How to lay turf
There might be many reasons as to why you’re considering laying new turf. Maybe you have had your garden landscaped and need to lay a brand new lawn. Or maybe you have decided your old lawn is not worth saving and that a new lawn is both an easier and prettier option than spending time and money on improving your old turf. Regardless of your motivation behind laying a new turf, here is a straightforward guide as to how to do it yourself.
When to lay turf
The ideal time to lay a new lawn is autumn as a new lawn needs moisture and the winter rain will help water the grass. But make sure the soil is neither too wet nor frosty, as both will hamper growth. If you lay the lawn in early spring or in autumn there is usually not much need for mowing as the grass grows slowly. This means it has time to establish.
But if you do chose to lay the lawn in spring, make sure you do not live in an area where there is likely to be a hosepipe ban during the summer months as you will probably need to water the new turf very regularly to avoid it drying out or dying.
It might be tempting to buy cheap turf from a bigger chain store but this could prove to be false economy if the turf is of poor quality. You are probably better off buying from a reputable supplier
who also delivers to your door. Quality turf is raised from grass seeds and comes in several grades suitable for different situations. Your supplier should be able to advise on what type of turf you need. The turf will arrive in compact rolls. Once the turf rolls are delivered, store them in a shaded spot and aim to lay within 24 hours of delivery to avoid the turf drying out. This means the area you want to lay the lawn should ideally be prepared in advance.
If you are laying new turf in an area where there is currently no turf, make sure the area is level flattening any bulges and filling any holes. You can flatten the soil with a vibrating plate or simply by walking over it and using a rake. The soil should not be too compacted. If you’re replacing old turf you need to remove the old grass and also any weeds and stones. You can use a weed killer to remove the weeds but make sure it is not a residual one as any chemicals left in the soil will prevent the grass from establishing.
For the best result you should turn over at least 15cm of the soil using a spade or motorised cultivator. Mix in some manure or other organic matter for soil improvement if you feel this is needed in your area. This should now be left for several days to settle. If possible leave it for several weeks. Then, before you move onto the next stage you can check for weeds again and remove these by hand. Lastly, level the area using your feet and a rake, making sure to remove any stones or debris.
Once the area has been prepared you can lay your first roll of turf. Do this along a straight edge. Slowly unroll the grass to avoid it breaking apart. Then take the next roll of turf and butt it closely up against the previous roll. To make sure the turf has good contact with the soil underneath use the back of the rake to tamp it firmly down. After the first row is completed, lay the second row butt up against the first row. The rows should be staggered in a brickwork pattern. Complete the entire lawn area in the same way. When laying the turf you should never walk on it as this will damage the fragile grass. Instead, use planks to lay across the turf as gangways.
Once the whole area has been covered in new turf, cut the edges of the lawn off by laying down a flat board and cutting a straight cut along the length of the new turf. To prevent the edges of the turf from drying out place some soil underneath. You can also spread a mixture of sand and soil into the joints of the turf using a rake or a brush. This will fill up any gaps there might be. If you have a sprinkler system set this up to soak the new lawn thoroughly. If not use a watering can and water by hand.
The newly laid turf will take a few weeks before it’s rooted into the soil so avoid walking on for at least a couple of weeks. A newly laid lawn needs to be watered every day until it is established. The best way of watering is by using a sprinkler. Water the grass for around two hours each day. If it is very hot or very windy you probably need to water the lawn for a bit longer. If you see any brown patches forming water these areas straight away and more frequently until they recover.
To maintain a great looking lawn you should as a rule of thumb, feed it with a good grass fertiliser every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in regards to how much and how often, as this will ensure the best result.
Do not cut the grass until after you are certain the lawn has rooted. For the first couple of mows you should only trim it lightly using a high setting for the mower blade. A good guide is to only cut one third of the height of the grass. Only when the lawn is fully established should you start cutting the grass lower. The optimal height of a lawn is between 15mm and 35 mm.