How to Lay Turf

Laying turf - a day's job in most cases. If you have a large area, or want to split the job up, spend one day preparing the surface and the second day laying the turf.

Turf is delivered in rolls, it is ideally lifted the same morning it is delivered and should be laid the same day. Turves can be cut easily with a half-moon edgder or even a large kitchen knife. Use them whole wherever possible however with few cuts.

A relatively simple operation if hard work, the steps are;

        Remove large stones, weeds and other debris.      

        Rotavate to loosen soil up, rake and again remove weeds, stones etc.

        Move soil about to level the site if necessary. Rake smooth.

        Firm soil down, shuffle over the ground with both feet together, make sure the whole area has been compacted this way.

        A fertiliser can be applied at this point if desired. A general one such as Gromore or blood, fish and bone. Make sure you rake it in well to the soil before the turves are laid, then water well and leave overnight before laying turves if possible.

        Lay turves (green side up), stagger joins, take care not to stretch turves, they can be left for 2 or 3 days still rolled up if absolutely necessary, but should ideally be laid the same day that they are lifted

        Water turves to help settle them down, give a really good soak.

        Stay off the grass for at least two weeks, longer if possible. Water well every 2-3 days during dry spells.

When to Lay Turf

    Turf can be laid at any time of year in the UK, some times are better than others however:

    Winter - Avoid frosty days, in fact you probably won't get it delivered as the turf merchants won't lift it then. Growth is very slow and you'll need to stay off it for much longer than the usual 2 weeks - how long? - depends on the temperature, if it's below 5C (41F) then there is no growth at all and those days don't count. I'd say about 2 months to be safe which doesn't matter probably if you don't have pets, but does if you do.

    Spring - A good time, early spring is better than late spring. Watch out for dry periods later on and water as appropriate.

    Summer - Best avoided if possible. Dry periods spell problems or much effort and a high water bill. High temperatures means that the grass stops growing.

    Autumn - Best of all. Cooler days but not too cool means the grass grows well, usually dampish so less need to water and the grass is less likely to be walked on.

Turf Quality

Beware meadow turf. You may be offered turf that seems significantly cheaper than from other sources. The chances are that this will be "meadow turf". This is grass that has been growing in a field some-where, not initially intended for lawns, and is then lifted and sold. It will often contain weeds and coarse wild grasses. It can be used, but is really "spoiling the ship for a ha'peth of tar". Make sure you buy cultivated turf that has been grown as a crop specifically for lifting and laying, it will be on good soil, weed free and have the right kinds of grass species in it.

For most situations standard "Amenity grade turf" is more than adequate, this is not bowling green and it isn't rough grassland. It looks good with a modicum of care and will withstand reasonable amounts of trampling by the feet of both people and pets.

Make sure you ask before you buy, and beware bargains!

The starting point for your turf laying may be very uninspiring, particularly if the property is new and turf is not provided as in these pictures. Remove particularly large stones by hand initially so as not to damage the rotavator blades.

Here a small rotavator is being used to loosen larger weeds to help their removal. Perennial weeds are best dug up, cutting off the top-growth may leave the roots which will then grow again through the new turf.

The next job is to rotavate the whole area. The larger the rotavator, the quicker it will be. Rotavators are available from tool hire shops, who will often deliver and collect. Do not underestimate the effort involved in controlling one of these machines, particularly in manoeuvring around a small garden. Depending on the state of the soil, two or three circuits should be enough. Smaller machines are available and are lighter to control, but will obviously take longer to do the same job.

The rotavator will loosen stones (as well as bits of wood, old tin cans, nails and all sorts of other rubbish), and dig up weeds. Any perennial weeds with long tap roots should be individually dug out as far as possible. These all then need to raked up......

...and removed from the site. The remaining soil while not being completely stone free (unnecessary in most cases) should have the majority removed. (6 barrow loads came from this small garden)

The site should then leveled. With a roller if you have one, by shuffling your feet if you don't (very good exercise!)

Turves are rolled out in position. Start at a straight edge and stagger the joints. Order about 5% more turf than the area you are covering to allow for wastage at cut edges.

Keep 'em coming....

A final rolling helps to smooth the finish and ensure that the underside of the turves are in contact with the soil so that the roots can grow. Give a good watering with a hose at this point.

Two weeks on the result is a vibrant green lawn. The edges of individual turves can be made out, but very shortly everything will blend in. If there is a dry spell, the lawn will need to be watered every few days for the first month or so. A good soak twice a week is better than a daily dribble. The lawn should not be walked on for at least two weeks as not to damage the fine newly developing grass roots as they grow out of the turf into the soil below.

If there are gaps between the turves, then fill in using a mix of sand and peat, the grass will soon knit across the top.

With thanks to Sid and Richard - Sid Bibby Turf- Cambridgeshire and neighbouring counties

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