Turf is possibly one of the most perishable products on God’s earth. The only thing I can think of that has a shorter shelf life is the homemade chocolate cake in my kitchen – I can guarantee that within 5 minutes of school home time, it will have completely disintegrated!
In an ideal world, nobody would want or need to store turf. Ever. But it happens. Maybe the turf delivery is earlier than you expected, perhaps the weather turns nasty last minute or somebody needs you to do something in an emergency. If you are a landscape supplier or a garden centre you may have ordered extra stock so that you can help customers who forgot to pre-order.
Newly delivered turf stacked neatly on a pallet. In warm weather the rolls at the centre of this pallet are at risk of suffering from Turf Heat Stress. Turf Heat Stress can be fatal to grass plants and affected turf will make an ugly lawn.
If you do need to store turf, we have some hints and tips for you to help it last as long as possible.
The do’s of storing turf
Give your turf rolls fresh air and plenty of it
Ventilation is vital. Each roll of turf needs to have air flowing around it and through it to help keep it cool and to provide the plants with plenty of oxygen. (Plants breath oxygen as well as carbon dioxide. The oxygen is for life, the carbon dioxide is for food)
Break the pallet of turf down into small stacks. Ideally, no more than six turves per stack – ten should be the absolute maximum.
Small pyramids of turf will have a longer shelf life than turves stacked on a pallet but don’t get complacent – it still needs to be laid within 24 hours of delivery. Ideally, in warm weather, turf will be laid within 8 hours of it arriving on site.
Have plenty of room between stacks.
The canny gardener will have prepared the soil before the turf arrived. He or she will use this opportunity to place little stacks of turf strategically across the area to be laid. Thus avoiding double-handling the rolls.
If you have any pallets lying around, build your small turf stacks up onto them so that they have fresh air underneath them as well as all around them.
Keep It Cool
The one thing that accelerates sod heating more than anything else is heat. Warm sunny weather – especially if it’s humid too – will turn your beautiful turf into compost in a matter of hours.
Move your turf into a shady spot if you can – but be sure to put it somewhere with plenty of air. The garage or shed may be shady but they’re not well ventilated so might make matters worse.
The don’ts of turf storage
NEVER and I do mean NEVER cover your turf with any kind of cloth, tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, boards, planks, anything. Yes, they may provide a bit of shade, they will also create a mini-greenhouse effect. Your turf will literally cook. It will be ruined.
Watering is also a big no-no while turf is still rolled up. While the plants can’t see the light and have limited access to fresh air, they don’t need much water. Inside the turf roll it can get quite warm, adding water will create a humid, steamy atmosphere that is perfect for breeding the bacteria that will rot leaves and roots. Better to have slightly dry turf than soggy rotten turf.
How long can I store turf for?
It goes without saying that you should never store turf for even one minute longer than you have to.
In cold, wintery, frosty weather you can get away with storing turf for a couple of days. In early spring when air temperature is below six or seven degrees, you can store turf for 24 hours.
Late spring, summer and autumn – don’t even try it! As air temperature rises, turf shelf life falls. When the air temperature reaches double figures you really should lay your turf within 8 hours of it being delivered. If not, you risk it suffering from turf heat stress – which is often fatal. In an emergency, unroll all of your turf so that every blade of grass can see daylight, then keep it watered until it can be laid properly. Lay within 48 hours and definitely before the new roots start to grow.