Congratulations if you have a beautiful new lawn. Here’s how to look after your newly laid turf so that it establishes well and looks great in the months to come.
- Water daily until the roots are really well established
- Avoid walking on the lawn in the early days
- Don’t be in too much of a hurry to mow
- Start your lawn feeding regime early
Watering your new lawn
It is absolutely paramount that your newly laid turf is watered every single day until it grows long enough roots to be able to fend for itself.
Think for a moment about where your turf has come from. The day before it arrived in your garden, it was happily growing in its field. Roots were sunk up to a metre deep in the soil. It saw plenty of daylight and was photosynthesising away, turning sunshine into food.
Then boom! Along came a turf harvester. Chopped off 85% of the root mass, rolled it up so the leaves couldn’t see the light and stacked it on a pallet. Then it was put into a lorry with curtain sides which protected it from drying winds on the journey – but also restricted air flow.
How turf is harvested
By the time it arrived in your garden, your turf probably felt as though it was just out of the operating theatre after a major operation. And, in reality, that’s what had happened to it.
What do people need when they’re recovering from surgery? Lots of water, peace and quiet and nourishing food. Ditto for grass.
Your new lawn has lost a lot of root mass and it can’t reach into the soil to get water until those roots have grown back. Without water, the plants will die. So if you want to look after your newly laid turf you MUST make sure that the soil beneath it is always moist.
How much water does newly laid turf need?
That all depends on your soil type and the weather. In very hot or windy weather you may need to water twice a day. If your soil is very free draining and you didn’t manage to add water retaining crystals to it before the turf was laid, you will need to be super-vigilant about watering.
Check every evening by lifting up one corner of the turf. If the soil beneath it is dry or just damp, give the lawn a really good soaking. Keep watering until there are puddles on the surface. After half an hour, check that the soil beneath your turf is good and wet. If it’s not – water it again.
You’ll probably find that after a week or so, your newly laid turf needs a little less water each time.
After two weeks, provided the weather is not scorchingly hot, reduce the amount and the frequency of watering. Perhaps every other day until you feel that your lawn is able to fend for itself a bit better.
Avoid walking on the lawn while the turf is new
The grass plants in your lawn have been through a lot of trauma in their journey from turf field to your garden. What they need is a bit of peace and quiet until they are settled.
Grass is incredibly tough – and that’s because it can quickly regrow whenever the leaves are damaged by feet, pets, toys etc. In the first couple of weeks after it is laid, your turf will be busy replacing the roots that were cut off by the harvester. It won’t be able to repair leaves as well.
So, even though it’s tempting to roll around on your new lawn, please don’t – at least not until the roots are established.
If you do need to walk on your lawn – for example to water it – use laying boards to spread the weight. Please remember to pick them up afterwards though.
Don’t be in a hurry to mow your new lawn
There’s a fine line between letting a new lawn grow so fast that it weakens itself, and stressing it by too much mowing. Please keep the mower blades fairly high (around 5-6cm) for the first 3-4 months after laying your lawn.
When to mow your new turf for the first time
It’s vital that the roots are well established before you start mowing. Otherwise the action of the mower could rip up the turves and make a horrific mess. Check by tugging on a handful of grass. If you feel the turf lift – it’s too soon to mow. If the blades of grass break off and leave the roots in the soil – you’re good to go.
For the first cut, make sure the mower blades are really sharp. Blunt blades rip at the grass leaving open wounds that could let diseases in. Aim to just nip the top off the grass this time round. Definitely don’t take off more than one third of the length…in fact I’d say about one quarter is just right. So if your new lawn is about 8cm long, bring it down to 6cm.
That might not seem a lot – but remember what we said earlier about your turf being like a person recovering from major surgery? Too much too soon is asking for trouble.
Make sure the grass box is on for the first cut too. You don’t want clippings left on the surface of the lawn at this stage.
Cut again in 4-5 days time, this time you can drop the mower blades a little. Remembering not to remove any more than 1/3 of the length.
Longer grass is great for mowing stripes into the lawn. Read more about mowing stripes into your lawn
Feeding your new lawn
If you added a pre-turfing fertiliser to the soil before laying your lawn, you shouldn’t need to feed your new lawn for 4-6 weeks after laying it.
However, if you forgot the pre-turfing feed, the plants will be grateful for a nutrient top up ASAP. Apply fertiliser after 10 days or so and be sure to water it in well. This will support root growth and help your lawn to be ready to cope with wear and tear quicker.
Be sure to use the right feed for the season. Between March and August in Scotland, use a spring-summer formulation. From September to February, and autumn-winter feed will encourage healthy roots but not too much top growth.
You can order lawn feed online or talk to the Stewarts Turf Team for advice