Turf Tips: How to look after new turf
A new lawn is an investment. Not only will it allow you enjoy your garden much more, it will potentially add value to your property. Here are our tips on looking after new turf so that it looks its best for years to come.
Before your turf is delivered
We’ve blogged before about how to choose the right turf for your project. That’s important. But equally important is making sure you are ready to look after that turf when it arrives.
Turf has a very short shelf-life and so you need to pre-empt any delays in getting it unrolled and installed.
- Clear the access to your garden. Is there room for the delivery vehicle to park close by? You might want to ask your neighbours to move their cars temporarily.
- Prepare a surface for unloading. Some suppliers use pallet trucks to unload turf. Pallet trucks don’t travel well on muddy or loose surfaces (eg gravel). Neither do they cope well with steps or steep slopes. Have a think about how you can overcome potential problems.
- Prepare the soil for turf laying. The sooner you start unrolling your turf, the less likely it is that your grass will suffer from sod heating.
- Have everything ready that you’ll need. Gloves, sunscreen, drinks and snacks, rake, turf laying boards, hosepipe and sprinkler
What to do when your turf is delivered
How you look after your turf BEFORE it is laid, has a major influence on the way your new lawn will look. This is particularly true in warm weather.
Hopefully, you will be ready to receive your turf and start laying it. If you have a large lawn to make, some of your turf might need to stay rolled up for a couple more hours. Here are some precautions to reduce the risk of sod heating.
- Move turf into the shade but don’t cover it with any sheets or tarpaulins.
- NEVER water turf while it is still rolled up – it will generate steam in the middle of the stack and the heat will kill your grass
- Break the stack down into several smaller stacks – 6-10 turves in a stack is ideal. If you’re crafty you can dot the stacks around the garden so that you don’t have to walk too far to get the next roll of turf you need to lay.
- Work as quickly as you can and try not to stop until the whole lawn is finished (which is why we recommend pre-preparing drinks and snacks to keep your energy levels up)
- Warm up your muscles before you start and be careful how you lift and handle turf. A bad back at this point in the proceedings is not going to be helpful.
Immediately after your lawn has been laid
Water your new turf as soon as it has been laid. For a large lawn, you might want to start watering the first section while you are laying the next part.
Be sure that the water soaks right through the turves and into the ground below. To make sure, lift one corner of a turf and make sure the soil is wet for at least 5cm down.
Water your new turf thoroughly at least once a day. In very warm or windy weather, it’s advisable to irrigate in the morning AND the evening. It’s vital that your new turf doesn’t go thirsty. At this stage the grass plants have shortened roots and cannot find water deep in the soil. Without water, the plants will die. Pay extra attention to the edge of the lawn and to smaller pieces of turf. Those are the areas most vulnerable to drying out.
If you see gaps between the turves or if the grass plants start to discolour, check that the soil is damp enough. Call your turf supplier if you are at all worried.
The roots of your grass should be starting to grow stronger now. If you lift a turf you can see new white roots underneath it.
It’s still important to keep watering once or twice a day. Even after rain, check that the soil is good and damp.
At the end of week two, you MAY be able to reduce the amount and/or the frequency of your watering. If you can tug on the grass and feel firm resistance (ie the turf doesn’t lift up easily). Then start watering every other day but make sure you give it a good soaking each time.
In winter time, turf takes a little longer to establish. But in spring, summer and autumn you can probably start to wean your turf off the irrigation. Gradually decrease the amount of water you apply and increase the amount of time between watering sessions. Don’t worry – by now you’ll have a feel for what the grass needs.
The first cut
Your lawn is ready for its first cut when all of the roots are firmly in the ground. Pull on a handful of grass. Provided that the turf doesn’t lift up at all, you can think about making your first cut.
Always make sure your mower blades are as sharp as can be. Blunt blades tend to rip at the grass and leave nasty jagged wounds which turn brown and are apt to encourage lawn diseases.
Set the mower blades to their highest setting. For the first cut, you only need to nip the tips off the grass. The last thing you should do is shock the plants.
Have the grass collection box on so that all clippings are removed.
You can gradually reduce the length of your lawn over a period of several weeks. For a utility lawn, 5-8cm is a good length for your lawn – especially while it is still getting established.
Feeding your new lawn
New lawns are busy growing not just leaves but roots too. A regular lawn feeding regime is essential. Feed your new lawn 4-6 weeks after turfing. Repeat every 6-8 weeks using a fertiliser that’s right for the season. Between March and September we recommend using this all-purpose lawn feed. (it’s pretty good for beds and borders too!)
Using your new lawn
Try to avoid walking on your lawn for the first 2-3 weeks and after that keep the foot traffic VERY light until the plants are really well established.
Picnic rugs, toys and furniture should be taken off the lawn at the end of every day and only used when absolutely needed – those plants need all the sunshine they can get.
Footballers – your new lawn won’t be ready for heavy wear and tear for 3-6 months (depending what time of year it is laid). An occasional short kick about will be OK after 3 months but keep changing direction so that you don’t use the same areas of the lawn all of the time. Ideally though, nip down to the local park while your grass gets stronger.
Your new lawn: The first six months
Continue to mow little and often. Never ever remove more than 1/3 of the grass length in one go. Keeping your lawn at around 5-8cm long will help it to grow stronger roots. Make sure your mower blades stay sharp, remove all of the clippings and don’t forget to feed every 6-8 weeks
Water if necessary – especially in the first 2 months. Remember though that an occasional good soak is better than a few drops every day.
Avoid heavy wear and tear but most of all, cherish your new lawn so that you can be proud of it.
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- Teresa Flower