Guest post: specifying and laying turf

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Adam Pounds of Tillers Turf runs through a simple guide to preparing areas for turf, for landscaping and sports situations, and getting the best results when laying it.

Preparation

Thorough preparation is very important for best results. Don’t arrange delivery of your turf before the turf bed is fully prepared and you are ready to lay the turf.

A depth of at least 150mm (6″) of good topsoil is recommended for establishment of turf. It is worth thinking about incorporating organic matter into your soil. If you have very sandy soils, organic matter will add structure to the soil and improve its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. If you have heavy clay soil, the addition of organic matter will help break up the clay and make it easier to work. It will also improve the drainage. Don’t be tempted to put sharp sand into heavy soils, though. This is a common mistake which will lead to more problems. Try to avoid using peat as the source of organic matter.

Dig over, removing weeds and stones. Finish or rake to a rough level. At this point, consolidation over the whole area is key and this will ensure that you are not left with soft spots. Apply a general fertiliser according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and mix thoroughly into the top 50mm of soil. Rake over to obtain the final level and a fine tilth. This ensures good contact between the soil and the turf.

Make sure you order enough turf. Remember that wastage due to cutting and shaping is higher for irregularly shaped areas, so you may need a bit more than you think. It’s well worth adding about 5% extra turf rather than find that you’re a few metres short at the end of the job. Turf must be laid immediately in the summer to avoid deterioration of the turf. As a general rule, lay the turf as soon as possible after delivery. The sooner you lay it, the better the results will be.

Laying

Start by laying a row of turf all the way around the perimeter of the area to be turfed. Then start laying the turf along a straight side, butting the ends closely together. On subsequent rows, stagger the joints like brickwork, making sure that there are no gaps. If you need to adjust the position of the turf after unrolling, always push it rather than pulling it to avoid stretching. Work from planks laid on the soil to avoid making footprints.

Make sure that there is complete contact between the underside of the turf and the topsoil. If necessary, tamp or roll the turf lightly as you go along. Try not to leave any gaps between the turfs, but if they do occur they can be filled with topsoil and lightly firmed.

Watering

Start watering the turf as soon as you have laid it. This is very important. Never let the turf dry out in the first 2–3 weeks, or until the roots have gone well down into the soil.

When you water, make sure that the underside of the turf and the first 50mm of topsoil is damp. The best way to check this is to lift the corner of several turfs to see if the soil is damp underneath.

Try to water little and often, rather than flooding the area, so that the soil does not become soggy. If you over-water, you may find it difficult to mow without leaving footprints in the turf. Another problem with over-watering is that it encourages the development of lawn diseases. Don’t water late in the evening because the grass stays wet overnight, and this too can lead to disease. Even after the critical first few weeks are over you may have to check that the soil has not dried up.

Tillers Turf Company Ltd is a leading grower and national supplier of cultivated turf for landscape and sport.

Their core business is growing turf for use in landscaping on both large and small projects nationwide. Tillers Turf is used by many well-known companies and organisations, including The National Trust, English Heritage, Rolls Royce, British Airways, Nissan, Sainsbury, Slough Estates, Heathrow T5, Arlington Properties, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sun Alliance, the Foreign Office and National House Builders.

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