Spring will be here any day now, and many people will be thinking about gardening jobs. This is a blog for anyone who is planning a new lawn and needs to know how to lay turf.
Preparing the ground for turfing
The most important thing to know about how to lay turf, is how to get the ground ready. Without good soil structure beneath it, the grass will never reach its full potential. It’s also vital to have a nice level surface because lumps and bumps will “catch” on the mower and you’ll end up with mysterious bald patches in your lawn.
Depth of soil for turfing
Lawn grass needs at least 15cm (6 inches) of nice friable soil beneath it if it’s going to thrive. Your first task is to dig the soil over and remove every last piece of vegetation and debris.
You may find it easier to get rid of the weeds before you dig. If you’re happy to use chemicals in your garden, applying glyphosate about 3 weeks before you start work will get rid of any vegetation it touches. Glyphosate is sold under the brand name Roundup. Be careful with it – don’t get it anywhere near the plants you want to keep.
Digging gets rid of any soil compaction and introduces lots of air into the soil structure. It’s an important part of turfing so don’t be tempted to skip this stage and lay new turf on top of the old. While you work, you can look out for large stones – anything bigger than 5-6 cm diameter needs to be removed. Keep them to one side – they’re great for putting in the bottom of plant pots for extra drainage.
Soil quality for turf laying
Soil quality is important. Poor soil doesn’t allow the grass plants access to the nutrients they need. There’s very little you can do to improve soil once it’s hidden beneath your lawn, so act now.
If you can squeeze a handful of soil into a ball and it will hold it’s shape until you prod it – then your garden soil probably has the right balance of minerals, clay and organic matter to grow a good lawn.
If the ball of soil is solid and won’t break down without a lot of persuasion – then it has a lot of clay in it. It might bake hard in the summer, get waterlogged in winter and be prone to compaction. Ideally you need to mix it with some better topsoil, preferably with plenty of organic matter.
If your garden soil doesn’t form a ball when you squeeze it, then it probably contains a lot of sand. It will drain beautifully, dry out very quickly and need lots of feeding to keep plants strong and healthy. Again, mixing in some good quality topsoil will help.
If you have any worries about soil quality, ask Eleanor or Dave at Stewarts Turf for advice.
Soil texture for turf laying
With the area for turfing all dug over, it’s time to make a nice level bed for the turf to root into. Use a landscaping rake to break down the lumps and create a nice smooth surface. Once you are happy with the levels, tread all over the area to firm it down (a lawn laid on fluffy soil will develop hills and hollows when you walk on it).
All it needs now is an application of pre-turfing fertiliser followed by one more rake of the surface and you’re ready to lay your turf.
How to lay turf
Top tip – don’t order your turf until you are ready to lay it. Turf deteriorates very quickly so you need to start putting it down as soon as it arrives on site.
Start by laying turf all around the perimeter of your new lawn-to-be. That way you won’t have any small pieces at the very edge where they’re more prone to drying out.
To lay turf, simply position the roll where you want it to be and then unroll it slowly, pressing it down so that the roots have good contact with the soil below.
Next start to fill in the centre. Butt the edges up close together so that there are no gaps between turves. Lay turf in a brickwork pattern and use a turfing knife to trim pieces to shape if necessary.
When the whole area is covered. Water your turf really well. You will need to water every day for the next 2 weeks or until the roots are firmly settled into the soil.