Laying Turf – a guide to using turf to create a lawn

Laying a lawn from turf is one of the most self-satisfying jobs that you can do as it is a fairly quick process and you get instant great looking results. The wonderous green ‘quilt’ on your garden unfolds before your very eyes. Laying turf is a job like most others - it pays to plan and prepare well, after that the final stages of laying turf should be pretty straight forward.

You should lay turf when the temperature isn’t too hot, early spring and Autumn are recommended as the turfs are less susceptible to the parching effects of the sun and there should be enough moisture in the soil to help the roots establish and develop downwards. When ordering turf be sure to have your ground preparation done before your turf arrives. This will ensure that your turf isn’t sitting around for extended periods before laying it as the turf condition and vigour will deteriorate the longer it is kept in storage.

Preparing the site for turf laying

Along with choosing good quality turves (see buying turf from turfing suppliers) - the key to laying a good lawn from turf is the preparation of the ground the turves are to be laid on. In brief summary preparing the soil involves

  • removing and burning weeds
  • removing bricks, stones and other objects that will inhibit root growth.
  • Skimming off any existing turf
  • Cultivating the soil to about a spades depth with an even surface, free of lumps / hollows
  • Testing soil type and taking appropriate action

It is definitely worth spending the time and effort here to ensure that you have a good foundation for siting your lawn on, for more information see preparing the soil for a lawn.

After your hard work (depending on what your lawn site was previously like) you are now ready to lay the turves. To lay turf start by marking out a lawn edge with a garden line string by driving two canes into the soil at each end of the lawn and securing the garden line to them. You will use this straight line as a guide to where the edge of your first line of turf should appear.

Turves tend to come in lengths of about 1m and vary in width from 1 to 2 feet. Lay your turves snugly together so that they ends actually overlap by ½ an inch so that the edge of each turf is slightly raised where the turves meet. This will encourage the turves to grow ‘together’ and also prevent any unwanted ‘gaps’ or holes appearing in the lawn. Work along the garden line until you have finished and then start the next row.

Stagger the alignment of turfs adjacent rows so that a continous join line does not appear across the whole lawn which will be far more noticeable than if the join only crosses one row. See the diagram below.

When laying turf it may be necessary to walk back over the turves that have already been laid. This can mess the turves up and cause compaction if done repeatedly so laying a plank across the turves and resting / walking on the plank can help distribute weight across the turves more evenly and prevent footprints, particularly in wet weather.

If any gaps are found after laying the lawn you can fill them with a top dressing mix, for more information see applying a top dressing to the lawn.
After you have finished laying the turf you need to ensure that it is in contact with the soil it is laid on so that the lawns roots can bond with and penetrate into the soil. You can use the reverse side of a spade to do this by stamping the turf, alteratively you can ‘walk’ the turf in by side-stepping a foots width at a time. Do not overdo the stamping of the turf as this can damage the grass.

That’s it, you have laid your even turf lawn and it should now successfully establish its root system in your well prepared soil. You should refrain from mowing your lawn until you can clearly see new growth from the turf, this lets the roots establish themselves before any stress. If periods of dry weather follow the date of laying your turf then you may need to water the new lawn if cracks start appearing.