A perfectly laid lawn looks beautiful and feels great. But, to get a green and even lawn, preparation is essential. Here’s how to prepare the ground properly so your new lawn looks good, and lasts the distance.
First things first; choose a grass that’s suitable for the area you’re laying it in – and the lifestyle you live.
Image above: Buffalo - a warm season turf type (WST)
Warm Season Grasses
Warm season grasses such as Couch, Kikuyu, Blue Couch, Zoysia and Buffalo grow best in late spring, summer, and early autumn. They’re all tough, hard-wearing and require varying levels of maintenance, depending on the variety you choose. Couch, Kikuyu, Zoysia, and Blue Couch need between 5-8 hours of direct sun per day, but buffalo varieties can tolerate a lot less – usually between 2-3 hours. Buffalo grass is the most shade tolerant of all the warm season grasses. As warm season grasses, they will go dormant and may even brown over winter. However, with the right care, they will come back in spring.
Image above: Tall Fescue - a cool season turf type (CST)
Cool Season Grasses
Conversely, cool season grasses grow best between autumn and spring. They will still grow well during the warmer months but require more water during hotter periods. Tall Fescue, Ryegrass, Bent, Kentucky Bluegrass are all cool season grasses. They are incredibly shade tolerant, thriving in areas where most warm season grasses won’t grow. Their leaf blades are finer than their warm season counterparts, and they have a more upright growth habit. Most lack underground rhizomes, so they do not grow laterally or sideways like warm season grasses. As such, they do not grow into neighbouring areas, but also are not self-repairing – aside from Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) and Rhizomatous Perennial Ryegrass (RPR). You will need to resow or returf to repair bare or dead patches.
If there are any grass or weeds in the area you want to lay turf on, kill them off with Yates Zero Weedkiller at least two weeks before prepping the soil for new turf. This means you can lay the new turf cleanly, without interference. For hardy weeds, a second application may be required.
Image above: soil pH can be measured using a meter, or, with an easy-to-use test kit.
Don’t lay turf until you know your soil is in optimum condition.
A soil pH test will help you determine if your soil needs some treatment to ensure your turf has the best possible start. Scrape back any turf, then take a teaspoon of dry topsoil to test. Most grasses grow best in neutral or slightly acidic soil, with weeds often thriving in more acidic soils. Ideally soil should be between 5 – 6.5 pH. If your soil is lower than pH 5, it can inhibit nutrients and stunt growth. Improve the soil by adding garden lime. It can take several applications of lime to increase the soil pH, so test every few weeks to see how you’re tracking. Repeat as needed.
Highly alkaline soils are not very common but do sometimes exist where calcium deposits are high or close to beaches where seashells continue to break down over time. For those that are above pH 7.5, it is best to plant your lawn and start using fertilisers high in organic matter and nitrogen, such as Yates Dynamic Lifter Concentrated Lawn Food and this will help drop the pH over time.
For clay soils, add gypsum. The calcium sulfate in gypsum helps disperse the clay particles that bind together tightly. Add gypsum at a rate of 1 kilogram per square metre and rotary hoe it into the soil. This will help break up the clay particles and improve drainage.
For sandy soils it is important to add organic material, such as Yates Dynamic Lifter for Lawns, as this helps retain moisture and nutrients. Sandy Soils are also highly prone to water-repellency, this can be fixed by applying a soil wetter such as Yates Waterwise Hose-On Soil Wetter.
Before ordering or buying turf, measure the width and length of the area you want to cover. For regular shapes such as squares or rectangles, you’ll need five per cent more turf than measured for, and for irregular shapes, aim for 10 per cent more turf than area to allow for any miscalculations or difficulties in cutting the turf.
You’ll also need to order turf underlay. This is usually made up of a mixture of sand, soil and composted organics, and provides nutrients and minerals to help grass roots to establish quickly. You’ll need a depth of around 150 mm of high-quality turf underlay. It is measured in cubic metres, so to work out how much you’ll need, calculate the area in square metres, then multiply by 0.1 metres.
Turf should sit a little bit higher than paths or garden edges, so make sure you’ve excavated deep enough to allow for around 25 mm of turf and 150 mm of turf underlay. When you have dug down enough, give the soil a good hose a few days before you’re ready to turn it over. This will soften it. Turn the top 150 mm of the soil over with a garden fork, then rake or lightly roll it to create a firm surface, filling in any dips or holes. Make sure the soil is free of rocks, weeds, old turf or debris.
Add 150 mm of underlay to the flat and prepared area. Then, spread Yates Dynamic Lifter Turf Starter over the area, and rake in both directions to mix in well. Use the back of a rake or lawn leveller to level the soil.
A below ground irrigation system with pop up sprinklers is a great way to ensure, not just healthy establishment of your lawn, but its continued success. Watering can be a slow process, and is often a neglected aspect of lawn care, despite it's importance for lawn establishment, health and growth. Installing prior to laying turf can result in huge time savings.
Now you’re ready to lay your turf!