Laying Turf in Your Garden

A well-maintained lawn can make a major contribution to any garden and whether you are starting a-fresh, or replacing an existing poor quality patch of grass, turf offers one of the best ways to achieve that “perfect” patch of green.

While creating a new lawn with turf works out more expensive that simply sowing the area with grass seed, it does produce an instant visual effect – and will be serviceable in as little as three or four months.

By contrast, seeding can take anything up to a year before it can be subjected to heavy use – and often looks a bit patchy while it becomes established.

Selecting Turf

Turf is available in a variety of qualities and at a variety of prices – ranging from those which are purpose-grown and guaranteed free of unwanted grass types to the much cheaper meadow turf, which may contain coarser grasses, daisies and other broad-leafed weeds. The size and intended use of the lawn obviously plays a large part in the decision making, but whatever grade you opt for, it is always advisable to buy from a reputable garden centre or other supplier – and where possible, inspect the turf first to reassure yourself of its quality.

Turf is supplied in a range of sizes, with the best quality often being sold in rolls 16-inch wide by seven feet long (40cm x 2.1m), while lower quality material comes in shorter rolls; many suppliers offer all grades in square-yard or square-metre pieces.

Laying It

Laying turf is one of the few jobs in the garden that does not depend on the season and can be done in most weathers. Conditions are ideal if a little gentle rain is expected in the next day or so, but with the exception of times of extreme heat or cold, almost any time of the year will do.

For best success, turf needs to be laid on lightly raked soil that is moist – but not soaking wet. This is important since it allows the new grass to take root well, so if the soil seems overly dry it is worthwhile watering the plot before starting. The first row should ideally be laid along a straight edge, such as a path or patio, with each roll being laid flush with the one before to create an unbroken covering.

Once you have completed the first strip, protect it by putting planks down on your newly laid turf to spread your weight while you work and then start laying the second row, but taking care to offset the joints – as if you were building a brick wall – to avoid the possibility of slippage. Move the planks forward and then continue each subsequent row – staggering the joints as you go – until you have completed the whole area.

Next Steps

The next step is to make sure that there is no trapped air underneath the strips so that the new grass roots can begin to enter the soil below. A light roller is probably the best way to do this – especially if the new lawn is relatively large; if you don’t have access to one, firmly but gently tamp each turf down with the back of a rake. Finally, add a small amount of sandy loam as a top-dressing, brushing it in to fill any gaps between individual pieces of turf.

Newly-laid turf needs to be provided with sufficient water if it is to thrive and take properly. Immediately after laying, if rain is not forecast, the turf needs to be well watered-in and then kept moist until the new grass has started to root. If it dries out too much, the strips can shrink allowing unsightly gaps to appear and this can be a particular problem in extended periods of very hot or dry weather.

Few aspects of any garden make such an instant impression as a well-tended lawn and turf is a time-honoured way to produce one. Although it is more costly than using seed, it has its advantages, which for some gardens makes it the solution of choice. Laying turf is not a difficult job and with a little attention to the aftercare – in particular the watering – your lawn can be everything you want it to be.