How to lay turf – advice from Chase Landscapes

While autumn is the ideal time of year to lay turf, as the soil is warm and moist, which helps the roots to establish, spring is also a suitable season. Rolawn for instance, can be laid year round. If you live in an area with a hosepipe ban in place, you might want to consider waiting to lay your turf until later in the year or choose a drought-tolerant variety, because after care and regular watering is essential when establishing a new lawn.

Watch this video for advice on how to lay turf from Bobby Olley the owner of Chase Landscapes in Essex.

The key to a healthy lawn is deep and rapid root growth, making it more drought resistant in the long term, queue sunshine and showers. But sun and rain will only be effective if the ground has been properly prepared: the correct depth, structure and quality of soil.

1. Remove old grass

Scuff the surface off of the old lawn with a spade and remove any roots or stones. This is hard work and will take a while (especially if the ground is hard). Alternatively a landscape gardener would use a small digger, you can hire these from your local hire shop – advisable if you’re clearing a large area. The derbies can either be composted or recycled at your local authority’s household waste recycling centre.

2. Prepare the soil

Preparing the soil properly is essential to the overall finish (a flat lawn) and the longevity of the lawn – a badly laid lawn will deteriorate over time. You will need to add between 4 – 6 inches of top soil, depending on the quality of the existing soil.

Top soil needs to be dug over or rotivated (rotivators can be hired for a daily fee,) to aerate the soil, raked level, screeded to give a flat surface and then threaded down by foot.

Ideally the soil should be watered a couple of days before the turf is laid to provide water for the roots, then raked again just before the turf is laid.

3. Buy the turf

A standard piece of turf covers about 1 one square meter, order 5% more turf than you need to account for excess turf that will be lost when it is trimmed to size.

There are different grades of turf available, from hard wearing domestic, to show quality and even drought-tolerant varieties that can be laid in the summer time.

You should try and lay the turf on the same day that it is delivered, however, if this isn’t possible ensure the turf is kept well watered so it stays moist.

4. Lay the turf

Begin by laying the first row along a straight edge, unrolling carefully to avoid damaging the turf. Butt each piece closely to the last – never stretch the turves by pulling them –  to get a good contact between the rolls and the soil and tap down each section with the back of a rake. Don’t use a roller on freshly laid turf.

Avoid standing or kneeling on the newly lain turf by placing wooden boards on the turfed areas. Stagger subsequent rows in a brickwork pattern, allowing over-hang at the edges of the lawn, until the entire area has been covered. Trim the over hanging edges with a half-moon cutting tool or a long knife.

5. Water!

Newly laid turf needs to be watered immediately and for several days after it’s been laid, this is best done in either the morning or evening. Lift the corners of the soil to check that the water is reaching the soil below. Once the roots have been established after a few weeks you should still continue to water the lawn during periods of dry weather.

6. Mow and it will grow

You may need to mow your lawn within as little as 3 days, most people wait too long. However, if any of the turf is disturbed, replace it and wait a few more days for it to establish before reattempting to mow. For the first couple of cuts, keep the blades of your mower on high, only removing about 1/4 of the grass blade.

Mowing the lawn will encourage it to establish, although you should keep off of it as much as possible in the first few weeks to help it develop its root system.

Small amounts of grass clippings do not need to be collected – they will return nutrients to the soil. Mowing little and often is the trick to keeping a healthy lawn as well as applying lawn fertiliser twice annually.

You can do it yourself with only a few tools: a rake, a long knife, a spade, some planks, a garden hose and a sprinkler. This is the old fashioned method and it is therefore hard work and time intensive, the alternative is to hire a professional landscape gardener who will use diggers and specialist equipment to get the job done.

To find a landscape gardener, like Bobby from Chase Landscapes, post your gardening job for free on and we’ll put you in contact with up to 3 quality, local gardeners. Read the tradesmen’s ratings and recommendations from previous customers and select the tradesman you would like to hire.

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