How to Lay Turf: Complete Guide

Laying turf can be an easy and affordable way to create a fantastic looking, low maintenance garden.

It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner or have laid turf before, this guide will help you lay turf as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Step 1: Preparation

How do you prepare the ground for turf?

The first step in this process is to dig up any existing grass and weeds.

This process can be made easier if the ground has been watered beforehand, or if some rain has fallen recently.

After you’ve removed the grass, break up the soil with a rake and fork to help you prepare for laying turf.

Consider renting a rotovator to churn and aerate the soil prior to having turf laid. A rotovator uses a series of blades to twist apart and break up the soil.

Do you need topsoil before laying turf?

If you have poor quality soil, it’s important to lay a generous layer of topsoil before laying your turf.

This will provide nutrients for the turf and help bind the turf to the soil, which also improves drainage.

The amount needed depends on the size of the area being turfed but is normally around 10cm deep, so you can use this rule of thumb to calculate how much topsoil you need.

You can also apply a pre-turfing fertiliser which will help establish your new lawn successfully.

Can you lay turf on top of old turf?

You can lay fresh turf on top of old turf, but it’s not likely to work very well.

You may have a lot of problems with the old grass dying underneath and the lawn needing a lot more maintenance than it would’ve needed if you’d just dug up the grass in the first place.

We recommend taking the time to dig up your old lawn before laying fresh turf.

Test the PH level

The next step is to test the pH level of your soil. A low pH means the soil is acidic, a high pH means it’s alkaline and a neutral measurement (around 6 pH) indicates it’s suitable for turfing.

To test the pH level of your soil, you’ll need to use a kit bought from a garden centre or hardware store.

Follow the instructions on the packaging and make sure you test several spots in your lawn as there may be variations in different areas.

If you find your soil has a pH level outside the recommended range, then you’ll want to rectify this before laying turf.

Measure how much turf you need

To calculate the area of your lawn, you first need to measure its length and width.

To measure the length, place a straight board or plank along one side of the lawn and use a tape measure to determine the distance from one end of the lawn to the other.

Then repeat this process at right angles to get an accurate measurement of the width.

You can then multiply your measurements to calculate how much turf you will need in square metres.

Kill any weeds in your soil

There are a few ways to kill any weeds in your soil.

You can use a weed killer, but if you don’t want to use chemicals, we’d recommend removing the weeds by hand or using a weed puller.

However, using a weed killer is the easiest method.

Step 2: Laying your turf

Ensure your soil is flat and smooth

Remove any sticks and stones that are sitting on the soil.

Ensure your soil is flat and smooth by going over it with a lawn rake.

Lay your turf as soon as it arrives

Once you’ve received your turf, it’s best to lay it as soon as possible.

Freshly cut turf needs to be laid on the day of delivery, so avoid ordering too far in advance or during periods of bad weather.

If you can’t lay the turf right away, speak to your supplier for tips on how to give it the best chance of survival.

Keep scraps of turf that you cut off in case you need them for awkward areas or to patch up other spots where you run out of turf.

Try to not walk over the turf once it is laid

You can damage your new turf when it is first laid. Once you have rolled the turf out, do your best to not walk on it.

If you need to walk over the turf, use planks to distribute your weight evenly and protect the turf from being compressed.

Roll the turf

Once the turf is down, roll over it to ensure that you get solid contact with the soil underneath.

If you don’t have access to a roller, you can use a wide plank or other heavy object.

Roll it until the surface of the turf is flat and even. Now your lawn is ready for action!

Step 3: Care and maintenance

Watering

Now that the turf is rolled out, you’ll want to water it. Turf needs a lot of water to get established.

You can use a rain gauge to measure how much water you’re putting on your lawn so that you don’t overwater or underwater it.

Make sure you avoid watering in the middle of the day, as most of the water will evaporate before it gets into the soil and reaches your turf’s roots.

Fertilising

Within a couple of months, your lawn will be ready for fertilising.

Use a fertiliser designed specifically for new turf.

Mowing

A few weeks after installing your turf, it’s time to check on how it’s looking.

If the grass is growing well, you can mow it once the blades reach 6cm in height.

The optimal height for your first mow will be determined by the variety of grass you are growing.

However, as a general rule, aim to never cut off more than 1/3 the height of each blade of grass. Your cutting height will likely be around 3cm.

This is important, because if you set the height of your lawn mower too low, then your lawn may not be able to absorb enough sunlight. It may also become more prone to weeds and disease.

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Turf FAQs

How much turf do I need?

If you’re not sure how much turf to get, use a turf size calculator to work out the area of your garden. That way, you know exactly how much turf you’ll need.
Measure the length and width of the area to be turfed in metres. Use a tape measure for accuracy.
Multiply the length by the width to calculate the size in square metres.
If it’s an irregular shape split it into smaller areas and measure each separately.
Add together all your measurements to give a total area in square metres.
You may want to round up slightly as some waste is unavoidable.

When to lay turf

To get the best results, avoid laying turf in the hottest, driest months of summer and also avoid laying it during the coldest and wettest months of winter.
One of the biggest factors to consider when deciding when to lay your turf is where you live.
It’s important to check which season is best for your area and talk to an expert if you’re not sure.

Is turf better than grass seed?

Turf is going to get your a new lawn much faster, and with much less hassle, than growing grass from seed.
However, the cost of purchasing turf is significantly higher than using grass seed, especially if you have a larger space to cover.
Grass seed has other benefits too – it’s easier to use over larger areas.