If you think that autumn is the time of year when plants die, you’re in for a big surprise. Yes, the leaves fall off trees, flowers fade away, bedding plants shrivel and bright colours turn to brown. But what you see happening above the ground is no reflection on what’s happening at grass roots level (sorry about the pun, couldn’t help myself). That’s why autumn is a great time of year to lay turf.
If, like me, you’re out every day walking the dogs you’ll probably see that where there used to be flowers, there are now all manner of seeds dropping to the ground. There are shiny brown conkers, helicopter-like sycamore seeds, grass seed, blackberries, rosehips, haws, teasels and lots of wildflower seed heads.
Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature sows seeds. It’s when plants put all of their energy into growing roots and getting ready for speedy top growth next spring.
Between September and November, the soil is surprisingly warm. It would be daft for a plant to grow lush leaves and flowers that are vulnerable to damage by imminent frosts. It would also be daft for it not to take advantage of the warm soil and mild weather.
You might be putting away your flip-flops, putting on your woolly socks and craving TV and cake, but plants are still in growth mode. This is the perfect time of year to lay turf.
Why lay turf in autumn?
Better for you – better for the plants
Laying turf can be physically demanding, especially in hot weather. Much better to avoid manual labour in the heat of the summer and then work hard in the autumn. You’re less likely to get sunburnt, dehydrated or suffer from heat exhaustion in autumn. Plus you can get a lot more done in a day when you’re not overheating.
Turf deteriorates quite quickly once it’s been harvested and rolled up. The hotter the weather, the faster the quality disappears. In summer you MUST lay turf immediately it is delivered and you must work fast. In autumn, you still need to get turf laid on the same day as delivery, but you can work at a more leisurely speed.
Autumn brings misty moist mornings and frequent rain showers. You will still need to keep new turf well-watered; but you can be confident that any water you add to the soil won’t evaporate away in the heat of the day. That means you can put less water on than you would have done a month ago. In turn, that means slightly lower water bills. Plus you can be a bit smug that your waterwise gardening is helping the environment.
Plants naturally put a lot of effort into growing roots in autumn. The wise gardener will make the most of this natural phenomenon. It’s just what’s needed to get your turf established quickly with the least possible effort from you.
Do you really want to be outside on the lawn much during the winter months? No? me neither! That’s good news for your new turf. It won’t need to cope with heavy wear and tear before next spring so all of its energy can go into building strength and resilience.
Autumn is definitely the best time for turfing
Turf can be laid at any time of year but for the very best results I would always choose autumn time over any other season. That’s how generations of gardeners made lawns before the days of irrigation, modern turf harvesting machinery and mechanical mowers. I may be happy to embrace technology and a 24/7 lifestyle, but I still believe that the old ways are the best.