Too late to lay turf ? – How late is too late for turfing?
Damp air, frosty mornings and dark before 5pm – doesn’t feel much like gardening weather does it? But don’t let the shorter days put you off turfing. Pull on your wellies, zip up your coat and crack on.
It’s OK to lay turf in winter
Winter weather won’t hurt turf
Our turf farm is in the Northwest of England and where it rains all year round and the winters are cold. But guess what – we still manage to grow some pretty good turf (even if we do say so ourselves).
When our fields are affected by frost we can’t harvest turf but we know that the grass plants won’t be damaged by the cold weather.
Lawn turf is grown from strong, winter hardy types of grass. We select grasses that have been tested by the STRI and proven to be frost hardy, disease resistant, good at coping with wear and tear and have robust root growth. So, provided you can prepare the ground properly in winter time, you’ll be able to lay turf.
Good soil preparation is crucial for winter turfing
Making a lovely lawn starts with the soil. This is where the plants in your lawn will be getting their food and water from for the next umpteen years. So it’s important to get the soil right and never more so than in winter.
You should be laying turf onto soil that is friable. That means, if you pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it, it’ll form a sausage shape for a few moments but if you poke the soil sausage it will fall apart.
If your handful of soil can’t be squeezed into a sausage (not even when it’s wet); It’s probably quite dry or sandy and won’t hold onto water or plant nutrients very well. You could help it by mixing some good quality topsoil with it before laying turf. After all, it’s very difficult to try to improve soil when it’s underneath a lawn!
Fine-textured soil that is easily worked and contains lots of organic matter (hence the dark colour) is ideal for turfing.
This highly fertile natural topsoil is available to order online.
If your handful of soil can be squeezed into a sausage which drips water – it’s too wet to work with right now. Best to postpone your turfing until it dries out.
If your soil sausage forms easily but doesn’t break apart when you prod it, your soil is likely to be prone to compaction. For best results, import some sandy topsoil and mix it in to make a much better bed for your turf or seed.
Using a pre-turfing fertiliser in winter
If the roots are growing, they’ll be needing nutrients. That means potassium for hardiness and phosphorus for vigour. So whilst it seems a bit daft feeding plants in winter, an application of pre-turfing fertiliser is actually quite important when laying turf.
Too late to lay turf – Always use turf laying boards in winter
At Turfland we advise anyone laying turf to work off boards. This is never more important than in winter. Wet soil is easily compacted by being walked on. Turf laid onto compacted soil will always struggle to grow roots that are long and strong.
Soil is made up of billions of tiny particles with spaces in between them for the air and water that roots need. Compaction means that soil particles are squished closer together and the spaces become smaller. With fewer and smaller spaces air and water cannot filter through the soil. With no air and no water, roots will not survive and the plants will die.
Using turf laying boards spreads your weight at you are working and prevents compaction. At less than £15 for two I’d say they’re a good investment.
Don’t walk on frozen turf
If you wake up in the morning only to find your newly laid turf is white with frost – don’t panic. The only way that frost will damage your lawn is if you walk on it. Keep off. Have another cup of tea instead.
If the turf has been down a while and looks a bit shaggy, don’t go mowing it when frost is forecast. Leave it be, it won’t come to any harm.