The Laying Lawn Turf Guide: How do you Lay Down Turf?

How to Lay Turf Yourself

First measure the area and determine how much turf you need (a little too much is always better than not enough). Also make sure the area you want to turf drains well and is as flat as possible. Apply weedkiller to the area and remove all the stones - now you’re ready to think about buying turf.

When to Lay a Lawn

The Best Time of Year to Lay Turf in the UK

Turf can be laid all year round, but traditionally the best times are spring and autumn. Try to avoid periods when the ground is too wet or too frosty.

Laying Turf in Spring

spring lawn with red tulipsThis is best done as soon as the ground isn’t frozen or too wet. The soil warms up in spring, so the grass will put down roots and start growing straight away. Make sure there are enough soil nutrients to support that growth and that the soil is kept moist until the roots are established (roughly a couple of weeks). Always use a pre-turfing fertiliser when laying turf in spring – preparing for turf is essential.

Laying Turf in Summer

large green lawn

During summer you'll have to move fast and do lots of watering (if it isn’t already raining lots) and you’ll be ok if you want to lay turf in the summer months. From the moment your turf is lifted from its former home, you have a matter of hours to get it laid down. Consider buying turf direct from the grower and having it delivered directly to you, so you can be sure it’s fresh.
Make sure to have the soil prepared before your turf arrives and use pre-turfing fertiliser to boost growth. Grasses tend to react to hot dry weather by slowing growth. Override this by creating spring-like conditions with plenty of water and enough food and nutrients.

Laying Turf in Autumn

autumn lawn with brown crunchy leavesTraditionally, Autumn is the best time to lay turf. Grasses don’t grow as much in winter so you won’t have to mow as much. The top few centimetres of soil is likely to freeze at some point in the winter and short roots could be damaged – your grass needs to establish a strong, deep root system quickly to counteract this. Try to make sure the area is damp but not too wet, and don’t lay your turf just before a big frost is due.

Laying Turf in Winter

frosty winter grass lawnIf your soil is able to be raked and not to wet or frozen to turn over, you can lay turf during the winter months. If not though, wait until the soil is in a better condition. Make sure to avoid walking on it before the soil starts to warm up in spring if you can. Don’t let turf dry out before the roots have established, but also don’t let it get too wet. Roots and shoots will grow slowly but don’t panic - if it’s green it’s alive.

Garden Preparation for New Turf. How do you lay new turf?

Can I Lay Turf on Grass?

green grass with daisiesLaying turf on existing grass is far from unheard of, and there are certainly those that do it. But this is not something we would advise, as the turf will find it difficult to take root properly through the existing grass, and if you’re going to the trouble of buying and laying new turf, you surely want to give it the best possible chance of success.
Problems arise because without sunlight, the grass underneath will naturally start to decompose, creating a layer of viscous acidic slime beneath your turf, which will do anything but promote growth. Inevitably a pocket of air will be created between the grass and the turf too, which will prevent the new layer from being able to take root, or at least make the process considerably more difficult. Considerable aeration work and power raking can in some instances improve soil-to-soil contact, but there will still be a soil layering problem – it is always best to create soil to root contact.

Can I Lay Turf on Clay?

The advantages of clay include the fact that it is porous, holds water extremely well and is nutrient rich. It doesn’t have to be a problematic base on which to lay turf, it just needs slightly different preparation.
But issues (such as a waterlogged surface) can arise when clay is not able to drain properly, a problem that can be alleviated by creating an effective drainage system and incorporating sand throughout, which will make it more permeable. If the addition of sand is too costly an option though, a layer of topsoil will also aid drainage and permeability.

Can I Lay Turf on Wet Soil?

damp grass with weedsThis depends entirely on how wet the soil is. After all, the new turf will need watering after installation anyway, and damp or even wet ground will only aid you in this respect. But if the area you want to turf is entirely waterlogged then this isn’t advisable, simply because the new turf won’t be able to take root properly through the layer of standing water.
Try to walk on the wet ground as little as possible, as this will only worsen the situation, and if you’re still concerned, a layer of topsoil over the damp ground and under the turf should help.

Can I Lay Turf Over Weeds?

long green grass lawn with daisiesIf you're looking to lay turf over weeds - a layer of topsoil over weeds might help, but it also might make the whole situation much worse. So for a more effective approach to laying turf over weeds, use a good amount of weed killer before using topsoil and then laying your turf. This is because weeds are nothing if not resilient, and if you don’t eradicate them before you start, they will eventually make an unwelcome reappearance on your new lawn. But it should be said that your approach should depend entirely on your weeds – annuals won’t grown through a layer of topsoil, but hardy perennials such as dandelions, dock leaves, thistles and nettles will only be encouraged. To play it safe, if you’re not sure use weed killer throughout before applying a layer of topsoil and then your turf.

Can I Lay New Turf on Top of Old Turf?

There is no simple answer to the question of whether you can lay new turf on top of old turf. Some argue the old turf can simply be overlaid, while others suggest turning the old turf over and then laying new turf on top. The argument for both methods being that the old turf will rot and give added nutritional value to the new turf. But the reasoning against this way of thinking includes the fact that weeds will grow through, any problems of compaction won't be solved by rotavating the soil, and that the new grass will compete with the old grass for nutrients before the latter dies off.
The tried and tested method says weed kill, rotavate, add sand and then top soil, before finally laying your turf, but if budget restrictions prevent this, try to break the old ground up as much as possible before adding as much soil as your purse strings will allow before laying new turf.

