Autumn is the ideal time to lay turf as the soil is still warm. It can also be laid during winter if the ground isn’t frozen, and also in spring, though will need more watering then. Turf laid after mid-May may struggle to establish well if the weather turns hot and dry.
If turf can’t be laid as soon as it arrives, unroll the turves green-side up and keep them watered.
Prepare the area to be laid, preferably before the turf arrives, by clearing it completely of any weeds and existing grass.
Fork the soil over to a depth of around 20cm and rake to a fine tilth that the turf can root into easily. A fine tilth has small crumbs of soil with no large clods of earth.
Caption: Fork over soil before laying turf
Incorporate a pre-seeding/pre-turfing fertiliser into the soil at the recommended rate and rake it in. It’s sold by some of the turf suppliers and has the ideal mix of nutrients to help grass establish. Alternatively use a balanced fertiliser such as growmore.
Level the soil, carefully eliminating bumps, with a large rake moved in different directions.
Caption: Rake the ground to create a flat surface
Firm the soil by treading over it methodically with your feet close together, weight on your heels, and level it again with the rake, leaving it as flat as possible with no lumps or bumps.
Caption: Tread the soil to flatten the surface
If possible, leave it to settle for at least a few days at this stage and then clear any weeds that come up.
Starting on one side bring the first turf over, think about which way it will unroll and place it so it fits squarely into the space. Unroll the first turf.
Caption: Place the first turf so it fits squarely in the space
Place the next turf along the short edge of the first. Butt the edges together as closely as possible while keeping them flat against the soil. Do this by lifting both turf edges and placing them together, then flattening them down. Lay the whole first row lengthways in this way.
Caption: Lift the turf edges and place them together
Use a plank to give you a straight edge as you cut the final turf with a half-moon tool to slightly beyond the required length to allow for any slight shrinkage.
Working away from yourself, use a plank laid on the just-laid turf to stand or kneel on as you move on to the next row. The plank will help to firm the turf into the soil but you should also firm it using the flat side of a rake, paying particular attention to joins.
Take the offcut from the previous row to begin the new row, so that the joins between the turves form a brick pattern. Lay the next full roll in the same way as you did for the previous row, making sure it is tightly up against the turves in the first row.
To avoid ending a row with a small piece of turf, cut the previous piece laid so you can lay at least half a roll at the end.
Use a fork or rake if needed to pull the turf closely over to the first row.
Caption: Use a fork to pull the turf closely over to the first row if needed
Ensure all the turf is firmed onto the soil with no air pockets and water it to help settle it. Use a plank whenever walking on the newly laid turf to spread the weight.