Has your lawn seen better days? Maybe it’s patchy, maybe it’s full of weeds or maybe you want to completely transform your garden by removing a paved area and laying turf there instead. If done correctly, the end result will look amazing. But how hard is it to lay natural turf yourself? As a professional gardener, I’m here to tell you that it really isn’t that hard. If you are ‘hands on’, then it’s most probably something you can do yourself, and with only basic tools needed, there’s no need to splash out on equipment that you may only use once.
What’s the best time of year to lay turf in my garden?
Instead of diving straight into the deep end and explaining how to lay natural turf in your garden, lets talk about the best time of year to lay your new turf. I would recommend laying your turf between September and February (autumn to late winter) which is when the soil is at it’s best for your new grass to root properly, since it’s damp, but not too wet or frosty.
Despite my recommendations, I am actually most busy laying turf for my gardening business between April and September. This is because gardening is seasonal, and most customer’s want their garden’s completed in the Summer months, allowing them to enjoy their newly transformed garden whilst it’s still looking fresh. Laying turf can actually be laid any time of year, through all seasons providing that you provide the necessary after care. So far, all of my customer’s have had no problems with their turf, which begs the question…How hard can it be?
If you are going to lay turf in Spring (March, April or May) then you will need to make sure that you water your new grass twice per day as these will be the months that you begin to get less rain (before Summer). Hopefully you will get lots of rain to help with the process. Since Spring is the time of year that grass is trying its best to grow, you should have no problems with your new turf rooting. The great thing about laying your new turf in the Spring, is that after the 3-4 week wait, you will be able to enjoy your new lawn all Summer long!
If you are planning to lay your new turf in the Summer months (June, July or August) just be aware that these are the driest months, and to make sure that you don’t forget to water your new lawn twice daily. I would advise to prepare your garden for the turf laying prior to purchasing your new turf (which I will write more about below), as you will want to start laying it as soon as you have it delivered.
The main reason that the best time of year to lay your new turf is in Autumn (September, October or November) is because these are the months that your grass will dig their roots as deep into the ground as possible. With this in mind, you will have a well established lawn by the time Summer comes round again, but with a (approximate) 6 month wait and your new lawn not looking as fresh as when it was first laid, you will need to make the decision on what is best for you. Ultimately, Autumn will have the highest success rates when it comes to laying your new turf.
I’ll be honest, I have never had a customer ask to have their lawn re-turfed in the Winter months. But that’s not to say that it’s not possible! Just make sure that your garden isn’t prone to being waterlogged and you should be good to go. Be sure to water your new lawn when needed and take note that although the usual waiting time is 3-4 weeks for a lawn to be walked on, you may need to wait a bit longer, maybe even Spring before you can start to walk on your new lawn.
Preparing the ground for your new turf to be laid
Ground preparation is key to any success when creating your new lawn, one can not simply lay new turf on top of existing grass. This is why I have created these simple steps to help when preparing your garden for its new turf. You will only need basic tools for these steps which include a spade and rake. You may need to purchase or hire a turf cutter or cultivator if working on a much larger garden. This really depends on how much work you are willing to put in to your garden, but typically a spade will be more than enough for working on a lawn of up to 50 squared meters.
Preparing the ground for your new lawn
- Start by removing all of the old grass and weeds from your worn out lawn. I find that starting from a corner and working backwards is the easiest way at doing this. If the ground is too dry to work with, try to dampen it by giving it a good water.
- The old soil then needs to be turned over, which again can be done by spade but the use of a rotivator or tiller would be much better. To be honest, this is usually done when there will be no purchase of top soil. I prefer to purchase new top soil (can be purchased in ton bags) as this is easier to work with when raking.
- Remove all waste that you have created including old grass, dirt and anything else. If you are doing the work yourself then you can take the waste to your local dump free of charge if using a car as it has came from your own house. The last thing you will want to do is remove the waste at a later date, walking back and forth across your newly laid turf.
