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How to Lay Turf in 5 Steps

How to Prepare and Lay a new Lawn

Turf is still the number one choice for laying new lawns. It is an instant lawn that can be used fully in a matter of months - sometimes just a few weeks. Nowadays, turf is normally farmed properly, with good general lawn seed mixes resulting in a good grass - normally free of weeds! The days of turf suppliers contacting local farmers, to see if they have a meadow that is no longer required for sheep grazing are all but finished. Modern turf production entails choice of suitable seed, good growing medium and a well cut finished article.

Laying turf is the quickest way of getting a new lawn. The preparation necessary for laying turf is simple and often misquoted or misunderstood. Laying turf is simple, and here is how you go about laying a turf lawn>>>> 

Before you start, bear in mind that turf is not always as controlled as grass seed. Most grass seed that is sown will be subject to various regulations and standards. Turf can be variable - even from the same supplier at different periods.

It would be good to try and visit your supplier to see what is in stock - just to make sure that all the hard work you are going to do by way of turfing your new lawn will not be in vain.

Laying Turf Step 1

A straight edge timber for a perfectly laid lawn

Step 1. There are a few thing to do before you go about laying new turf lawns.After digging the ground over, the soil should be firmed; by treading all over the lawn area, until it is firm enough not to leave footprints. If you have not 'levelled' a piece of ground before - or even if you have! - A straight edge - here a scaffold board - will prove a useful aid. 

A slight slope across or down the garden is never a problem - we are not talking about level as in spirit level. Basically the aim is for a lawn with no bumps or hollows.

Grade with straight edge, rake over, consolidate with feet, grade again with straight edge, consolidate with feet and rake to fine tilth. Repeat this as many times as is required to ensure you have a flat lawn, with no daylight showing beneath the straight edge timber. The heavier the timber the better - but watch your back. It can be very tiring if you are not used to this type of work.

Laying Turf Step 2

The straight edge acts as a guide to levelling the soil

Step 2. Needless to say - I hope - that this should all be carried out when the soil is most - or dry - but not when waterlogged - especially on heavy soils. Do not be afraid to stand on, or work from the area that you are levelling. The soil should have been firmed enough to withstand your weight!! After all, you are going to want to walk over your newly laid lawn eventually. Your footprint should be no more than a mark - not a depression!

The final operation in levelling your new lawn area, should be a light raking over the whole are to double check the level of the lawn, and to provide a good surface - not too compacted - to enable the turf roots to penetrate.

Laying Turf Step 3

Laying the turf from scaffold boards compacts the new turf - and avaids footpring damage

Step 3. When you are ready for laying your turf to form your new lawn, work forward - preferably from a few scaffold boards or even a sheet of shuttering plywood - laying the turf in front of you.  Don't run about on the new turf with a wheelbarrow though. But it is ok wheeling on the scaffold board. Do any necessary fine adjustments to the 'levelling at this stage. If you feel a bump or a hollow beneath the board, sort it out. If the turf is to be wheeled any distance in wheelbarrow, then make sure that you have enough scaffold boards before you start. Do not wheel the wheelbarrow on the newly laid turf - not even if you have a ball barrow.

If you can, try and lay  the turf so that they are staggered - as with brickwork. However, this is NOT absolutely essential. If you lay the turf staggered or butted up against each other, you will still end up with the same combined lengths of individual turf joints. A simple overlap will suffice.

Laying Turf Step 4

The scaffold boards in use with the roll of turf being laid

Step 4. As above - just take your time. Simply moving the scaffold board forward and working from it, will be enough to settle the turf in. There is no need to beat the daylights out of it.  This only loosens it as it bounces up and down!. A good watering, after the turf has been laid, will be all that is required to settle the turf into close contact with the soil underneath. As you walk the boards, you will 'feel' or sense if there are any hollows underneath. Don't be too eager to finish and ignore these last minute adjustments. Have a bucket or so of fine soil - or soil and sand mix to do the fine adjustments to hollows as you proceed.

Once the turf has been laid, treat it with a bit of respect. A good watering after laying, will help the turf settle down and start the rooting through process. If you carefully lift a corner of one of the turf after 4 or 5 days, you will probably see first signs of new roots growing from the turf. This will depend a little on the weather conditions and temperature. (If you lay your turf in winter, it probably won't start rooting until its bed warms up in early spring.

You can walk upon it right away; but please, no football or the like for a few weeks. (Even if you do feel that the England team might call upon your services!) 
Make sure that you cut the grass as soon as it is long enough - even after a week if necessary. Make sure that the mower is sharp, and lift the blades to their topmost height for the first two cuts.
If the new turf separates and forms cracks in hot weather, brush a little soil or sand into the cracks and keep
watered. If you find that the lawn has 'settled' into a few small dips, lift the turf off the area that has sunk, and bring the soil back up to level with a little bit more soil.

Laying Turf Step 5

Sand can be added and forked in to heavy clay soils for the lawn
Punch holes into the soil with a garden fork

Step 5. If your garden soil is 'heavy' then don't be afraid to incorporate a fair quantity of sharp sand. It can be incorporated into the soil by piercing with a fork. This will give better drainage, and help the lawn in play areas and areas of hard use. The application of a layer of sharp sand will probably be beneficial to most new lawns. Essential if the soil is heavy and sticks to your boots.

Other than its horticultural benefit, a 'sanded' lawn surface is a dream to level - providing that you are not filling hollows that are more than an inch (25mm) deep. By laying a layer of sharp sand over the area, you can get the lawn more or less perfectly level with either the straight edge - or the back of a 'landscape-size' rake.


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