Lay turf cost guide
We love our lawns, but there’s a world of difference between a weak, spongy, discoloured bit of grass and a firm, lush, vivid lawn. A thriving lawn depends on three different stages – preparation, installation (including buying the best quality turf rolls) and maintenance – particularly in the fortnight immediately after laying. Get all three right, commit to a month’s worth of hard work, and you’ll have a long-lasting, lush, lovely lawn.
How to buy the right turf
A beautiful lawn should last a lifetime, so it’s worth investing in quality turf at the outset. But how do you spot the best turf and how do you know what to avoid? Here are some questions to ask the turf supplier:
How old is the turf?
The freshness of the turf is essential to ensure that it establishes well. Ideally the turf should be around 12 months old or a bit younger – if it’s too old it will have difficulty in establishing, taking too long to root.
How thick is the turf roll?
The roll itself can have a significant impact on the ease with which the turf establishes and ultimately the quality of your new lawn – and it’s the soil thickness on the roll you want to check first. Ideally it should be 6-12.5mm – less than 6mm will be too dry and dry out on the roll, more than 12.5mm will take too long to root.
How strong is the roll?
A good quality turf roll will, as the name suggests, roll out and be relatively easy to fit. A poor quality roll will crumble and split, making it not only difficult to install but tricky to even lift.
Which type of grass should I choose?
There’s no such thing as a standard lawn – and therefore your choice of turf should reflect the type of lawn you want. If you’re after a lawn that looks like a bowling green, you’ll need a turf that can withstand exceptionally close mowing. Most domestic lawns are different, and a typical mix of fescue, rye and meadow grass would survive regular mowing down to around 15mm. As with any lawn, of course, regular mowing is critical.
How much will turf cost?
You should expect to pay £2.60-£4/m2 including VAT for good quality turf. Most turf suppliers like to have a week’s notice, although can operate on lead-in times as light as a couple of days.
What size will the rolls come in?
Most rolls tend to by around 60cm wide and 1.8-2m in length, meaning each roll covers just over 1m2.
At Checkatrade we always recommend hiring a trained professional tradesperson in to tackle your turf laying project. These are the essential steps taken in turf laying:
Preparing your garden for new turf
It’s essential to create a suitable substructure for the new turf. The substructure should be firm and completely screened for weeds, with all stones removed. Here’s how:
- If you have an existing lawn to remove, then you should use a spade or hire a turf cutter to remove the top layer – if not, apply a non-selective weed killer (selective weed killers only kill weeds) ideally two weeks before you intend to lay the new turf. The weed killer (obviously) will also screen the soil and ensure all weeds are removed.
- The soil should be turned over (rotovated) to a depth of 15cm and then pressed down (using a roller or stamping) to create some firmness. Any stones larger than 1cm should be removed and the soil should then be raked lightly. Remove any tree stumps or any obstacle that may poke out of the ground. The topsoil needs to be ideally 15cm deep, with a minimum requirement of 10cm – this gives the grass roots chance to develop properly. Give the soil a water two or three days before laying and a final rake over.
- In terms of timing, try to avoid laying the turf without any rain in the forecast – the height of summer is obviously risky. Extreme heat and sun will mean you’ll be battling to keep the turf alive – it’s so much easier in spring or autumn.
Images from Jack Hillebrandt Tree Services outlines the steps taken to achieve a perfect lawn
The right tools for laying turf
Get some timber planks for walking across the turves as you lay them; a knife or spade to cut through the turf rolls; a wheelbarrow to transport the turf rolls and a rake to allow some last-minute loosening of the soil or removal of stones.
Ideally, you’ll have a straight edge to lay against and start by laying out turf rolls slowly (across any slopes, rather than down them). As you would with brickwork, offset the starting point of the rolls by 30-50cm and keep the rolls close together ideally with plenty of room to knit them downwards – don’t stretch the rolls out as they’ll break or reduce coverage. You’ll need to make sure the rolls connect with the topsoil below, and at the edges, gently push down to ensure a connection. Use a knife or spade edge to cut around curves or obstacles such as trees. Make sure that if you must walk over the turf at any stage to make sure you walk on planks to spread the weight.
With the turf successfully laid, the immediate maintenance is critical. The turf should be watered immediately and pretty much continuously for the first month, and then, depending on weather, on a weekly cycle once the turf has rooted into the topsoil. And then, as stated, the key to success is in regular mowing – but not too tightly.
Our Checkatrade expert turfer Jack Hillebrandt , owner of Hampshire based garden landscaping firm Jack Hillebrandt Tree Services offers his best advice to achieve a stunning new lawn.
Tips before any turf are laid
Ensure you dig deep
For a really healthy 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. The deeper you can cultivate the soil, removing stones, the better your new lawn will be able to cope with drought, disease and high traffic usage. The minimum depth of soil for turfing is 15cm.
Improve the soil
A lawn needs plenty of fertile soil to encourage growth and thickness. Invest in high-quality topsoil, do not try saving money by buying cheap topsoil. Carefully mix it into your garden soil, ensuring you combine them together well and actively remove stones, weeds and debris. You can improve most garden soils with this approach and it is an effective workaround when faced with low-grade material.
Tips for newly laid turf
- Use a lightweight garden roller to roll the topsoil into a nice level, do not compact too much.
- When giving the turf its first cut after 2-3 weeks, make sure it is a high cut with the mower to avoid ripping it out of the ground as long as it has seeded into the ground. You can check this by trying to gently lift a corner of turf.
- Be generous with watering in the first 2-3 weeks.
- Watered best at night or morning, so the water does not evaporate in the heat of the day and will be pointless in wasting water.
- Regularly water your grass even after it is established if you want to keep it fresh and green.
- Lay turf like brickwork, making sure the ends of turf do not all meet in a line or the turf may not root right and create patches. You can help do this by every other row, start with half a roll.