There is nothing that offsets a beautiful garden quite like a well-maintained, green, weed-free lawn. However, yours may not be looking that wonderful and you may be considering giving it a revamp and starting anew. The colder months of November and December – providing it is not too wet or frosty – can be the perfect time to lay new turf. Laying turf from a Turfgrass Growers Association member, which ensures you get good quality turf, is important. Provided it is properly laid, you will get an instant lawn without the problems often associated with using grass seed. Remember, however, that turf is a mass of living plants which needs care and attention, not only at the time it is laid but throughout the year.
Stripping Existing Lawn:
If you have an existing lawned area, this will need to be removed. Part of your pre-planning before you start stripping off the old turf is to measure the area you want to re-turf. As turf is sold by the meter, it is important to go metric when measuring the area. Depending on the size, you may want to hire a turf-stripper to speed up the job. You can remove the existing turf by cutting strips using a half-moon lawn-edger then using a sharp spade to slice the old turf off the soil. You may want to compost what you take off by turning it upside down in a compost bin and leaving it for several months. Once the turf is striped off, you will need to dig the area over to a depth of 15cm removing all debris, weeds, roots and clearing off the stones. A rotavator can be used but a second dig with a spade is worth the work.
Preparing the Ground:
The next stage is to ensure that the ground is level. Rake it over, breaking up any larger clods of soil to ensure a smooth, level surface. Firm the whole area over to remove any soft patches. This is done by lightly treading over the surface by foot. It is recommended that the area is then lightly re-raked and given a dressing of fertiliser such as Growmore or Blood, Fish and Bone. If the soil is very dry, water it well at least 24 hours before the turf is laid but do not walk extensively over the area otherwise you will get dips in the surface.
Laying the Turf:
It is important that once you place the order for the turf, you are ready to lay it within a few hours of delivery. Fresh turf does not store well and if you need to store it for a few hours, keep it in the shade, removing any film wrapping from the pallet. Before you lay the turf, ensure that you have some boards or planks to work off as you need to avoid walking directly on the new lawn. Unroll your first complete strip around the perimeter of the lawn, ensuring the new turf is in contact with the soil below. The next strip needs to be laid in a brickwork effect, avoiding seams falling in a line. If you need to join seems, overlay one an inch or so over the other piece of turf and using a sharp serrated knife, cut through both pieces of turf. Remove the excess turf to ensure you have a neat edge, whilst however, avoiding any stretching. Ends of rows can be neatened using a sharp half-moon lawn edger.
Once your turf is laid, keeping it well watered is the key to getting it off to a good start. Even in the winter, you may need to water it. Using a sprinkler – if possible – water the turf until the water soaks through to the soil beneath. For the first two weeks, daily watering (in the evening during summer months) is required unless we have a substantial amount of rain. If the turf dries out at the gaps or starts to curl or lift, it is not getting sufficient water. Like humans, plants cannot survive on just being watered – they also need feeding. Lawns are no exception. Using a balanced lawn fertiliser during the active growing period (from March to October) applying every four to six weeks will keep your lawn in peak condition. Some have in-built weed killers whilst the pet-friendly fertilisers may not; instead, they just provide food and the healthy grass will prevent the weeds coming through.
Mowing Your New Lawn:
If you lay your new turf during the winter months, you will not need to start mowing until early March when it is actively growing, and frosts are over. During other periods of the year, new turf can be mown approximately two weeks after laying. Set your mower to its highest setting to avoid stressing the grass. Mow regularly taking off no more than one-third of the grass height until the turf is established. The mower height can then be reduced gradually to an optimum height of 15-35mm but do avoid scalping. Remember to keep the lawn edges neatly cut too.
If you start to get moss in the lawn, you may need to scarify in spring to remove the build-up of moss and thatch (old grass). It is often wise to do this a couple of weeks after the application of a lawn moss killer.