fold up so that they can be taken from field to field.
Seed is sown more or less all year round – weather permitting – so that our fields are rarely empty. The grass is nurtured for an average of 12 months. Once our Production Managers are confident that the root system is strong enough and the grass is in rude health, then we can earmark a field for harvesting.
Harvesting to order
We don’t harvest so much as a square centimetre of turf until we have a firm order for it. Any turf harvested and not sold would have to be thrown away and we’re not keen on wasting good grass.
Once we hear from a customer, we schedule harvesting for the day before delivery. If the weather is hot enough to shorten the shelf life of the turf, our teams will rest during the day and harvest turf overnight to keep the product as cool as possible.
At Stewarts Turf we’ll sometimes order a little extra turf to be brought into the yard. That way if anyone needs to collect at short notice we can normally look after you.
The Turf Harvester
A modern day turf harvester is an engineering masterpiece. We use Trebro Turf Harvesters. Each one weighs around 12.5 tonnes and is operated by one person.
Trebro turf harvester at work. The machine is articulated in the middle otherwise we'd never be able to turn it around at each end of the field. This machine has one operator and can harvest as much as 350 square metres of turf per hour.
The machine slices out a roll of turf. Blades run either side of the turf to get straight sides and then another blade zig-zags beneath it to cut through the deepest roots and release the turf from the ground. Finally, another blade drops down like a guillotine to cut each turf to a precise length.
The flat, rectangular piece of turf travels up a belt until it reaches a low barrier. This makes the end of the turf flip over so that it rolls up into a swiss roll shape.
When there are 10 rolls of turf (enough for 1 layer on 1 pallet), the machine picks them all up at once and moves them onto a pallet. Each layer is twisted at 90 degrees to the last. That way we build a strong, stable stack.
The operator will have told the machine how many layers of turf are needed on each pallet. When the pallet is complete, the machine will gently eject it and bingo! – it’s almost ready to load onto a vehicle for delivery.
While the harvester loads itself up with an empty pallet and carries on harvesting, one of our team will wrap netting around the completed stack. We don’t want it all to fall off when the lorry turns a corner!
Here’s a fab video of turf harvesting. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as we do. (This was filmed by our sister-company in Norfolk)