Using compost on your lawn is one of the best things you can do as a lawn feed. Not only does this provide a list of valuable nutrients to the grass plants, it helps to build a more open texture to the soil around the grass roots. This allows air and moisture to permeate through to the roots.
Think of compost as being a topsoil dressing.
If you’ve been lucky enough to land a decent sized heap of compost from your own recycled organic waste or from somewhere else, then, you may have so much that you are wondering what you can do with it. You may be looking at the lawn and thinking: can I spread it on grass?
So, can you use compost on your lawn? Yes you can but, like anything else, you need to manage it carefully to make the best of what you have without overdoing it. You need to use compost on your lawn at the right time of the year. Compost on your lawn during the summer months will be a problem; it stays around, you won’t want to see it and walk on it.
You may, at this point, be wondering if you can skip the making of compost for the lawn and just leave grass clippings on the lawn to rot down. We have a post that considers this, you can find it at: Is it better to leave grass clippings on the lawn?.
Lawn aeration before spreading
Before you spread your compost it would help if you open up the lawn surface by using a lawn aerator. This involves making spike holes all over the lawn to open up the surface.
There are mechanical devices designed to make this a simple task using tools that range from powered aerators to boots with long spikes. Walking around on the lawn spiking the turf may turn out to be a useful form of exercise.
Spiking the surface is largely done to allow air to get into the roots. It depends on the type of soil you have but some heavy soils can become compacted over time forming a sealed surface layer. Often known as being ‘capped’.This inhibits air and liquid from getting into the ground. As a result the roots are starved of oxygen and water.
Can you use compost on your lawn? Yes, lots of it!
So opening up the surface in this way will allow some of the compost crumb to get into the root area beneath the grass surface. It will also allow rain-water to wash the dissolved nutrients of the compost into the soil. It’s this that feeds the roots. Doing all of this is most of what’s involved in a good lawn care program.
Spiking is also good practice for creating a lawn area that is permeable to rain water. An open surface allows the ground to soak up and retain rain water like a sponge. It will hold onto the water for a while before it eventually drains away.
This is a practice that everyone should operate because slowing down rain water in this way would do much to reduce, or possibly prevent, flooding.
In cases where the soil is largely sand, spiking the surface may not be so necessary because sandy soil tends to be naturally free-draining. This type of soil is less likely to suffer from compaction and will not form a solid, non-permeable surface.
If you have heavy clay soil, then, this definitely needs extra attention. Clay soil is, by far, the worst type of soil that you can have but, by adding enough compost material, you can change it into something better, over time. We have a post that explains more about how to get the most out of clay soil, see ‘Compost on clay soil‘ to find out more.
How do you spread compost on a lawn?
If you are relying on the amount of compost that you generate from your own mixture of kitchen waste and grass clippings, the volume of material may be too small. So you will want to make the most of what you have. To make compost from kitchen waste, see the Rolypig composter at Rolypig.com. This an ‘in one end and out the other’ composting system.
Because compost tends to be damp it’s not practical to try spreading it using a granular fertilizer spreader. It will just stick in the spreader and won’t flow. The best way to spread it is to load up the wheel barrow, take it out onto the lawn and, using a spade, fling it out over the grass.
If you leave dense areas use a broom to spread it further on the ground and work it into the soil surface.
The most important thing is to spread a very thin layer. If you spread it too thick it will kill the grass and you will end up with bare patches. If you have a largish lawn it’s quite likely that you will need to spread your compost thinly for the majority of the lawn to benefit.
Compost, the ideal topsoil dressing!
Can you use compost as a top soil?
This is a question that will arise if you have been lucky enough to acquire a bulk load of compost from an outside source, may be several tons.
It’s not wise to use just compost as a top soil alone. Trying to do so would not be the best way of making use of such a bonanza.
Because of the nature and structure of a lot of compost in a thick layer you may find that the finished surface will remain soft and difficult to walk on. Your feet will sink into it.
The best thing you can do is to mix the compost with the soil that you already have to improve the structure. This should work even if you have the worst soil type on the planet. The adding of a generous amount of compost will improve any soil any where. The heaviest of clay soil will come to life if enough organic material is added. The first indication of success here will be the arrival of worms where there have been none.
