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How & When to lay turf – Some Simple DIY Steps

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It’s suggested by many companies that turf can be laid all year round. But that’s not necessarily true if you want it to settle into your soil bed without any issues. If you decide to lay turf, you’re also going to need to decide if you want to lay it yourself or have it done by a professional.

That includes, preparing the soil bed, getting it down neatly and caring for it after its been done, including mowing, feeding and even overseeding.

So, in this article. I’m sharing a bit of guidance on how to lay turf and when might be the best time of year to do it so that it thrives in its early days.

Turf vs Seed

In may article called How, Why & When to sow grass seed, I do a full comparison of the turf and seed costs. That’s because the biggest difference between turf and seed is the cost. While seed will only cost you very little, turf could set you back around £300 per 50m2

That said, the number one benefit of laying turf is how quickly your lawn can look great and the slightly more flexibility in terms of when it can be laid. This might be necessary if for example you plan to put your house on the market and want to quickly spruce up your garden.

Ordering the best turf for your needs

Just like when you buy grass seed, there will be different turf options for you to choose from. Different turf will be made up of different grass seed species and you’ll want to make sure you use the best type for your usage.

For example, will your pets and kids be using it extensively?

If so, you’ll want a hard wearing type that contains a quality Perennial Ryegrass with excellent recovery characteristics.

Or, is your grass in the shade?

Then you’ll want a turf that is able to withstand wet soil and minimal sunlight – usually one that contains more fescue varieties.

If you plan to instal an irrigation system, then this will need to be done before the turf goes down. While I’m not going to talk in great details about irrigation systems here, I do have a couple of tips.

  • Plan it well so that the whole turf is covered by the system – you don’t want any brown corners because the water can’t reach that far
  • Test your system before laying the turf to make sure you’re 100% happy with it. Yeah you might end up with a lot of waterlogged soil but that’s way better than having to rip up the grass after paying hundreds of pounds for it to be laid.

Materials needed for laying turf

Apart from the obvious turf, you’re going to need a few other tools and materials.

Note: you should always apply a pre-turf fertiliser (sometimes this is supplied with the product you buy so double check first) – if not, you can buy it here. This can be done either before or after but it will be slightly more beneficial if you do it beforehand because it will feed the current soil bed and the turf bed together. Meaning the roots will be able to get more nutrients as they embed themselves into the soil.

  • Turf
  • Pre turf fertiliser
  • Roller
  • Wooden boards (for walking on)
  • Lawn Roller
  • 70/30 Sand/Soil Mix
  • Compost taken from another part of the garden
  • Hose Pipe & Sprinkler
  • Stanley knife

Steps on how to lay turf

The very first step is to get the ground level – I’ve written a full article on how to prepare the soil bed. Once the ground is level you can start following the steps below.

Before you get excited and order your turf though, remember you’ll need to get the turf down within 24 hours of it being delivered or at least keep it in the shade if that’s not possible. So, make sure you have it delivered at the exact time you’re going to be ready to put it down.

So, what are the steps?

  1. Place a piece of turf in one corner of the soil
  2. If you have a rounded edge, overlap the pieces so the whole edge is covered, then cut the corner piece with a Stanley knife so it follows the curve.
  3. Work across in a row row to the other end of the soil.
    • Push each piece together together tightly so you don’t have any gaps.
    • If you have any hollows fill them in with sand and soil. On the other hand, if there’s a bump, level it out and mix the removed soil with your sand.
    • Rake the soil before unravelling the piece again
  4. As you get to the far side, cut the last piece of turf so it fits within the boundaries of the lawn.
  5. Once you have a straight row, you will work upwards from there while facing the soil.
    • Put a wooden board on the freshly laid grass so you don’t need to step directly on it and leave marks
  6. Start the second row from the side which the first row finished – this will allow the joins to be staggered – similar to that of brickwork.
  7. Roll over it to firmly push it into place
  8. Sprinkle some compost or 70/30 sand soil mix and brush it into the joins
  9. water in the turf every day

What can go wrong when laying turf?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that it can be laid at any time of year. However, thinking about the concept – we’re laying live turf bed on a separated bed of soil. This means that the roots need to work their way into the soil bed via its current layer of soil. So, if you want it to be stay green and thrive in the mid to long term, then every blade of grass needs to settle in well.

In short, this is much more likely to happen in Spring or Autumn than it is in Winter or Summer because the conditions are generally perfect for grass to thrive. Summer is too hot and Winter too cold.

Believe it or not, this is exactly the same time as when its best to sow seed.

What if the turf doesn’t settle in properly?

If ti doesn’t settle in properly, then the grass will eventually, at worse die off. It may turn yellow and bounce back when conditions are better or when the roots have settled. If this happens, you’re going to want to do an overseed.

So, that may leave you with the question – “what are the actual benefits of turf other than speed of greenness.

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