If you want to get your new lawn in place and looking great quickly, you can’t beat turf. Just unroll it where you want it, and you’ll have a beautiful green surface. Simple, right?!
But as anyone who’s ever laid turf knows, the reality isn’t quite that straightforward. Dried, curling edges, dead grass, and lumps and bumps can all result from getting it wrong. That’s where we come in!
We’re going to guide you step by step through how to lay turf. We’ll explain what you need for the job. And we’ll share some hints and tips to get truly professional results.
So let’s get started!
Tools for turf laying
- General-purpose fertiliser
- Topsoil (if you don’t already have good topsoil in your garden)
- Garden fork
- Garden rake
- Watering can or garden hose
- Sufficient turf for your lawn area
- Scaffolding planks
- Sharp knife
- Half-moon edger
- Garden hose or spray paint – if your lawn will have curved edges
How to Lay Turf – Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Prepare the ground
The process starts about a week before you want to lay your turf.
Don’t order your turf until you know exactly when you’re going to lay it. It won’t last for more than a day or so rolled up before it dies.
Prepare the ground for your lawn by forking it over. Break up any large clumps of soil with the back of your fork. Remove dead grass, roots and large stones.
Then add a general purpose fertiliser to the soil, following the manufacturer’s directions. This is the reason for doing your preparation so far in advance. It will take time for the chemicals to be absorbed by the earth.
Now rake the ground so that it’s level. Get down low and use long strokes with your rake to get the best results. If you haven’t already got good topsoil, add some now. You’ll need a depth of at least 4 inches across the surface of your lawn.
Next, you need to compact the soil. Stand at one corner of the lawn with your feet together. Now shuffle forwards, digging your heels in as you go. Make sure you cover every part of the surface. Then rake again and do a second shuffle.
Pro tip: You want to incorporate the fertiliser into the top inch or so of the soil. That will ensure there are plenty of nutrients within reach of the roots of the new turf.
Step 2: Water the soil
You want to make sure that your turf is going to have plenty to drink. Two days before it arrives, give the soil a thorough watering. You can do this with a watering can – but if you have a hose, the job will be much easier.
You want the soil to be moist to a depth of about 3 inches. A thorough watering will also help the soil to settle. Give it an hour or so after you’ve watered, then rake it over again to ensure it’s level. It’s now ready to receive your turf.
Step 3: Start to lay the turf
When your ground is ready and you have your turf, it’s time to start laying it. If possible, start with a straight edge. If you’re creating a round lawn, lay the first strips in the middle.
Unroll it gently, and place each piece end to end. You want them as close to each other as you can get them. The aim is not to see the join at all. Pat down the whole surface of each strip firmly after you’ve unrolled it. This will ensure the roots are fully in contact with the soil.
Pro tip: If your best laid plans go awry and you can’t lay your turf when you expect to, unroll it. This will allow the light to get to the grass and keep it alive longer. Giving it a water will help too.
Step 4: Lay the next row
When you’ve finished the first row, repeat with the next. Stagger the joins between turves to give a pattern like brickwork. If you have joins next to each other, the edges of the turves may dry out and die back.
Avoid stepping on your new turf as you work. Remember, the grass hasn’t rooted yet. Putting pressure on it will create divots or move the turf.
Deal with this problem by laying scaffolding planks across your turf to allow you to reach all areas. Walking or kneeling on the planks will distribute your weight more evenly.
You may find you need to use a sharp knife to cut the turf to fit your lawn.
Pro tip: Don’t leave any smaller pieces of turf you’ve needed to cut at the end of the row. They’ll dry out quicker than larger ones, and they’ll do so even faster if the edge is exposed to the air. Instead, sandwich the small section between two whole turves. That will help it to stay moist for longer.
Step 5: Making curved edges
If your lawn is square or rectangular, you can finish laying turf as described in the previous step. But if you want curved edges, you’ll need to mark out your desired shape.
Start by laying enough turf to cover the whole area of your lawn. Then use spray paint or a garden hose to mark where you want the edges to be. This will show you which parts of the turf need to be cut off and disposed of.
Then take your half-moon edger and use it to cut around the line. Dig it in vertically, then jiggle the blade back and forth and side to side. Repeat all along the line. This YouTube video from The Lawn Whisperer shows you how to do it.
When you’ve cut along the whole edge, place the half-moon edger on the outside of the cut area. Dig in the blade and lift out the unwanted turf. This can go into your composter.
Pro tip: Don’t remove the turf until you’ve cut along the whole line. That will give you a cleaner edge than if you remove it as you go.
Step 6: Water the grass
Regular watering is very important. Your grass won’t yet have rooted into the soil below, so it won’t be able to suck up any other moisture.
Your grass will need water at least once a day for the first two to four weeks after the turf is laid. If you need to walk on any part of the lawn to water it, use scaffolding planks. (Make sure you remove them as soon as you’ve finished, or the grass underneath will yellow and die.)
The amount of water to give it will depend on the weather and temperature. If it’s bucketed down with rain that day, there’s no need to water by hand. But on very hot, sunny days, you may need water your grass twice.
Give your lawn lots to drink on its first day. You could even have puddles without doing any harm. But don’t let water stand on the surface for more than a quarter of an hour.
Pro tip: Give your lawn enough water that the top 4 inches of soil remain moist 10 minutes after watering.
Lay your turf at the right time of year
- Lay your new turf when the weather conditions will help the grass root quickly. The best time is autumn. The soil will still be warm, and there’ll be plenty of rain.
- If you find you have an unseasonable dry spell, water thoroughly by hand instead.
Make sure you order enough turf
- Order at least ten per cent more turf than you think you’ll need to cover your lawn’s surface area. That’s particularly important if your lawn will have curved edges, as you’ll have more wastage.
- Plan when you’ll lay your lawn well in advance. You’ll need about a week for the soil to absorb fertiliser, and a couple of days for it to absorb water, before the turf is laid.
- You want to lay your turf as soon after it arrives as possible. Make sure you have somewhere to keep it until it’s down. That should be a cool, shady space to slow the rate at which it dries out.
- Check the weather forecast and aim to lay your lawn on a cool, damp day. If it rains later, so much the better – you won’t need to do as much watering.
Be patient before mowing
- Make sure your grass has fully rooted before you get out your mower. That will normally take about three weeks.
- To check that it’s ready for its first cut, take a few blades between your fingers and pull. If the soil moves with the grass, you need to wait a bit longer.
- Set your mower at its maximum height for the first cut. You can gradually reduce it with every subsequent cut, but don’t reduce the height by more than a quarter in one go.
Time to lay your turf!
We hope our guide to how to lay turf has given you the confidence to tackle this project! Plan ahead, prepare the ground properly, and take care to lay the pieces without gaps.
The great thing about turf is that it gives you the appearance of an instant lawn. But remember – it needs lots of aftercare. Water it generously for the first few weeks, and your grass will quickly become established.
We hope you’re soon enjoying your beautiful new lawn!