- Using a rake, level the ground as best you can making sure that there are no obvious dips etc.. This is easier when using new top soil
- If you want to be more specific, then you can buy some roofing baton and cut them into pegs/steaks. You can then hammer them into the ground to a level that you are happy with and then use a builders string and spirit level to make sure that all of the pegs are of the same height. Every time you lay your new turf up to this level, simply remove the steak.
Measuring and ordering
- Using a tape measure, you will need to work out the area of your existing lawn. Since most turf is sold in quantities of ‘per squared meter’, we need to work out how many squared meters of turf you will need. Each roll of turf will usually equate to 1 squared meter
- Measure the width of your garden, followed by the length of your garden in meters. You will then need to multiply these two measurements together to work out the total area. For example, if the width is 5 meters, and the length is 10 meters, then the total area is 50 squared meters. Therefore, in theory, you will need to purchase 50 squared meters of turf. Be sure to add another few rolls to your order to allow for off cuts etc..
- Make sure to have your ground prepared prior to ordering your new turf as you will need to lay this as soon as possible. Lots of companies offer next day delivery, but you can always pop down to your local DIY store and collect it, providing that they have enough rolls in stock.
How to lay your new turf
Now it’s time for the easy bit! That’s right, the hard bit is the ground preparation, so now you know that the hard work is out of the way lets look forward to getting that fresh new turf laid in your garden! All you will need are some turfing boards, but other boards such as scaffolding boards will do just fine, as well as a turf cutter. Although, I have seen other types of saws being used, even wood saws!
Although not necessary, to give your new grass the best chance, simply lay pre-turfing fertilizer on top of your prepared ground, before laying your new turf.
- Although other gardeners and websites have their own opinions, I personally start at a corner of the garden, and work side ways or in rows.
- Make sure to join / push each roll of turf tightly against the next, leaving no gaps. You can always overlap each roll of turf and cutting it to give that perfect finish between rolls
- For a professional finish, using a board, stand on top of each newly laid turf to give a flat finish, also evening out the soil beneath. This will also allow you to see any obvious dips that you may have missed when leveling.
- Make sure to lay your turf like brick work. For example, if you started your first row with a full length of turf, then start the next with half a length of turf. Repeat this process for the next row and so on.
- As soon as you finish laying your new turf, be sure to give it a good water, making sure that you reach the roots and ground below. You will need to water your new lawn at least twice daily unless of course the rain gives you a help in hand. Continue this process for the next 2 weeks, although you should still water your new lawn at least once daily from then onward, until your new lawn has been laid for 3-4 weeks.
- Try not to walk on your new lawn for a minimum of 2-3 weeks after it’s been laid. Although in the Winter months this time can increase significantly. If you have no choice but to walk on your new grass, then only do so if using boards. Walking on your new grass too early can easily leave dips in your new lawn!
- You will be able to give your grass its first cut from 2-3 weeks, providing that you can walk on it of course. Be sure to cut it on the lawnmowers highest setting, making sure to not stress the grass. Following the first cut, a general rule of thumb for keeping a healthy looking lawn is to never cut more than 1/3 of the grass length at any one time.
I hope to have covered everything if you are looking to lay new turf by yourself. It’s not the hardest job to do, although the ground preparation can be a bit daunting. If you are a hands on person and feel that you can do the job yourself, then why not? After all, it will save you money compared to paying a professional like myself to come and do the job for you!
The only tools needed are a spade, a rake, lawn boards, turf cutter and a tape measure. Heavy equipment will only be needed on much larger gardens, unless of course you have all the time in the world when it comes to ground preparation! Other than these basic tools, you only need to purchase the turf itself and new top soil, unless you will be cultivating the old soil. At around £3.00 per squared metre in the UK, you could have a 50 squared metre garden laid with new turf at just £150.00 (plus tools) if laying it yourself. Now that’s not bad at all!
As always, if you get stuck, or have any questions then I am always here to help! I try to reply to all comments within 24 hours!