Can you store turf? “No”

6 min read

Jubilee Turf

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.

That’s a difficult question because although we understand that sometimes turf cannot be laid as soon as it arrives, we really don’t recommend that you try to store turf.

Keeping turf alive

Turf is a living, breathing thing.  To keep it alive, the roots need to have access to water and the leaves must be able to see sunlight.

From the moment it is harvested and rolled up, turf starts to deteriorate.  So, if it is to thrive, turf needs to be laid into its permanent position as soon as it arrives. Consequently, the warmer the weather, the quicker it loses condition.

If you really do need to store turf, even for a few hours, here are some tips that will help to preserve quality.

Four golden rules if you need to store turf

1: Don’t try to store turf in warm weather

On hot days, rolled up turfs will start to compost and die within hours.  So lay and water your turf as soon as it is delivered.

Keep rolls in the best possible condition while you are working by stacking them in the shade.

2: Never water rolled up turf

Watering rolled up turf actually speeds up the decomposition.  It creates a hot steamy atmosphere inside the roll that the plants just can’t tolerate.  Do not water your turf until it has been unrolled.

3: Good air circulation is vital

Keep as much air circulating around turf rolls as possible.

  • Don’t store it indoors or in a shed,
  • Avoid standing the pallet right next to walls or fences
  • Break the pallet down into several smaller stacks
  • Try to stack onto pallets so that the air can get underneath
4: Let the grass see the sun

If you have room to do so, unroll each turf so that the leaves are exposed to sunshine.  Unrolled turfs should be watered.

It’s OK to unroll turf for a couple of days, keep it watered and then re-roll it to move it.  This is a good strategy for garden centres who want to extend shelf life; and for landscapers who have turves left over from a job and want to use them somewhere else.

Buy what you need to lay turf:

loam soil do you need topsoil to lay turf? yes.
Buy premium turf Buy topsoil Buy premium turf

Storing Turf in Winter

Never try to lay turf onto frozen ground.

If you should experience a really cold spell after your turf has been delivered and before you can lay it, don’t panic.

Frozen turf can safely stay rolled up for up to 5 days.  It won’t come to any harm at all.  Neither will newly laid turf.

If you are at all worried, get in touch with your turf supplier who will be able to give you advice and reassurance.

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.

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 as soon as it is 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.

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