Understanding Turf Quality Standards
Have you heard of the TGA Standard for turf? No? In this article, we look at the TGA Standard and explain what it means for gardeners and for landscape professionals.
A brief background to the TGA Turf Quality Standard
I’m sure you’ve heard of British Standards? They are a set of rules that are written specifically for individual products or services. There are British Standards for almost anything you can buy from Protective Clothing to Packaging, Fire Extinguishers to Furniture. There’s also a British Standard for turf. BS 3969.
Turf for specialist lawns need to meet high standards. Not just for appearances sake, but so that the owner can be sure they are buying the best turf for the job. For a football pitch, the grasses need to be healthy, robust and able to stand a lot of wear and tear. For an ornamental lawn, wear and tear may not be a problem but fineness of leaf and tolerance of close mowing are imperative.
Specifiers such as architects need to list all of the things a builder or landscaper will need to bring their design to life. They specify the exact bricks, paving stones, plants etc but when it comes to the turf, they tend to just refer to the British Standard. That way they know that it will be safe to use. Ie it won’t be grown on potentially toxic soil or contain invasive weeds.
BS 3969 was originally written by topsoil experts and to be perfectly honest with you – it wasn’t all that relevant to the product. So, in 1996, the Turfgrass Growers Association (TGA) devised a set of practical tests for turf that growers, specifiers and landscapers could all understand – and use.
The TGA Quality Standard for turf is a user-friendly standard that helps buyers understand whether the turf they are specifying will be fit for purpose.
What is covered by the TGA Standard?
The TGA Standard tells you whether the turf you are buying is likely to make a sustainable natural grass lawn.
Types of grass in the seedmix
There are dozens, if not hundreds of varieties of lawn grass available in the UK. This can be broken down into 5 main species. Perennial Ryegrass, Smooth-Stalked Meadowgrass, Fescue, Bent and Poa Supina. Within those species are lots of varieties – each with its own set of characteristics. It’s like a family where everyone has brown hair and blue eyes but John is an excellent musician, Sarah bakes, Sue has a head for figures and Ian is a clever carpenter.
A bowling green calls for fine grasses and nothing else. With the TGA Standard for turf quality you will know what's in the turf you are buying before it gets delivered to you.
The TGA Standard asks growers to list what species and varieties of grass were in the seedmix when it was sown. All of the varieties must be listed and described in detail by the STRI (Sports Turf Research Institute). For most gardeners, it’s enough to know the species but for greenkeepers looking after sports stadia, the varieties are important.
Types of grass in the actual sward
The proportion of seeds in the seedmix doesn’t always match the proportion in the actual turf. It will be different for lots of reasons. Mainly because the seeds are mixed by weight not by size. So 1Kg of fescue seed may contain 1 million seeds whilst 1Kg of perennial ryegrass could only contain 700,000 seeds.
Weather, soil conditions, maintenance regimes and age of turf can also have an effect on the proportion on grasses in the sward.
This part of the Standard also asks the grower to declare if there are any weeds or bare patches in the sward.
Health of the turf
The TGA Standard asks the grower to comment on the health of the turf and it’s general appearance.
Keep operatives (and yourself) safe by knowing what each roll of turf weighs. It's important for Health and Safety and to avoid back injuries. The TGA Standard asks growers to declare the average roll weight.
The weight of a roll of turf matters. It matters for haulage costs, it matters for the poor soul who has to handle and lay it.
Again, this probably doesn’t matter too much for a gardener like you or me. But for a specialist application like a golf course or an environmentally sensitive site, soil does matter.
If ever you’ve laid turf, you’ll know that roll strength matters. There’s nothing more frustrating than having roll after roll fall apart when you’re trying to lay them. You can expect a few weaker rolls, especially after a long period of wet weather, or early in the season when roots are weaker. But you do need to know that the turf you’re buying will be fairly straightforward to transport and put down.
Where to buy TGA Standard Turf
Only member of the Turfgrass Growers Association are able to offer TGA turf for sale. Not all growers are members, so look out for the logo on their website and paperwork or check the TGA directory.
When you have located a TGA Member that you’d like to buy from, talk to them and ask to see the most recent certificate for their crop.
Stewarts Turf have their turf inspected regularly and can normally supply a recent TGA certificate for free. If you need a certificate for your consignment however, there will normally be a moderate charge.