Gardening and Landscaping

How to Create a Lawn Using Turf

June 16th 2021

The quickest way to create a new lawn with natural grass in your garden is by laying ready-grown turf. Turfing grass costs more than growing your lawn from seed, but seeds take weeks to germinate and grow, followed by careful nurturing. That makes turf challenging to beat if you need grass that hits the ground running; ready to walk, play and party on in a couple of days. 

What’s the best time to lay turf?

You can lay turf successfully at any time of year except winter, but early-to mid-autumn is the best. Conditions are likely to be moist and mild, and the grass grows slowly, so not much mowing is needed. That allows the turf to take root undisturbed.

If you turf in spring and summer, it will flourish, but you must be careful to water it constantly over the drier months. You should also mow it regularly and carefully. Dry soil and premature mowing can stress out turf and make it root more slowly.

Ground preparation for laying turf 

How to prepare soil for turf
(Credit: CBCK-Christine) URL:

Turfing isn’t just laying a ‘carpet’ of grass over a patch of ground. You need the grass to take root and become a living, growing lawn at speed, and that won’t happen unless you first create a suitable seedbed underneath.

Remember, the lawn can only be as flat and smooth as the surface it’s lying on. That means thoroughly preparing the ground, and the process is similar to the one described in our HSS blog on growing grass from seed. If you want a more straightforward and quicker route to your new lawn, try our article on laying artificial turf.

  • Weed the soil thoroughly to remove all weeds, such as couch grass and bindweed. Either do this by hand or use a non-residual weedkiller. Warning: the wrong herbicide will stay active in the soil and kill your grass.
  • Hire an HSS rotavator and give the soil a good going over. Dig down to a depth of 25 centimetres.
  • Dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or other organic matter to create a soil base that holds moisture. This is especially vital if your soil is sandy. Avoid clumps of un-rotted material as they decay later. You’ll get depressions in your finished lawn when that section of soil subsides.
  • Leave the soil to settle for several days — the longer, the better.
  • Go back and re-weed by hand. Nature never stands still, and new plants are sure to have made themselves at home.
  • Create that all-important level base for your lawn by walking over the area in different directions.
  • Rake the area repeatedly in every possible direction.
  • Rake in general-purpose fertiliser, using around 70 grams per square metre.
  • Give the ground a final raking to create a fine tilth of small loose soil particles: perfect for the turf to take root in.

Choosing and ordering your turf 

Ordering turf involves two big decisions: how much and which type?

Start by carefully measuring the lawn area in square metres. Each turf roll is generally a square metre, 1.64 metres long and 0.61 metres wide, so working in feet and yards will cause miscalculations. Tell your supplier the size of the lawn, and they’ll advise how many rolls you need.

Check that the turf you are ordering complies with TGA (Turf Growers Association) standards to monitor the quality.

Now talk to your supplier about how you’ll be using the lawn, and they’ll advise on the best type of turf. Do you want a hard-wearing patch of grass the kids can charge around on without damage or an ornamental lawn that’s purely decorative? Will you be mowing meticulously every few days or only when you have to, and what kind of mower do you use?

You may dream of a golf green-style surface, but that type of turf is very high-maintenance and impractical for most domestic gardens. Tough, disease-resistant turf with a mixture of ryegrass, fescue and meadow grass is an excellent all-rounder for a hard-working, low-maintenance family lawn.

How to lay turf

The first rule of turf laying is: do it immediately after delivery, ideally within 24 hours. That’s why it’s vital to have all the preparation done in advance. If you have to store your turf, keep it in the shade and remove any plastic wrapping from the pallets.

Ready to start laying?

  • Start at one edge of the lawn and work across, so that you are facing bare soil.
  • Work from boards to avoid denting newly-laid turf with your feet.
  • Lay the sods with staggered joints, brickwork style, and keep the joints as close together as possible.
  • To avoid overlaps, trim the turf using a half-moon edging tool.
  • Have a spade with you to lift and replace sods that need adjusting.
  • Keep a bucket of sandy soil with you, so you add or remove dirt whenever necessary to keep the lawn level.
  • When all the turf is laid, press it gently but firmly into place. Hire a light roller from HSS, and you’ll ensure a professional finish.
  • Finally, spread a topdressing layer of sandy soil or compost over the whole lawn and work it in using a stiff broom. This fills any tiny gaps and encourages the separate turves to knit together.
turf laying tips
(Credit: CBCK-Christine) URL:

Caring for your just-laid lawn 

Stay off the lawn for a few days after laying it, and start mowing when the grass has grown to about 5 centimetres. Set the blades high for the first few mows. In dry weather, especially the warm summer months, water your new turf every five to ten days using a hose with a sprinkler attachment to avoid walking on the grass. Water every fortnight at other times. Be careful not to overdo the watering as this can cause shallow roots and encourage weeds. 

Need more ideas? 

Do you have other garden or home improvement jobs in mind? Talk to the experts at your local HSS branch about the equipment you’ll need, and take a look at the wealth of information in the HSS blog.

About the Author

Laila Naqvi

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