There’s something immensely satisfying about growing a new lawn from seed, but laying down some ready-to-roll turf gives you an almost-instant sense of gratification and, in the era of Netflix, microwaveable popcorn and Deliveroo, it’s hard to ignore that major upside. Basically, it’s no exaggeration to call those turf rolls (or sod if you’re American) an “instant lawn”.
Of course, laying a lawn from scratch isn’t quite as easy as rolling it out and hoping it will take. We wish, but no. The reality is, well, there’s a pretty solid amount of prep work needed, not to mention a lot of love, care, watering and attention involved too.
Thankfully, we’ve whipped up this How To Guide to make sure you’re new turf blossoms into the strongest, lushest, greenest lawn imaginable.
*Spoiler alert: your neighbours are about to become very jealous.
The Reason For Choosing Turf
Instant results. That’s the obvious answer when it comes to choosing turf over seeds, but it’s not just for the aesthetics of an unravelled lawn, it’s also the convenience of not having to stay away from your garden for 3-4 weeks like you would with grass seed. So if you’ve got kids or pets or a partner that always thinks you’re exaggerating about this sort of stuff, turf is the best option by far as you can be out back with a craft beer or chocolat chaud avec rhum just a couple days after laying it.
That said, while covering your lawn will take no time at all, it will only work if you’ve prepped the soil properly first.
The Perfect Time To Lay Your Turf
Scientists have long debated when the best time… no, we’re just kidding. There’s no debate to be had because the best time to lay turf is between mid-autumn and mid-winter, but when the soil is not too wet or too frosty. The reason for this is simply to do with how little mowing is needed in the autumn and winter months, allowing your newly-laid turf to kickback and enjoy it’s new home without being too disturbed for a few weeks or so.
Compare that to laying your turf in the spring when your new lawn wants loads of attention and watering and mowing over the summer, and you’ll find your new turf gets really stressed out before it’s even had a chance to be fully rooted, which will only delay this process even longer.
Like we said, autumn is the clear winner.
Time To Prep That Turf
The secret sauce needed to grow a healthy, lush lawn is preparing a good seed bed for your turf, so make sure you clear all the weeds you can find and then cultivate the surface so that you’re left with a fine tilth (aka “prepared surface soil”).
Pro tip: make sure you do all of this before you go and buy your turf, or get it delivered. Trust on that one #logisticalnightmareavoided.
Preparing Your Soil
Step 1: Start with bare ground, which could mean removing your existing lawn, something we recommend doing with a turf cutter because grass is seriously tough meaning smothering it or trying to kill it with herbicide may not work.
Step 2: Hand-pull on those nasty perennial weeds before you start preparing the soil. That’s not to say you can’t use weedkiller, but it could hang about in the soil and stop your new grass from rooting properly.
Step 3: Test your soil to understand what your soil pH level is, and then amend it if necessary. Ideally, you want it to be somewhere between 6.0 to 7.5. That’s what we call groovy.
Step 4: Hire a rototiller (which is a bladed-machine that breaks up and smooths the soil) and start to loosen up your ground.
Step 5: Spread some strong manure over your soil to help it hold its moisture longer, but make sure it is well-rooted stuff so that it stays even on the top.
Step 6: To create a level lawn, tread across it at random and then lightly rake the soil in different directions so that you aren’t faced with any holes or low points.
Step 7: Grab that rake again and rake in some general purpose fertiliser, usually at a rate of 70g per square metre (but read the instructions on the back of the pack just to make sure).
Prepping Your Turf
The golden rule of laying new turf down is always-always lay it within 24 hours of delivery. If that’s not possible, however, then unroll it and store it flat so that you don’t lose that lovely green. Other than that, the other pro tip we would recommend is starting at the edges as they’re the most likely to dry out. And with that covered, here’s a hot tips on how to lay your sodding turf (bah-dum-dum-dush):
Hot Tip 1: Begin on the far side of your garden and work across so that you’re trampling on your new turf and are instead sticking to the soil.
Hot Tip 2: Lay down some chipboards so you avoid any foot indentations which can really harm new turf.
Hot Tip 3: When laying your strips of turf, make sure you stagger the joints like you would bricks in a wall, keeping the edges as close together so they knit together and you’re not left with gaps.
Hot Tip 4: Have a bucket of sand or soil ready so you can fill in any gaps in the soil and keep your turf nice and level.
Hot Tip 5: When you’ve laid your turf, give it a light roll or tamper it with the reverse sie of a broom.
Hot Tip 6: After the turf is down, whip up a sand n’ soil mix and fill the joints to help your turf strips knit together and become ready to use a whole lot quicker.
Hot Tip 7: Do NOT walk on your turf for at least 3 days while it starts to root.
Watering Your New Turf
The only way we can describe this part of the aftercare process is critical. Abso-lute-ly critical. And it’s not just about just getting the grass blades wet; it’s about helping those new roots really establish themselves in your garden because, right now, all you’ve really done is laid down an al fresco green rug.
So, to help your new turf do it’s thing, it’s so important you keep the ground moist, especially during the first few days. That said, you don’t want to overwater new grass either and the best way to check that is to pull up a corner of one of your sod strips and check the soil, which should be damp but not wet and muddy.
Mowing Your New Turf
There’s only one thing to remember here: wait for your new lawn to grow about two-inches and then mow high.