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When is the best time to lay turf?

New turf is best laid in the autumn before the frosts start so really any time from late autumn through to mid-winter particularly as the UK winters have been so mild in recent years. It is also important to avoid wet periods and find a dry window for best results. Little mowing of the new turf will be required which is what makes autumn the ideal time as the grass can be left relatively undisturbed and given a chance to bed in. There is also usually a corresponding reduction in family activity outdoors once children are back to school and the weather becomes cooler and more unsettled with less demand for time in the garden.

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What the reasons for laying new turf

There are several reasons why new turf may be a better option than persisting with the current lawn and these include:-

  • The existing lawn has been neglected and will take weeks if not months of work to bring to standard
  • The lawn has died after a prolonged dry period
  • There has been too much damage to the current lawn from children and pets
  • The lawn area is to be extended or reduced in size and this presents an opportunity to start again with fresh turf
  • The household is changing from real grass to artificial turf or vice versa


image from: https://www.onlineturf.co.uk/knowledge-base/blog/how-quickly-do-i-need-to-lay-my-new-turf


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How to look after newly laid turf

Newly laid turf will require some care and attention in the first few weeks to ensure the grass is protected and has enough time to take root. Here are some simple but key steps to follow:-

  • Water daily until the roots are established, this is paramount as until the roots have grown long enough, they will not be able to access moisture from the soil. 85% of the root mass is chopped off by the turf harvester and so it is going to take days or even weeks for the turf to re-establish those roots. However, don’t flood the grass, in hot weather, water twice daily rather than saturating the soil once a day. It can be helpful to add water-retaining crystals to the soil before the new turf is laid. Check the turf every day by just lifting up one corner to inspect the soil and to see whether it is dry or damp. You should water sufficiently to create puddles on the surface but no more than that. After watering check the soil half an hour later to see if it is damp and if it isn’t then water again. After the first two weeks when you should be watering daily, the grass should become a little more self-sufficient and you should be able to alter the watering intervals to every other day.
  • Try and avoid walking on the lawn in the first few days, harvested turf has already undergone the trauma of being cut and transported in rolls called turves and it just needs some time to recover. Grass is an amazingly tough and durable plant and can withstand a lot of damage to the leaf but in the first few weeks after it has been laid, it will be busy restoring the root structure so it is preferable not to add to its burden by stressing the leaf of the plant as well. If you do need to walk on the lawn then you can use laying boards to spread the weight
  • Don’t mow too soon.Mowing can be an additional stress for the plants to cope with as they seek to re-establish a deeper root structure. It is vital that the new root structure has established itself before you start mowing and this will depend to some degree on the weather and simply being patient. If you mow too early then the blades could rip the turves up out of the soil. A good way to check is to pull up a handful of grass – if you can feel the turf lift as you do so then it is too soon to mow but if the blades of the plant break leaving the roots intact in the soil then the grass is ready for mowing. When you do start mowing, keep the blades on the mower at around 5cm-6cm so fairly high and ensure they are super sharp to avoid any pulling or tugging at the plants’ root structure. Just nip off the tops the first few occasions that you mow, never take off more than one-third of the length but less on the first few cuts. Keep the grass box on for the very first cut so there are no clippings left on the surface of the lawn. Cut again four to five days later
  • Start a lawn feeding regime.If you have added a pre-turfing fertiliser to your soil before the turves are laid then you shouldn’t need to feed the lawn for the next four to six weeks. However, if you haven’t done this then apply fertiliser around ten days after the turf has been and ensure it is well watered in. The fertiliser will support the extra root growth that is required in the early days and make the blades of the plant more durable. Make sure you use the right feed for the right season as lawn fertiliser is manufactured to reflect the time of year it is being used. An autumn-winter feed will encourage root growth but not too much top growth

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the key to laying new turf well?

The two most important factors are laying the turf as soon as it arrives and preparing the soil base for it properly in advance. Always buy good quality turf and try and ensure it is delivered to your home within 24 hours of being cut. Never buy rolls of turf which have just been left to sit outside the garden centre.

How much does it cost to lay new turf?

The average cost is around £7 per m2 of turf but this price doesn’t reflect the cost of removing the old lawn, preparing the soil and then laying the turves. These will all attract additional labour costs if you are not doing the job yourself.

For more information on lawns from turf, see this article from The Royal Horticultural Society, and to find out the differences between real and artificial grass, click here to read the article from the Homeowners Alliance.

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