Using compost on your lawn as a topsoil dressing
Rich dark compost
Compost is the ultimate natural lawn fertilizer. Only spread compost that has finished turning into a dark mixture. The ideal compost will be a crumbly medium derived from an input of kitchen waste mixed with balancing ingredients. We have a post that outlines a basic and simple approach to making the ideal compost. You can see it at: What goes in a compost bin?
To help build up a strong mixture, add dead leaves. These will rot down over time if kept moist. One problem that some people have with leaves is that they expect them to rot faster than they actually do. We have a post that explains a thing or two about the time-scale involved in making compost from leaves, you can see more at how long does it take to compost leaves.
For compost to be ‘rich and dark, it needs to be ‘aged’. If there is any material in it that you recognize then it’s not ready to spread. Any organic material that hasn’t fully rotten down will stay on the lawn surface. Apart from being unsightly it will rot down over a period of time and take nitrogen out of the soil where it lays.
To avoid this problem you have to make compost in batches. When a batch is well on the way to forming a finished compost sample do not add any more fresh cut grass or kitchen waste to that batch. Close it off and simply start another batch.
You can produce batches of compost in two ways. The simplest way is to have a static bin and just keep loading in kitchen and, shredded, garden waste until the bin is full. Then close it off and start filling another bin, leaving the first bin’s contents to rot down completely. The other option involves a tumbler type compost bin. We have a post, that explains the virtues of both systems, that may help you decide which would suit you. See it at ‘Tumbler composter vs bin’.
When should I feed my lawn?
You can feed your lawn with compost crumb at any time of the year. Grass is capable of growing all year round if the climate will allow. And the roots will absorb the nutrients that well rotted compost will provide.
The main consideration here is to what extent do you want to use your lawn through the year? It’s most likely that you will want to use the lawn for recreation through the summer and, quite possibly the spring and into the autumn fall.
So a practical period would be in the autumn months after you have collected the leaves that have fallen for the year and after you have cut the grass for the last time in the year.
This is also a time when no one is likely to be walking on the lawn. It’s wise to keep every one away from it, including pets, for a day or two to allow the compost to sink into the soil. Compost will stick to footwear and then the next you will see is marks on the carpet. To avoid this problem the ideal time to spread compost is just before a storm of rain.
So watch the weather forecast, for what ever that may be worth, and if it looks and feels like it’s going to rain, go out and spread your compost. Straight after spreading use a stiff broom to brush it into the ground, this will get most of it down onto the soil surface. Hopefully the rain will then wash it off the leaves and take it down into the soil through the spike holes.
Organic fertilizer or chemical fertilizer
Organic fertilizer will always be the much preferred choice but it may be that you haven’t got enough to cover your lawn area. You may not have generated enough compost to meet your full requirements.
So, this is when there is a case for using artificial fertilizer. It’s OK to do this, you won’t do any harm. Artificial fertilizers are made up of a mixture of three main components. These are nitrates, phosphates and potash. All three will be hungrily absorbed and consumed by the growing grass.
The best time to apply artificial fertilizer is in the spring of the year when the grass is just starting the year’s new growth. As with using spray chemicals you must follow the directions that come with the fertilizer. It isn’t a problem if you don’t use enough but it will be a problem if you spread too much.
Too much of anything is usually a bad thing. The grass plants can only take in so much of the nutrients that are presented to them. If added to excess the surplus, which can’t be absorbed, will drain away and will be lost. There is a risk that it will find it’s way into the drainage system then into streams and rivers.
How to apply lawn fertilizer with a spreader
There are push-along spreaders that do a much better job than scattering by hand. they spin and throw the fertilizer out resulting in a more even spread. It does require a level of skill to get the best out of a spreader but it is worth persevering.
Doing it this way is much more precise than walking along with a bucket in one hand and flinging the fertilizer around with the other.
Lawn spreader settings
Before using a lawn fertilizer spreader you need to set it up to feed it out at the right speed. There will be a settings guide with the fertilizer that you buy.
