How to spot good quality turf and only buy the best

4 min read

If you’re a first-time turf buyer, it’s easy to make mistakes.  Check out our buyer’s guide to finding good quality turf.

Before I start talking turf, here’s a bit of analogy.

I’m a bit of a chip connoisseur.  You’d think, wouldn’t you that chips were chips.  They’re not.  There are nice chips, OK chips and nasty chips. Nice chips bring me great pleasure. Nasty chips bring me belly ache.   Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality but appearance is, so is the smell.  Turf is much the same.

I’ve worked in the turf industry for 20 years and I’ve seen some beautiful lawns made from turf and some horrible ones.  Based on my experience, these are the factors that I think matter when it comes to buying turf.


Number one requirement.  If you only think about this one you’ll be doing OK.  Turf that isn’t fresh, will not give you the results you hope for.

How can you tell if your turf is fresh?

Smell it – if it smells wholesome and earthy it’s just right.  If there’s a whiff of mould, sourness or decay then it’s no longer in its prime.  Examine it carefully before you decide whether or not to lay it.


Technically speaking, the weight of a roll of turf is not an indication of quality.  Speaking as someone who doesn’t lay turf everyday, is not physically fit and is prone to neck and back pain, size does matter.  Heavy turf is harder to handle.  It takes more effort to lift it, manoeuvre it and lay it and you will get tired a lot quicker.  When you get tired, you don’t work as fast.  If you don’t work fast enough, your rolled-up turf will deteriorate before you get your lawn laid.

Roll Strength

When I’m not eating chips or writing blog posts, I like to make patchwork quilts.  I find it quite relaxing to piece together small pieces of fabric to make a much larger object.  If however, the pieces are cut badly or they fray and rip, this relaxing hobby becomes an irritation and the only thing to do well out of it is the swear jar.

Landscapers tell me that they feel the same about laying turf.  When the rolls are strong and easy to handle they just roll into place and they look amazing straight away.  When the rolls rip or crumble, a lawn takes twice as long to lay and it doesn’t look neat until all of the turves have rooted in.

Avoid buying weak turf if you can.  If it’s unavoidable because winter weather makes harvesting harder (it does), handle each turf with care.  Cradle it as you lift it, don’t throw the rolls or drop them.  Be nice.  Don’t rush.  If you’re gentle it’ll be OK.

Colour and Quality

Colour is a personal preference.  There are umpteen shades of green and all of them are lovely.  However, in turf, yellowy-green is a no-no.  Browney-yellow is never going to grow. New turf needs to glow with health and freshness.

turf colour changes as quality declines
turf colour changes as quality declines

Use all of your senses when buying turf – if it’s yellowy-green but smells fresh, it’s probably OK.  If it’s bright yellow and stinks – your turf is in its death throes and is unlikely to survive, let alone thrive.

I like a really deep, lush green the best because it seems to shimmer and shine in the sun.  But that’s just me.


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Presentation and tidiness

Funny one this.  Again, it doesn’t really matter too much if the rolls are slightly askew on the pallet.  Technically there’s no reason why tidiness would affect the quality of the turf.  But I kind of think that if a turf grower or a retailer really cares about a product, they’ll make sure it looks good.  I would never reject turf because of wonky stacking, but if I had a choice of two pallets I’d pick the neat one.  Which must sound odd coming from someone who buys bent carrots and curly cucumbers.

Buying Turf Online

That’s a difficult one.  If you can’t see the turf in the flesh you have to trust the retailer’s descriptions – and their reputation.

Look for reviews and testimonials from other customers.  Maybe ask friends, neighbours and local landscapers for recommendations.

Always read the terms and conditions before you agree to buy – remember consumer law works differently for perishable products like turf.

In general, if you buy direct from the turf grower you can be sure of a good product.


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