Create a green space in your garden
Lawn feels amazing underfoot, and adds colour to your garden all year. If your lawn has a few patchy areas, or you want to lay lawn on an area that previously had gravel or decking on it, laying new turf will give you instant results.
Choosing to turf, as opposed to growing from seed, means that you can sort your lawn at any time of the year, and it will become established quickly. However, while laying turf isn’t difficult, you need to make sure that it is fresh and of good quality, and that the weather conditions are right – check the forecast before you put in the order.
Tools & materials required
- Top soil
- Sharp sand. Mix in equal quantities with top soil to enrich heavy or poor quality soils before laying turf.
- Pre-turf fertiliser
- Spade or turf stripper
- Garden roller
- Builder’s line – this is nylon line attached to pins that you hammer into the soil. It helps you stay true when laying turf or paving
- Wooden stakes or pegs
- Club hammer
- Edger or a long-bladed knife
- Soft broom
How to prepare your site
Turf should be laid on flat, smooth and firm soil with good drainage.
You can lay turf at almost any time of the year, as long as the soil isn't waterlogged or frozen - spring and early autumn are the best times. Check the forecast before ordering your turf to make sure you avoid any prolonged wet weather, as well as frosts.
Start by taking off any existing grass by under-cutting it with a spade - if you have a larger area, you might find that hiring a turf stripper is a quicker and easier option.
Dig over or rotorvate the area you want to turf to a depth of about 15cm, removing all debris, large stones, weeds and old tree roots.
Top tip: Dealing with heavy and poor quality soils
If the soil where you're planning to lay your turf is poor in quality, or heavy in texture (such as a clay soil), dig in a 50/50 mix of top soil and sharp sand at this point to improve the drainage qualities.
Rake over the ground to get a smooth surface. Firm down the soil by lightly rolling it with a roller (you can hire one of these) or by treading the area down with your feet. Rake it over again, repeating the process until the whole area is level, even and firm, but not compacted. Using a wide rake makes this easier.
Sprinkle granules of pre-turf fertiliser over the area following the instructions on the pack, and lightly rake them in. This helps the rooting process, so your turf becomes established more quickly.
Mark out the exact boundaries of the lawn using a builder’s line and sharpened wooden stakes or pegs. Use a club hammer to drive them into the ground.
Rake your soil one last time – remove any stones and make sure that it’s level. You’ll then be able to immediately lay your turf.
How to lay your turf
You can buy turf by the square metre. The turf is cut in strips and delivered rolled up to make it easy to move. Calculate the exact amount you'll need before ordering. Measure out the area of your intended lawn, and multiply the length by the width to give you the area in square metres. Then be sure to add about 5% extra to allow for wastage.
Ideally, make sure you’ve done your preparation before your order your turf and then try and lay your turf within 24 hours of its arrival. However, if this is impossible due to wet or frosty weather, or you’re unable to lay immediately, make sure you unroll the turf and lay it flat in full sun – and make sure it doesn’t dry out.
Lay your turf along all the edges first, with the longest sides of the turf parallel to the boundary line. If there's a curved edge, you'll need to overlap pairs of turf strips slightly and then trim off the excess - it's best to cut your turf strips to size with a long-bladed knife or an half-moon edger.
Before laying it up to the hard edges of paving or stepping stones, make sure the top of the soil is level with the edging. Having the surface of your lawn slightly higher than the surrounding hard edge will mean you can mow right up to the edge.
Edges should be tidied with an edger or long bladed knife.
Using the board as a platform to work from, start laying turfs from left to right - be sure to stagger the joints in the same way as brickwork, from row to row. Butt the ends and edges tightly together without stretching the turf, so there are no visible gaps.
To cut turfs to size, use either an edger or a long-bladed knife.
If you spot a hollow in any of the turf, just peel it back and fill beneath with topsoil before replacing it. You can also sprinkle fine topsoil into any gaps between the turf, and brush over with a soft broom so you get even coverage.
Roll your finished lawn with a light garden roller to level the turf and bed it into the soil.
How to look after your new lawn
Your newly-laid lawn will need to be well watered, ideally with a sprinkler so that the water is evenly distributed, until the turf is established. In spring and summer, this will mean watering it once or twice a day. You'll find your lawn dries out most quickly in warm or windy conditions – if this happens, your turf will shrink and gaps will appear.
Try to avoid walking on your new lawn for a couple of weeks so the turf can bed in and knit together. Only mow it once the turf has rooted, setting the blades at the highest setting. Then you can begin to mow regularly, taking off no more than a third of the grass height each time. You can tell when your turf has rooted by gently trying to lift an edge: if it won't come up, it's taken root.
If you've laid your new lawn in spring, you can begin feeding it with a lawn fertiliser after two months. But if you laid it in autumn, it won't need feeding until the following spring.
It's always worth checking with your local water authority before you use a hosepipe and sprinkler to see if there's a hosepipe ban in your area. If there is, it's best to water your newly-laid lawn with a watering can filled from a water butt.