Don’t do the settings testing on the lawn, sweep an area on a smooth concrete or asphalt drive-way and do it there. You need to set the spreader gauge to the fertilizer supplier’s suggested setting before loading into the hopper. The larger the hole settings in the hopper floor the faster the rate of delivery onto the ground.
When you run the test on the clean hard surface this will be a chance to gather information about how it will work when on the lawn. If it is a rotary type you will see how far it spreads. You may see that there will be a bias of spreading to one side, either left or right, where more fertilizer will be spread.
Make a note of this and put a marker on the spreader as an indicator to remind you while spreading along. You will also need to establish the forward speed which is down to you to be able to maintain a constant walking speed, about 3mph.
When you’ve done with the test run, sweep up the fertilizer on the hard surface and put it back in the hopper because you can make use of it. When you feel ready and confident you can start to spread fertilizer on the lawn.
As you are walking along try to keep the spreader–plate level, this will help to ensure even spreading. When you reach the point where you have to turn and come back the other way, you must shut off the outlet as you turn. This is because when you are turning your speed will slow down but the fertilizer will still be coming out at the set flow speed. Doing this will avoid spreading too much at every turning.
Using this type of spreader is a skill. It’s something which you will develop a ‘feel’ for. You will get better at it with practice.
Weeds on the lawn
Some people fret about weeds on the lawn. It depends on how much of a perfectionist you are. Some like to see the dandelions coming up giving a bit of brightness and character.
A lawn, though, should be mainly grass. Some weeds, if allowed to thrive too well, have a habit of taking over. If you are going to the trouble of producing a really good compost to feed the grass on the lawn, you don’t want the weeds to benefit from all the nutrients that this provides. So you need to take action.
Before you start on a weed control program it’s wise to find out which weeds you have then you can decide what will be the best course of action.
Broad-leaf lawn weeds identification
The broad leaf weeds are the main culprits. If you can get rid of these your lawn should look and feel clean. These are the weeds that tend to stand out therefore they are quite easy to get rid of using targeted treatment.
- White clover
There are many more. Docks have the ability to produce their own natural weed killer that effectively kills the grass and everything else around them so that they can have the space to themselves. This is just one example of the fierce competition that goes on in the natural world. So don’t feel tto bad about intervening with weed killers for lawns yourself.
In the case of white clover it has to be remembered that this is a legume, a member of the bean family. As with all legumes it has the ability to extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in the ground by way of its active root nodules. This free source of nitrogen will be beneficial to the lawn grasses. There is, therefore, an argument for leaving white clover.
Remove lawn weeds
For anything big e.g. nettles, thistles and docks, it is well possible to hand pull lawn weeds or dig them out. That way you get the whole plant and root. Leave them on a concrete path or somewhere where they can dry out and wither then feed them into your composting system. Waste not want not. There are easy-to-use diggers that grab large weeds so that you can lever them out of the ground.
This would work if you have a smaller manageable lawn but there will be a point where it just wouldn’t be viable to dig, pull and do things by hand.
How do you spray weeds?
This is when you have to look at spray chemicals. Depending on the scale of infestation there is a range of strategies available to you. The trick here is to kill the weeds but leave the grass growing. There are selective weed-killers which will do just that. There are concentrated selective weed killers available that have to be mixed with the right amount of water which will kill most broad-leaf weeds.
It’s very important to stress that the operator must study the label instructions carefully. Follow the guide to get the concentration level as instructed. Failure to do this may result in a solution mix that is too weak which result in not having the desired effect of killing any weeds. If the mix is too strong you run the risk of killing the grass as well as the weeds.
Depending on the level of weed infestation on the lawn you may find that your first choice of weed-killer won’t kill all of the weed varieties that are present. This will mean getting another type of selective weed killer and repeating the same diligent process to tackle these.
Weeds can only be cleared by using chemical sprays when the weed plants are actively growing. The growing season goes from early spring to the autumn/fall time. Because the seasons can vary from year to year you may find that a late spring growing-season will delay any chances to attack weeds.