Can I Lay Turf on Sand?

green grass lawn mowedYes, you can lay new turf on top of sand – in fact, new turf grows best over a sandy loam, (which is soil that is mostly sand with a little clay and silt). So if you’ve got very sandy soil you’re on to a winner, and adding clay will improve it even more so.
Remove any and all weeds using a weed killer, as well as any obstacles to a nice flat lawn such as large stones or sticks. Rake the sand away from pathways and buildings, which will help the whole thing drain, then water the whole area to optimise the growing potential of the new turf.
Lay the new turf and then water again immediately, then roll the whole area once it’s dry, to prevent air pockets and make sure the roots make the best possible contact with the sand. The lawn will need more water than other types of soil for the first few days, then treat it as you would any other lawn.

Can I Lay Turf on Concrete?

Although, it is possible to lay turf on top of concrete, it is never advisable and we don’t recommend it. However, if you do decide to lay turf on concrete you will need enough soil so that there is a layer of at least 60mm in depth on top of the concrete base. It is also worth thinking about drainage, because concrete doesn’t have any. Some suggest boring holes through the concrete, but this is laborious and potentially hazardous. We would recommend simply taking into consideration the fact that the turf will need more water and making sure you’ve thought about where it will naturally drain, then altering this if needed.

What is the Best Weather to Lay a New Turf Lawn?

Realistically best laid plans never quite work out as they should when it comes to the weather, especially in this country, so it’s just as well that turf can be laid in any weather. The optimum conditions are slightly damp and warm, which encourages the roots to grow, but this is by no means a necessity.
It is more a question of working with nature instead of against it, so if it’s particularly arid make sure you water beforehand and afterwards, and as long as there isn’t frost on the ground, the grass should take root, it may just take a bit longer to flourish.

Step-by-Step Guide to Laying a New Natural Turf Lawn

soil with hoe digging

Measure the Site

This is vital – not only for economic reasons (ie. over- or under-ordering on the turf), but also because you need to think about how much topsoil you will need, at the correct depth throughout. This will mean the lawn is more resilient to drought, but it will also be using both water and nutrients efficiently to the best of its ability. This will mean your grass crop is denser, which will result in less space for weeds, and will make your lawn much more appealing to look at.

Prepare the Site

First think about water – make sure there is correct drainage in place, and water the area if needed. Remove all old lawn or turf, then test the pH, so that you can adjust it if necessary. Weed kill the whole area, then level it out and rake before adding top soil. Walk all over the top soil to tread it down, then rake in fertiliser – now you’re ready to turf.

Lay the Turf

Gently unroll the turf one roll at a time, making sure it is flush to the edge, and then press it in with your hands as you go. Try to leave as small a gap as possible between one roll and the next, then use a sharp knife to cut off the turf when you reach the end of the lawn. Continue in parallel to your first line of turf, again making sure there’s no gap between the pieces of turf. When you’ve covered the whole lawn, use the back of a rake to pack it all down a bit more – alternatively you could use a hand tamper. Water thoroughly until the turf just begins to puddle on the surface, then let that soak in. Don’t overwater or you will create air pockets underneath or just kill the grass by drowning it and not letting it take root.

How to Look After Freshly Laid Turf – New Lawn Aftercare

lush green grass with lawn mower

New Turf Aftercare Hints and Tips

- Keep the turf wet, but not too wet
- Make sure that the turf is draining
- Fertilise the turf
- Mow your turf lawn regularly but make sure that it's not too short

When Can I Walk on my New Turf?

When your new turf is first laid, it is rooting and more susceptible to damage, so try to keep walking on it to a minimum. If you do need to walk on it, to set up your sprinklers for example, be sure to remove your shoes, especially high heels. 

How, Why and When to Aerate a New Lawn

In order to aerate, spike your turf (2”-6”) between March and November; slit or chisel tine it in spring and autumn; and core it using a hollow tine aerator in autumn.

Fertilising Newly Laid Turf

Incorporate a starter fertiliser into your soil before you install your turf. Do not fertilise your new lawn immediately after it is installed.

Mowing Newly Laid Turf

How long to leave a lawn before cutting it? You should leave your lawn 7 to 10 days before mowing it for the first time. A simple test is to grab hold of your turf and give it a little tug, if you feel resistance it has taken root and you can mow it, not too short though. 

Newly Laid Lawn Turf Problems

Newly Laid Turf Sinking?

You could also try top seeding your turf to avoid it from sinking.

Newly Laid Turf Turning Yellow?

If your newly laid turf is turning yellow, this is generally from mowing too soon, cutting it too short, or not giving your new turf enough water.

Newly Laid Turf Turning Brown?

Your new turf may need water or there may be air pockets underneath – water it and roll it.

Newly Laid Turf Dying?

If your newly laid turf appears to be dying, make sure to water it and pay particular attention to the joints. Don't be tempted to overfeed your new turf. Give it time, grass is resilient.