How to Lay Garden Turf

Laying turf is the quickest and easiest way to create a new lawn and, although more expensive than sowing grass seed, it allows you to have an instant green carpet in your garden. Learning how to lay garden turf is not that difficult, but getting all of the stages correct takes a bit more work and thought.

You need to prepare well before you lay new turf, making sure the ground is ready and that you understand how much turf you need. Arrange for your turf to arrive no more than 1 day before you plan to lay it. When it arrives, if the weather is hot and dry, spray the pile of turf rolls with water, making sure to apply plenty water to the ends of rolls that are showing. You should also order an appropriate pre-turfing fertiliser with your turf.

Calculating How Much Turf You Need

To work out how much turf you need to cover the area you want as a lawn, measure the length and the width and multiply the two measurements. For example, a 4m x 5m area will require 20 square metres of turf to cover it. If each roll of turf covers 1 square meter (the turf supplier will be able to tell you this), you will need 20 rolls.

Preparing the Ground for Turf

Assuming you have already removed any existing turf, or cleared the area of plants and other garden debris, you need to loosely turn the topsoil and remove any surface stone, large clods of soil and as many weeds as possible.

Aim to get the whole surface as level and as even as possible. Do this by walking over the whole area in small steps, then rake the whole surface and water the area well a few days before you plan to lay the turf.

If you have not already removed existing turf, you can hire a turf cutter from most tool hire shops.

You will need around 100mm-150mm of good topsoil to lay the new turf on top of. If your soil is poor quality, consider adding a layer of purchased topsoil.

How to Lay Garden Turf

Step 1: Sprinkle pre-turfing fertiliser evenly over the area. Rake lightly to incorporate it and give the finished smooth surface.

Step 2: It is time to lay the turf. You can either lay turf whilst standing on the prepared ground or whilst standing on laid turf with the use of boards to prevent marking your new lawn. If you stand on the soil, give each new row a light rake to remove your foot marks and to make sure the soil is not too compacted.

Step 3: Start from a long straight edge and roll out a turve. DO NOT stretch the turve or you will get shrinkage later. If you are happy with the angle of your first turve, roll out the next one. Push the starting edge of the second turve hard against the first one make sure to butt all joins up tightly. Do not have turves overlapping on top of already laid turf. You can use the back of the rake to pull the turves tightly together.

Step 4: You do not need to roll or tamp the turf at this stage except at the joins or edges. However if you have a very light roller this can be used to increase the turf to soil contact. Make sure and manually flatten the very start (centre) of the roll of turf (where the harvesting machine first turned the turf) As it is always misshapen.

Step 5: If you have gaps created through poor cutting or uneven turf sizes, you can blend the edges closer together by manually stretching, almost tearing the edges. (like flattening out dough). The turf will contract back a bit but you do improve the join.

If the gaps are too big for that, use a Stanley knife to cut slivers from your off cuts of turf and squeeze these into the join. Remember wherever you do that type of join, will need extra water to aid recovery.

Step 6: Here’s a little secret used by turf laying professionals to increase the “wow” factor on a new lawn. Roll out your alternate rows in opposite directions. This gives a good striped “just mown” appearance. Do not use small cuttings at edges of lawn. Use them in the middle.

Step 7: It is best to do your edges last, leave enough turf overlapping your proposed edge, that once you are done, you can lay a hose or rope on the edge and use an edging iron to shape your turf. This can be left quite rough, you can smooth this off easier when the turf has rooted in a couple of weeks.

Step 8: When you are done, unless a good amount of rain is forecast, you must water the grass. If you can’t apply water due to hosepipe bans or water meters, then leave turf laying to the autumn/winter season This must be a very good soak, it may take several hours of sprinkler to put on enough. This must be repeated regularly for 1 month.