How to avoid laying terrible turf

By | 04/10/2018
Terrible turf which has dried out

I recently visited a customer who contacted me with great concern that their turf “wasn’t knitting together”. Upon arrival, it seemed the lines on their lawn was the least of their worries. It was terrible turf.

I rarely recommend laying turf rather than sowing new seed. The quality of the final lawn that you get with turf often seems to be inferior. It is often lumpy, full of pests or diseases and the general quality of the grass always seems to be poor. You also have the problem of turf netting to content with. If you “have” to lay turf, make sure you follow some basic rules to get the best from it.

Top tips for laying turf

  1. Prepare the ground thoroughly. Rotavate it, rake it and level it. Remove any stones or roots. The more thoroughly you do this step, the better the lawn will be in the future. Some folk even like to let the soil settle for a few weeks first and then rake flat. This will allow large air pockets to come out and filled before the lawn is laid.
  2. Buy the turf at the last minute. Buy your turf or arrange for it to be delivered on the day you are going to lay it. It will quickly deteriorate whilst sitting rolled up on your driveway. Lack of light or moisture can kill the grass in a short period of time. If the turf cannot be laid immediately, unroll it and give it a good watering to keep it alive.
  3. Stagger joints and avoid small pieces at the ends. Stagger the turf joints like brickwork. They will blend in and reduce lines and shrinking. Small pieces will not take as readily as longer strips so avoid leaving these at the ends.
  4. Try not to walk on the newly laid turf. Plan how you are going to lay the lawn by starting at the far end and working back towards your way out. This is to prevent walking over any previously laid areas.
  5. Lightly roll the turf after laying. This will help the roots achieve soil contact and make their way into the ground quickly, speeding up establishment.
  6. Leave the lawn undisturbed after laying. The new grass will need to grow new roots into the soil. To do this is should be left alone for the first few days, at least.
  7. Keep the new lawn watered. Ideally from rain, but otherwise use a sprinkler to keep the new lawn moist while it is bedding in. Not too much though as this will cause shallow, weak roots.
  8. Arrange professional aftercare. Lawns laid from turf often come with a variety of problems. Fungal diseases such as red thread can be very severe in new turf. This is often due to the high-thatch habit of Fescue turf grasses. Pests such as chafer grubs and leatherjackets are also a common problem and can cause terrible turf. It can be contaminated with these pests in the fields, then brought to your garden. Also be aware that the soil and turf may sink and shift, to may need top dressing again to fill in any holes and re-level the lawn. A professional lawn care technician will prevent terrible turf. They will help keep your new lawn looking great for years to come.

To avoid terrible turf, sow seed

Many people think turfing a lawn is the easy way to a new lawn, but that can be far from the truth. It is much more expensive and you often don’t get a decent lawn in the end. With grass seed you know exactly which grass your are laying and you will get a much better result in the long run. Should I seed or turf my new lawn?


Turf on front lawn
A small front lawn which has been laid using turf.

4 thoughts on “How to avoid laying terrible turf

  1. Billy Fish

    Hi Kris,

    I had new turf laid in mid June and it has, for the most part, taken well but as time goes on I can recognise some of the ‘new turf after a few months’ hallmarks that you mention here and on other articles. If only I had found this site earlier and had used seed! But what’s done is done, and I concede I will need to renovate. However, is it too early start the process now, just 2 months after laying the turf? If not, would the beneficial aeration be a good start, or could I go further and top dress as well to level out the undulations and fill the bare patches, followed by re/overseeding and regular dashings with the sprinkler? The lawn is small, around 10m2, and receives a lot of sun, but it’s done well to get through these record temps we are having, very much so when compared to the lawns around me, though I want to make sure it goes into winter in the strongest state possible.

    Thank you for any help, I would get you round to survey the lawn but Exeter to Enfield is a long old way.

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      I would wait until conditions improve and we get well into autumn before considering doing any major lawn renovations.
      I wouldn’t give up on turf just yet though. Aerating, overseeding and topdressing may help to level it and settle and it may do well.
      I always like to give a lawn a year and then see how it is.
      Good luck.

  2. Stevie

    Hi Kris
    We have purchased the strip of land next to our house to use for parking .  I couldn’t bear the thought of an ugly concrete base to we have removed the old grass, seived the top soil  and replaced it into plastic parking grass or gravel grids.  A sprinkling of grass seed and fertiliser preceded the laying of a good quality (we hope!) turf and we will now water two or three times a day until it is established.

    The gardener we employed to lay the turf was supposed to bring his roller but couldn’t get it on his van – we wanted it rolled as the cars will certainly flatten it into the grids but I think this will leave very noticeable tyre track channels if it has not been rolled all over – what do you think?

    It will be the fifth day after laying before he returns with his roller but my research tells me this should have been done immediately on laying so will the fifth day be too late?  Would be very grateful for your opinion … it is not a huge area – about 20 square metres – so it will not be too arduous to do anything that might help it to flourish.

    1. Kris Lord Post author

      Hi Stevie,
      Your are going to really struggle to get the grass to grow in the tyre track channels due to the sever and regular compaction anyway. It will certainly be noticeable no matter what you do.
      I would not roll it at all. Let the grass in the centre and edges put down a good root and then see how it looks after it is established.
      Rolling a lawn some days after it has been laid will only damage it. The soil should have been flattened before the turf was laid at all.
      Thanks for reading!


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