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12 August 2021

How to lay turf to make a lawn

Turf is a quick and easy way to create a new lawn or to repair an existing one
CT
Ceri Thomas
Roll of turf

When you want a new lawn, laying turf can be a much faster solution than sowing seed, giving you an attractive result straight away. It’s relatively easy to do and good-quality turf will establish quickly on well-prepared soil, so you could be walking on it within weeks.


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Rating
Company
Why they're good
Contact
Best Buy
This was the best turf in the trial. It was moist when it arrived, the turves had been cut neatly to a uniform depth and size, had sharp edges and had been grown in rich, stone-free soil so they were light and easy to handle and lay. The grass was in excellent health on arrival, with a vigorous root system. After 12 weeks the grass still had strong colour and looked as good as it had done when first laid.
Recommended
This turf had been cut to a uniform size and depth and the edges of the turves were neat. The soil was good, but a little stony and the turves were relatively heavy to handle and awkward to manoeuvre on the ground. Each turf had a good root system and this turf was the quickest in the trial to root and establish. Grass thickness and colour were both good when it arrived and remained good throughout the trial.

How to buy the best turf

Online

Ordering online for a home delivery is ideal if you need a large amount or don’t want to load heavy turf into your car, although you can collect from some suppliers if that’s easier. The websites of the companies we used varied in their ease of use. Some have calculators to help you order the correct amount, while some companies require a phone call to place the order. Delivery charges vary widely and can add considerably to the cost of the turf. The majority sell different types of turf for different uses and situations, such as shade and active families, so think about your needs before ordering. Bear in mind that you may need access for a large lorry and that pallet deliveries will usually only be moved to the kerb outside your house.

In store

At garden centres and DIY stores you’ll find turf on a pallet in the car park where it can be easily loaded into your car. Some places may be able to arrange delivery, although you may have to wait for this. Our experience showed it’s best to phone ahead to check they have sufficient stocks as it can sell very quickly. All the places we checked got regular weekly or fortnightly deliveries in spring and were happy to tell us what day it was expected, with one even offering to phone us back once it had arrived. This is ideal as you get fresh turf that has just been delivered. The turf we saw mostly looked good quality, although some was older and a bit dry. If you see stock that’s clearly been sitting in the sun a while and looks dry, don’t buy it. One garden centre even warned us that we’d be better off waiting for the next delivery. Prices and turf sizes can vary enormously, although Rolawn Medallion turf is by far the most common type sold.

What to look out for

Check the turf carefully in the store or when the delivery arrives to make sure it’s in good shape. It should be moist but not wet. Make sure that the grass is green, that the turves are thick, even in depth, and that the edges are straight rather than ragged, as straight edges are much easier to join. There should be no holes in the soil, no yellowing in the sward, no sign of weeds and preferably very few stones in the soil as these make turves heavy and difficult to lay. Make sure the turves are holding together well, especially at the corners, which are easily broken.

How to lay turf

Spring or autumn are the ideal times to lay turf as the soil is still warm. Turf laid after mid-May might struggle to establish well if the weather turns hot and dry.

  • If turf can’t be laid as soon as it arrives, unroll the turves green-side up and keep them watered.
  • Prepare the area to be laid, preferably before the turf arrives, by clearing it completely of any weeds and existing grass.
  • Fork the soil over to a depth of around 20cm and rake to a fine tilth that the turf can root into easily. A fine tilth has small crumbs of soil with no large clods of earth.
  • Incorporate a pre-seeding/preturfing fertiliser into the soil at the recommended rate and rake it in. It’s sold by some of the turf suppliers and has the ideal mix of nutrients to help grass establish. Alternatively, use a balanced fertiliser such as Growmore.
  • Level the soil, carefully eliminating bumps, with a large rake moved indifferent directions.
  • Firm the soil by treading over it methodically with your feet close together, weight on your heels, and level it again with the rake, leaving it as flat as possible with no lumps or bumps.
  • If possible, leave it to settle for at least a few days at this stage and then clear any weeds that come up.
  • Starting on one side, bring the first turf over, think about which way it will unroll and place it so it fits squarely into the space. Unroll the first turf.
  • Place the next turf along the short edge of the first. Butt the edges together as closely as possible while keeping them flat against the soil. Do this by lifting both turf edges and placing them together, then flattening them down. Lay the whole first row lengthways in this way.
  • Use a plank to give you a straight edge as you cut the final turf with a half-moon tool to slightly beyond the required length to allow for any slight shrinkage.
  • Working away from yourself, use a plank laid on the just-laid turf to stand or kneel on as you move on to the next row. The plank will help to firm the turf into the soil but you should also firm it using the flat side of a rake, paying particular attention to joins.
  • Take the offcut from the previous row to begin the new row, so that the joins between the turves form a brick pattern. Lay the next full roll in the same way as you did for the previous row, making sure it is tightly up against the turves in the first row.
  • To avoid ending a row with a small piece of turf, cut the previous piece laid so you can lay at least half a roll at the end.
  • Use a fork or rake if needed to pull the turf closely over to the first row.
  • Ensure all the turf is firmed onto the soil with no air pockets, and water it to help settle it. Use a plank whenever walking on the newly  laid turf to spread the weight.