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Turf laying tips from a professional landscaper

7 min read

frequently asked questions about newly laid turf

Ever wanted to lay turf like a professional? Read these turf laying tips from a professional landscaper who lays turf for a living.

chris taylor offering turf laying tips
Chris Taylor from Warwick Taylor Landscapes knows a thing or two about laying turf. He’s been in working in the landscape industry from the age of 16 both “on the ground” and training others to do the job. Here are Chris’s top turf laying tips.

Dig deep

For a really strong, sustainable lawn, the grass needs to get its roots deep into the soil. It needs to be able to draw water and nutrients throughout its whole life. Which hopefully will be a long time. The deeper you can cultivate the soil, the better your new lawn will be able to cope with drought, disease and heavy footfall.

The minimum depth of soil for turfing is 15cm. I like to aim for 30cm or more if at all possible.

Improve the soil

A lawn is only ever as good as the soil beneath it. Unlike veg beds or flower borders, there is very little you can do to improve the soil under a lawn. So start off right.

Unless you are a horticulturist with a huge budget it’s difficult to know what exactly you need to add to your soil to make it grass friendly. The simplest option is to source some really good quality topsoil and mix it with your own garden soil.

Dig or rotovate your own soil first, spread imported soil on top of it and then dig or rotovate again to mix the two together.

Use pre-turfing fertiliser

Don’t go taking risks with the nutrient levels in your soil. Freshly laid turf needs a lot of energy to help it recover from the stress of harvesting and transport. It also needs the nutritional building blocks to grow strong roots and leaves.

Preturfing fertiliser is easy to apply and quite honestly, if you’re investing in turf, the cost of this stuff is almost negligible. It’s well worth paying an extra £15 to get your lawn off to the right start. At the time of writing, Harrowden Turf’s pre-turfing fertiliser costs less than 12p per square metre.

Don’t order turf until you’re ready to lay it

The biggest threat to turf quality is time. The longer it sits rolled up between harvesting and laying, the more the quality will deteriorate. Especially in hot weather. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken longer than anticipated to prepare the ground for turfing – and after all the years I’ve been turfing you’d think I’d have a better handle on it! But Mother Nature has a way of popping extra challenges into the mix. Bad weather, builders’ rubble, bad backs, people stopping and talking…the list goes on.

Far better to prepare the ground and then order the turf. You can usually get it delivered within 2 working days so it won’t delay things too much.

turf on pallet
This is what 70 square metres of turf looks like when stacked onto a pallet. It weighs around 1 tonne and should be fairly comfortable for 1 person to lay in 1 day

Don’t buy more than you can lay in one day – split the delivery if you need to

We’re back to that same subject again – shelf life. Turf just won’t sit on the pallet for 2 days and still look good. It’s very hard to judge how quickly you personally will be able to lay turf. Remember, I work with people who do this for a living. They’ve got the technique nailed, they have professional equipment and their bodies have most of the right muscles in most of the right places. (I don’t want them to see this and get all big-headed)

100 rolls of turf per day are probably enough for somebody new to turfing. If your lawn is 300 square metres. You could either

  • Have turf delivered over the course of 3 days
  • Save delivery costs by having all 300 metres delivered at once but have plenty of help on site to get the work done in a day
  • Hire a professional landscaper who can work quickly and to a really high standard

Products that can help…

laying boards

Have a good breakfast before you start work

Of all turf laying tips, this is the most important in my mind.

Trust me, you’re going to burn off a lot more calories than you ever thought you would. Make sure your body is well-fuelled before you start.

Wear gloves and sunscreen

Turfing is hard on the skin. You’ll be handling wet, gritty soil all day long and your hands will get sore. Wear gloves – I do and so do my colleagues.

Ditto for sunscreen – especially if you get warm when working and start removing layers of clothes. Sunburn can be nasty.

Keep hydrated

When you’re concentrating on the job it’s easy to forget about your own health and welfare. Fill some bottles with water before you start turfing and pop them somewhere handy so you’ll remember to drink them.

Don’t rush – but don’t hang about either

Pace yourself. You need to work steadily to conserve your energy. If I’m turfing on my own, my first job is to make small stacks of about 6 turves all over the area to be covered. That way the rolls are where I need them to be. Plus, smaller stacks are less prone to overheating than a whole pallet of turf.

If I were to ask the rest of my team for turf laying tips, they’d say it’s important to get into a rhythm. Once you have your stacks in place you can work methodically and you’ll be amazed at how much ground you cover.

Use laying boards

Laying boards are a no-brainer for me. When I’ve spent hours and hours raking and levelling the soil ready for turfing the last thing I need to do is unlevel it with wheelbarrow tracks and size 12 footprints.

Laying boards used on top of the turf you’ve already put down will help the roots make contact with the soil underneath. They’re excellent.

tools for turfing laying boards
Turf laying boards: Essential tools for turfing.

Don’t skimp on watering

Hopefully, you’ve kept yourself hydrated. Now you need to hydrate the turf too – if you want it to survive that is. Under normal circumstances, a grass plant will have up to a metres worth of roots to support it. During the turf harvesting process, probably 80-90% of those roots are sliced off. It’s your job to make sure the short roots have enough water to support the plant with AND to regrow.

Really soak newly laid turf. I mean REALLY soak it. Have puddles sitting on top of it. That water needs to soak right through the turf and into the top 4-5cm of soil beneath it. The first drenching will take the longest.

Irrigate every day, making sure that the water percolates through to the soil. If you’re not sure, gently lift one corner of turf to make sure the soil is good and damp.

Oh – and pay extra attention to the edges of your new lawn. They’ll dry out quicker than the middle.

Keep off the grass

It’s tempting to run all over your new lawn – but don’t. It will take 3-4 weeks for the grass to be established enough for regular use.  If you need to walk on the new grass, use laying boards.

When it gets to the stage that you can tug on a handful of grass and not feel the turf lift, then it’s OK to start using the lawn. You can also give it that all-important first cut …but that’s for another blog.

I hope these tips have been useful. If you have any questions, the team at Turfonline are always happy to answer questions about turfing.

More about Chris Taylor’s Landscape Business 

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