A lawn can make or break a lovely garden. If it’s lush, green and well-kept it’s an absolute pleasure to sit out on, potter along or just view through a window. However if it’s left to brown at the mercy of the elements and trampled to bare, muddy patches, it can be a bit of an eyesore and even make us feel a bit disheartened.
If your lawn falls in to the latter example, don’t despair. This can be fixed! It’s all well and good laying grass seed and waiting for it to grow (as long as the birds don’t get it!), but if you’re after an instant fix for your ailing lawn, laying down fresh turf is a great way to give your garden a boost. You’ll need to be prepared in advance for getting the turf on location and laid as quickly as possible, because the lovely ‘Swiss rolls’ the turf comes in only last for a few days before going ‘off’ and browning as the blades of grass are deprived of sun.
First, prepare your soil
This can be done well in advance of laying the turf – but make sure you won’t need to walk across the soil and risk making the surface uneven or it will ruin the finished look of your lawn.
- Clear the ground of stones, twigs and rubbish.
- Unless you have recently done this, break up the surface of the soil to about 8-10 inches deep and fork through a good amount of well-rotted compost or manure, making sure to break up any larger bits as you go.
- Take some general fertiliser and sprinkle it across the surface, rake through thoroughly and remove any more rogue twigs and stones that might have escaped the first clear. Don’t use any weedkiller, as this may inhibit the grass once it’s laid.
- Next, you’ll need to firm up the surface. You can use a roller for this, but for smaller areas I find feet work just as well – tread the surface flat using careful, methodical steps. Keep doing this until the whole area is covered in footprints.
- Take up your rake again and rake the surface over, leaving it still firm and level but with a surface of fine crumbs of soil. Fill in any hollows as you go.
- Repeat step five until you’re totally happy with the result!
Laying your lawn from turf
You really do get what you pay for with turf, so it’s worth splashing out a bit if you can. Many cheaper turfs are cut from pasture or parkland, and could be riddled with nibbled patches and weeds.
Because of the – ahem- reasonable chance of rain, turf is best laid in mid-autumn, as long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. Try to organise your turf delivery as close as possible to when you’re going to start laying it – this is an ideal weekend project.
- Start from one edge or corner of the area, ideally where there’s a straight edge, and lay a row of turves along it. You’ll want to work facing the soil so you’re not trampling it as you go.
- To protect the grass, lay some boards or even sturdy cardboard along the surface to stand on as you work.
- Lay the next row snugly along the first, staggering the joins between the turves like you would see bricks in a wall. Make sure to tamp down the turf with the back of your rake so it’s firmly set.
- Take a bucket of soil along with you so you can add or take away if you find any irregularities in the surface.
- Once you get to irregular corners or curved beds, use an old knife to trim the turves to shape so that they fit snugly.
- Fill any gaps between turves or around the edges with soil – the grass will soon fill them in.
- If you’re laying in autumn and the ground is moist, the lawn shouldn’t need watering in if rain looks likely. However if it turns suddenly dry or you’re laying in spring, make sure to give the surface a really good soaking with a hose.
- Now… stay away for a bit! Take care not to trample the new turf and encourage kids and pets to stsy away too. The turf will take a few weeks to take root, so keep checking – if it lifts up easily, it’s not ready to enjoy just yet.
- Read my articles on spring and summer lawn care here, and autumn lawn care here for some top tips on keeping your new lawn looking fresh all year round.