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Making and Maintaining a Lawn from Turf or Grass Seed

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Before you create a lawn from scratch..

How you create a lawn from turf/sod or grass seed depends on the type of soil you have and what use you will put your new lawn to. For this reason, consider the following factors before creating a new lawn from scratch:

Soil type

If you have poor soil or soil with a lot of debris as is found with newbuilds, you will most likely need to enrich this and think of the appropriate grass type that would grow well in these conditions. Loam is the best type but we aren’t all that lucky. Here is a useful guide to help you decide which lawn seed or turf should be used for which soil type.

Lovely little video showing different types of soil.

Amount of light

This is crucial to decide the type of grass seed or turf you will need to buy since various varieties demand various conditions. However, it is best to have a good sunny area or one that gets even indirect light most of the day, to ensure your grass holds and grows well. If possible, cut down trees or shrubs to allow more light into the area where you plan to create your new lawn. Here is a smashing link which tells you what kind of grass goes best with what soil and light conditions. As a rule of thumb, grass needs at least 4-6 hours of light daily without which it can become prone to disease.

Water availability

Some areas have a hosepipe ban whereas others don’t have water as readily available as others. This is another critical factor that you need to keep in mind before considering the type of grass you are laying down. In addition, new lawns need almost daily, sometimes twice a day, watering to help them establish.

Uses for the new lawn

If your lawn will mainly be for display purposes, grass type will be different than that for heavy use lawns. The latter includes family friendly spaces where children/adults will be picnicking, plaiyng football, etc. Resistant or heavy-duty grasses are the best for these purposes.

Budget for your new lawn

This is one of the critical rate-limiting steps. Remember that various types of turf varies in price and is usually 1 square yard or 0.836 swuare meter. You shoud calculate the amount you will need. In addition, try to add an extra 10 percent for cutting and wastage, especially true for curving designs.

The best time to create a new lawn

This is generally autumn. That’s because the ground is warm enough and the winter showers will give the grass a good soaking. Obviously, this is true for most areas in the UK but will vary from one area to another. Another time is Spring, for the same reasons. I started mine from grass seed in early spring and failed miserably. I waited for 4 weeks, nothing happened. Then I just went on to buy Turf and lay this out at the end of Spring. That worked for me but depending on the above factors, something else may work for you. If you have a question, please do comment below! I think laying out grass isn’t as simple as it sounds, especially if you have moved into a new property.

If you want a sneak peak of what my garden looked life before and after I attempted to redesign it, here’s a short story!

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Turf or Grass Seed?

Similarities between turf and grass seed:

Both need the same amount of preparation and have similar maintenance needs. You won’t be able to use your lawn for 3-6 weeks if you use Turf and possibly for the same amount of time with seed, to avoid crushing the new seedlings.

Differences between turf and grass seed:

The most obvious difference is the instant impact you can get from turf whereas lawn seed takes a while to show up and may not germinate evenly, making the whole process somewhat frustrating.

In addition, turf will obviously be more expensive than grass seed so if you’re on a budget, you may want to opt for grass seed. Interestingly, I have tried both and for me, turf worked better since the grass seed just didn’t germinate evenly.

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How to prepare your soil for turf or grass seed

Given that you’ve identified your soil type and decided what type of grass you will be using for your lawn, here are the steps you need to take to prepare your lawn:

1. Mark the area where you want to lay turf or grass seed:

Yes, as obvious as that sounds, it’s not particularly easy especially if you have flower beds or are planning to make these around/within your lawn. Remember to clear up/trim as much trees and shrubs as possible because you won’t be able to step on your lawn for a while !

2. Remove debris

Especially true for new builds, your soil is bound to have rocks, gravel, old roots, weeds, twigs, etc. I even found broken pieces of glass and old mugs along with pieces of rusted metal in mine! Once all this is cleared up, ensure have raked the soil thoroughly. Finally, make sure the surface is as flat as possible or, if you’re getting creative, why not throw in a few mounds of earth for a dramatic effect. Be careful while doing this since laying the turf and watering these uneven areas can be tricky.

3. Improve your soil and rake!

This may not be necessary but if this is needed, it is recommended that this be done after removal of debris. You should add topsoil and/or organic matter to enrich your soil. Next, use a rake or rotivator to ‘turn’ the soil upto an ideal depth of 15 cm. In addition, some people recommened pre-turfing fertiliser. In my experience, this is generally a good idea. It feeds the grass for the first few weeks during its growth. There was a visible difference in my experience when I used it before creating my new lawn from turf.

4. Even out the surface

Use your rake to even out the surface. This process helps clear out more debris in preparation for creating your new lawn.

Here is a video showing you how to the above steps, by none other than Alan Titchmarsh.

5. Lay the turf / sow grass seed.

Turf should be placed on a flat surface. Do not step on it directly, use a wooden board or something similar to place on top of the turf and then stand on this as required. Ensure the turf edges are close together, it is imperative not to leave any gaps! Also, make sure your turf is laid out and watered within 24 hours of arrival.

To start a lawn from seed, follow the above steps and then either sow the seed by hand or use a seed distributer. Grass seed varieties vary but the ones that do best are those that are coated. This coating deters birds from feeding on them and also provides some nutrients for the seedlings. It is critical that the seeds are in contact with the soul so they must be pressed down lightly. Here is a video showing you how to create a lawn from seed:

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Maintaining a new lawn made from turf or grass seed

This is usually the easy bit. Just a few basic principles to remember as below and you’ll have a lush lawn in no time (provided you followed the pre-sowing/pre-turfing guidance above!):

1. Water, water, water !

Amount, frequency and timing of watering are critical. If you mess one of these up, you could lose your new lawn. No pressure though.

The first drink for my new lawn made from turf.

New lawn is at extreme risk of drying out while it’s rooting. New lawns need watering 2 times a day for the first week and once daily for the next 2-3 weeks. This may be longer depending on how much time it takes to root. Always water in the evening and early morning to ensure the grass has dried out before the maximal sunlight.

Some people say you need to make sure there is atleast 1 cm of water/rainfall for new lawns. In my experience, this worked out well.

Invest in a decent sprinkler – this will fulfill your watering needs for years to come and can water your lawn evenly. Simply turn it on and set a timer for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the lawn, etc. Check after this time to ensure the grass is evenly watered and has had a good drink!

2.Check every few weeks for rooting

This decides when you need to reduce the frequency of watering. At the edge of the turf, gently lift up. If it is hard to pull the turf up, that means it’s rooting. If it’s easy to lift off, that means it has a while to go. Rooting can take anywhere from 3-6 weeks.

Incase of grass seed, the above method doesn’t apply of course. It’s growth is the only indicator of good rooting.

3. Mow your new lawn

Once you’re sure the new turf has rooted or your grass seed has grown to atleast 2-3 inches tall, you can begin to mow the lawn. Cut your grass on the highest level on your lawn mower. This essentially means that you shouldn’t cut more than 1/3rd the length of the grass. Next, after about 2 weeks, cut it on a medium level. Make sure you feed the grass AFTER your cut it. After mowing it twice and rughly 8 weeks in total from the time of laying it down/sowing the seed, you should be able to cut normally. Always make sure the grass and ground are dry when you mow.

4. Ongoing maintenance

Once established, your lawn will need atleast 1.5 inches of water every week so be sure to turn that sprinkler on if the rain hasn’t been generous!

Also feed your lawn in mid-spring with a general purpose lawn feed.

And there you go, that’s how you make and maintain a new lawn from scratch!

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