Laying Turf - A Step By Step Guide to Doing It Well

You’ve made the decision. Rather than starting your new lawn from seed, you’re going to lay turf, and you’re going to do it yourself. Congratulations! It’s a big project but one you’ll handle well with these guidelines and some common sense.

First: Find a reputable dealer

Finding a dealer with a good reputation will save you frustration and probably money in the long run. A low price is good, but not if you have to sacrifice service and quality. While you’ll be installing this yourself, you want to know you can trust the measurements, that the turf will be delivered when you need it, and that if there’s a problem, the dealer will be on your side.

Second: Measure

Make sure you measure well and get the correct square footage of turf you’ll need. You’re always better having a little extra than being a little short, but ordering far too much turf is a waste. On the other hand, ordering way too little will have you pulling your hair out in frustration. Measure the perimeter of your yard, multiply the width by the length, then subtract footage covered by flower beds, sidewalks, the driveway or buildings. If you’re uncomfortable with measuring, you can ask for help from the retailer supplying the sod. A reputable one will gladly provide all the help you need.

Third: Prepare the soil

As with any project, good preparation leads to a wonderful end-product. This step will take the most time. It also takes multiple stages to do it right. Consult a local landscape professional if you are concerned about what works best in your area, but as a general rule, this is how you prepare your soil:

  • Soil testing. Have your soil professionally tested, which is usually inexpensive if done by your local Agricultural Extension office. The test will tell you what type of soil you have and what it is lacking in minerals and nutrients.
  • Get rid of current vegetation. For a proper sod foundation, remove any grass or weeds. Use a weed and/or grass killer, and allow it time to do its work. Letting it sit for one to two weeks is necessary. This way, you’re sure all vegetation is gone. You’re also sure the weed/grass killer is gone.
  • Fertilize. Add whatever your soil is going to need to support your sod well, according to the results of your soil test.
  • Till. Dig in at least six inches, to bring rocks to the surface and create a loose, inviting environment for your new turf’s roots. You may want to combine this step with fertilization.
  • Rock removal. Though some stones are a good idea and can help with drainage, too many rocks (or those too big) will defeat the purpose. Go through your bare yard and get rid of them.
  • Rake. This step and the previous one may be done together, or interchangeably. You want to get the ground worked up and get those stones out
  • Roll. Rent a lawn roller and smooth the surface for the turf. If you’re laying a small area, you may want to just walk/stomp over the ground, but be sure to do so evenly. You’re better off renting the roller since you truly do not want to have lumps and other bumps when you lay your turf. The smoother the surface, the better your lawn will ultimately look. You may want to lightly rake again, just to score the surface after it has settled under the roller.
  • Water. Give the ground a good soaking before you put the turf down. Do not make dirt wash away while wetting it, or make mud. You do want a nice wet surface and you do want it to dry a day or so before laying the turf.

Fourth: Lay the turf

You’re ready to lay the turf, which has hopefully just been delivered and is ready to go. Remember, you do NOT want the sod to arrive before the preparation stage has been finished. There are several steps to follow to properly install your turf:

  • Start with the longest straight line you have. For instance, start at your driveway, or the side of the house. This will help keep straight lines throughout laying the turf.
  • When laying the turf, do so as if laying brick. You do NOT want all your seams in the same spot.
  • When putting two pieces of turf together, wet the ends or the sides enough so that they “stick” to each other.
  • Shape the turf by cutting to fit when you hit a flowerbed or similar obstacle. Continue until done!

At this point, some professionals recommend rolling the new lawn to ensure good contact between sod and soil, while others tell you to stay off it at all costs. This will probably be a personal decision based on the contour of your land and what seems to work in your local area. No matter where you are, you do want to water the lawn thoroughly, and make sure it stays moist. After all this work, you do not want to see the whole lawn shrivel up and die.

In about two weeks, you should mow your new lawn, making sure to set the blades fairly high for this first pass. Once you’re sure the turf is established, meaning it’s now your lawn and no longer turf, then mow as usual.

Following these steps, consulting with your turf retailer and using common sense will give you a beautiful lawn that you will be able to enjoy for years to come.

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