Did you know that there is a recognised standard for turf quality? In this article we look at the TGA Standard and what it means for turf buyers.
When you buy pretty much anything these days you know that quality standards apply to that product or service. Electrical goods, furniture, safety equipment, food or even the services of an accountant or a solicitor are all subject to industry standards. Well, there is also a standard for turf quality.
The quality standard for turf is there as a guide for specifiers and buyers. I personally like it because it helps customers to be confident that their turf will be fit for purpose. I will admit though, that it’s less relevant to gardeners than it is to greenkeepers or ecologists but nevertheless it’s good to know about it.
There are two sets of turf quality standards. One is the British Standard BS3969. The other is the TGA Standard which was devised by an independent turf specialist way back in 1996. BS3969 is more about theory than practice and concentrates on the soil that the turf is grown in. The TGA Standard takes a more practical approach with easily measured standards and that’s why I like it.
More about the TGA Standard for turf quality
TGA stands for Turfgrass Growers Association. That’s a UK organisation, a trade body if you like. Members of the TGA are all connected with turf and turf growing and they get together regularly to share information. The organisation exists to raise standards and improve the quality of turfgrass in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Our parent company, Harrowden Turf Ltd is a member of the TGA as are our seed suppliers and most of our machinery suppliers.
Only TGA members can claim that their turf is at TGA Standard. However, all sorts of things affect the quality of a turf crop so just because a grower is a member of the TGA, it doesn’t mean that every single roll of turf they sell will be at TGA Standard.
What is covered by the TGA Standard?
The standard looks at:
Healthy turf is generally compatible with any soil type. However, for really specialist applications, like a bowling green, a sports stadium or an ecologically sensitive site, soil type matters. The TGA standard doesn’t pass judgement on the soil, it only asks the grower to describe it.
Seed mix sown
There are an enormous number of grass species and varieties that are suitable for turf growing. For a normal domestic lawn, it’s enough to know what species form the basis of the turf. For example, perennial ryegrass, smooth stalk meadow grass and/or slender creeping red fescue. For a job that needs really careful specifications, knowing the variety is important too.
Each variety used in TGA Standard Turf must be listed by the STRI (Sports Turf Research Instititute). The STRI will have tested the variety for things like tolerance to close mowing, disease resistance, winter colour and fineness of leaf.
Plants present in the sward
Anyone who has ever tried to grow anything from seed in their garden will know that what is sown is not always the same as what is grown. Oh the times I’ve carefully scattered flower seeds and tended the plants as they developed into healthy, vibrant weeds.
So as well as knowing what seed varieties were sown in a turf field, it’s important to know how they actually developed.
The TGA Standard requires growers to literally get on their knees, identify and count the plants. Not every single plant of course, but a good representative sample from several places in the turf field.
A TGA Certificate for turf tells you what percentage of each grass species is present. It also tells the reader if there are any bare patches, dead plants or unwanted plants in the sward.
For turf to attain the TGA turf quality standard, at least 95% of the sward must contain species from the declared seed mix.
Health of the turf
This is just an overview from an experienced turf grower. Does the turf look green, vibrant and healthy? Are there any obvious signs of disease? The person completing a TGA assessment is asked to sign a declaration on the health of the turf on the day it was assessed.
This one does what it says. It tells you the average roll size. Length, width and thickness. Growers are also asked to measure the length of the grass. Mowing height is important.
Of all the measurements and dimensions the TGA standard requires, this is the one that is most important to me. I want to know if the rolls are going to be extra heavy (usually a winter thing due to lots of rain and wet soil). If the rolls are heavy, will there be any extra health and safety consideration for whoever is laying it? Also, will it cost more to transport it? Can I fit it all on my vehicle without exceeding my payload? Vital questions.
I can tolerate a few weaker turf rolls. It’s a natural product after all and there are bound to be inconsistencies. I’m fine with that. BUT if every roll of turf will need to be treated very gently, it will take longer to lay the whole consignment. The TGA Standard asks the tester to unroll 20 pieces of turf, pick each one up by its shortest side and lift it as high as possible. If more than 5 of those pieces tear or fall apart, the turf won’t meet the TGA Quality Standard.
In the very rare event that there is a dispute over turf quality. The TGA certificate allows a grower to trace a consignment of turf back to the field it was grown in.
Where to find TGA Standard Turf
Any turf grower who is a member of the Turfgrass Growers Association will understand the TGA Standard and be able to assess his/her own turf honestly. From time to time, Mother Nature will play tricks on growers (she does it to farmers and gardeners too) which will mean that the turf may not quite reach TGA Standard. However, it may still be fit for purpose. Any TGA grower will be 100% honest with you and give you an accurate description of the product. Remember that turf changes on a daily basis. Heavy rain will affect weight and roll strength on even the most beautiful looking turfgrass. But my Grandmother always said fore warned is fore armed.
How do I know if my turf complies with the TGA Standard?
Ask your grower for a TGA certificate. I can’t speak for other growers, but at Turfonline we test our turf regularly for compliance. The test is carried out over a whole field and of course things can vary quite a bit over a 50 acre field. If quality is a major issue for you, you are more than welcome to request a consignment certificate. There may be a moderate charge for this but it’s worth it for piece of mind.
Now that you understand the TGA Turf Quality Standard you’ll be able to ask your turf grower the right questions to ensure that you get the type of turf you want and need for your project.
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This is a useful reference article. The TGA Quality Standard – links to the Turfgrass Growers Association website