The Do’s and Don’ts of Turfing (and Re-Turfing)

You’ve just noticed some bare patches in the lawn, or maybe you’ve seen some tired-looking spots. Or perhaps there are lumpy areas or places where weeds have invaded.

Is your lawn less than picture-perfect? Whether you’re starting with a bare patch of land or just want to improve the look of your existing lawn, re-turfing is one home improvement task that can totally transform your property – and it’s something you might be able to do yourself. Just follow these do’s and don’ts for re-turfing and you’ll be on your way to enjoying your healthy, lasting, professional-looking lawn. 

DO take the time to prepare the area.

Set yourself and your future turf grass up for success by properly preparing the ground for laying turf. If you still have a grass lawn in place, remove it by slicing beneath the turf with a spade (more on that later). Turn over the soil to a depth of at least 15cm (30cm if you really want to be thorough). The deeper you go, the better your new turf will handle drought, foot traffic, and disease. While you’re performing this step, clear the area of any stones, roots, or weeds. Turning, or rotovating, your soil eliminates problems caused by compaction and prevents any existing weeds or remnant grass plants from intruding on your new turf. Add additional fresh topsoil and/or soil improvers at this stage, if needed.

Next, rake and level the soil until you have an even surface to work with. Be sure to work over any humps and hollows at this stage because they’ll be visible in your finished yard – or you could run them over with your lawn mower and scalp your yard. Once you have an even surface, use your feet or a garden roller to evenly firm up the ground. Now you’re ready for turfing!  

DO decide whether real lawn or artificial turf is best for your project.

Most homeowners will probably opt for real grass, but artificial turf is also a popular landscaping choice, and for good reason. While artificial turf tends to be more expensive up front, it’s low-maintenance and requires no weeding, watering, or fertilising, to the extent that it may even pay for itself in the long run. Artificial turf may also be a good choice if you’ve had trouble keeping real grass alive thanks to sun, shade, or soil conditions.

Popular varieties of real grass turf range from $6.50 to $12.50 per square metre. Don’t judge by price alone: some varieties are drought-tolerant, some can withstand heavy foot traffic, and others perform well in the shade. 

Artificial turf is more expensive, costing $30-$280 per square metre – and that doesn’t include the base coat and other installation necessities, which can add another $60 to $100 per square metre to your total cost. 

If you’re undecided, The Garden Men can help you choose the best turfing for you and your yard.

DO measure carefully.

Turf suppliers can help you properly measure your yard to determine how much new turf you need, in square metres. Add an additional 10% to ensure you have enough in case of damage, or if the area you’re landscaping has a lot of curves. Turf suppliers can deliver to your home, but delivery fees will apply. 

DO be kind to your new turf.

Turf grass is a living, breathing organism. Treat it with the appropriate care and you’ll reap the benefits in years to come. 

Time the order of your turf so you can lay it as soon as possible. The ground preparation could take longer than you expect depending on the amount of debris in the soil, so the safest plan is to prepare the turfing area, then order your turf grass. Ground preparation can be done 8-10 days before re-turfing, while turf grass can be delivered within one or two business days. 

Upon receiving your turf, lay it within 24 hours or, if you really can’t install right away, store it in the shade with any film coverings removed and sprinkle lightly with water. Treat the bare ground with a pre-turfing fertiliser. Your turf supplier may provide this, but if they don’t, it’s worth the additional minimal investment to give your new turf grass the energy and nutrients it needs to recover from the shock of harvest and transport.

While laying your turf and for several days afterwards, avoid walking directly on the new lawn. Use laying boards to distribute the weight of footsteps and wheelbarrows. Laying boards will help you avoid unleveling your new turf while also encouraging the roots to make contact with the ground. As you lay the turf, frame your perimeter first, saving any small pieces for the interior where they’re protected from drying out. Avoid stretching or overlapping your turf. Trim turf pieces with a knife or a lawn edger.

Water the turf well within the first half-hour, then at least daily over the next week or two, particularly around the edges. Turf can take up to 2 months to fully establish, but those first two weeks are the most critical. During those two weeks, avoid giving the turf its first trim with a lawn mower. You can make sure it’s ready for mowing by lifting one corner to see if the roots have attached to the soil. For the first trim, set your lawn mower to its tallest setting to avoid stressing the turf grass.

For long-term lawn care, fertilise with a balanced fertiliser every four to six weeks following the turf manufacturer’s recommendations, and when you mow, remove no more than one-third of the grass height at a time.

DON’T just lay new turf over old grass.

It can be tempting to try to save time and effort by just laying new turf over the existing grass, but lawn care experts, gardeners, and turf manufacturers (not to mention The Garden Men) will all tell you that you’ll get healthier grass and a better-looking lawn by removing the old grass first. 

If you already have a yard and you’re unhappy with it due to disease, humps and hollows, or sun and shade conditions, laying new grass on top of it won’t make any of those problems go away. It may look better at first than it did, but you’ll soon start to see your new turf deteriorating as the old grass underneath dies off and the soil compacts, causing poor drainage and restricting root growth.

New turf grass will take root quicker and grow more strongly in freshly prepared soil, and the process of turning and leveling soil means your new turf will be smooth and bump-free. Plus, starting with prepared ground eliminates the risk of passing diseases, weeds, or pests from your original lawn to your new turf. 

DO take care of yourself, too!

You’re taking good care of your yard, so make sure you do the same for yourself. When you’re ready to prepare your yard and lay your turf, start your day with a hearty breakfast. Re-turfing is hard work and you’ll want to make sure you’re fuelled for a challenging yet rewarding day. Wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, and wear good gloves and boots to stay protected throughout the day.

DON’T feel like you have to DIY it.

Laying turf grass is a big job, so you may find professional turfing worthwhile. The Garden Men can help you with all aspects of turfing and re-turfing, from selecting the right turf for your yard to delivering and laying your new lawn. 

Ready to re-turf?

If you’re ready to make your dream yard a reality, contact The Garden Men for a free quote today!

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