Don’t be too keen to treat weeds early. It’s better to wait until all the weed seeds have fully germinated and become established. Treating them at this point will give you the best chance to get all that try to grow for the growing-year
Broad-leaf weeds will beat grass
Soil temperature needs to be high enough for weed seeds to germinate. Grass needs an increased soil temperature to stimulate new growth to take it from the dormant winter months into the spring and summer when it sees its fastest growth rate. When the soil temperature rises to the required point for growth and germination to commence it becomes a race among all vegetation.
The most efficient and fittest plants will survive at the cost of everything else.
Your first consideration when using weed-killer sprays is the local weather. You can’t spray in the rain because this will dilute the spray to a lower concentration. This will reduce the effect of the weed-killer making the whole operation a waste of time and money.
The second weather consideration is the wind. It will blow the spray around and affect plants which you want left untouched.
Spot treating weeds
If there are too many to dig or pull then individual spot spraying using a small hand held sprayer with a suitable weed killer would do the trick. To avoid soaking the surrounding grass with weed killer consider using a toilet roll centre to place over the crown of the weed and spray down the tube. You can through it away when you’ve finished. Make sure that you are using the correct concentration of chemical/water mix and don’t be tempted to give an extra squirt. This won’t do any more for you, it will just waste the spray chemical and you run the risk of over spray which may stay in the ground causing problems later.
Weed killer for large lawns
For larger patches you may need to mix up a larger volume of spray solution. Depending on how much you have to do, a large area may need a knapsack sprayer. This requires some pre planning. You need to assess the area that must be sprayed to be able to calculate the amount of spray-chemical mix that you will need.
Try to avoid preparing too much chemical solution because you may be tempted to go over parts which you have already sprayed, this is just bad practice. It’s also unwise to have a surplus of spray-chemical solution left over in the knapsack sprayer.
What are you going to do with the surplus? You mustn’t pour it down the drain and if you empty it into a container to store for next year you may forget about it when the time comes and mix up a fresh mix.
You will then have a container of spray-chemical hanging around which may or may not have a label on it. You won’t know if it would be effective if you use it because it may deteriorate and there is the constant risk that it may fall into small inquiring hands.
Weed control watering can
When controlling weeds, the regular reference is to ‘spray’ weeds with chemicals. In the industrial agricultural-world spraying is the most cost effective way to apply crop protection. For the average garden this isn’t so necessary. You can use a watering can for this, some have a sprinkle bar attachment.This will make for a much more targeted treatment and you won’t need to worry too much if it’s a windy day.
killing weeds in lawn with vinegar
It is true, you can kill weeds using a vinegar solution but it isn’t in any way selective. It will kill all the weeds and the grass together. When applied it will act relatively quickly compared to chemical weed killers. After application you may see a reaction with in a day.
This is because it performs in an instant mechanical way. The acetic acid in vinegar kills the plant by absorbing water from the leaves. The leaves fail to function and the plant dies.
There are are variations to using vinegar as a weed killer involving adding soap or detergent to help the solution to stick to the leaves.
Some recommend the addition of salt. You need to be very careful with this. It is not advised to use salt on soil where you want anything to grow whether a grass lawn or anything else. The salt can stay in the ground for a long time and possibly render the affected area useless.
So, vinegar is an option for clearing an area of weeds if you really want to avoid using other chemicals but leave out the salt. You could use it as part of a strategy where a patch of ground is nothing but weeds. Applying a vinegar solution will clear the whole patch leaving it clear, for a while, before cultivating for grass or anything else.
What concentration of vinegar?
To get the full effect don’t dilute the vinegar, after all it is safe to use from an environmental point of view. If you are treating weeds on an area where you want anything else to grow, don’t add salt. You may benefit from using salt if you want to clear weeds on a gravel path or drive-way. It would also work for clearing weeds growing in the gaps of paving slabs. Here is where you don’t want anything to grow at all.
Lawn drought stress
If you have suffered an extended dry period in your area it won’t be wise to apply any kind of weed-killer. If you do there is a risk of ‘scorching’ the grass that you want to protect.
The growth of both grass and weeds on the lawn need to be vigorous enough to avoid this happening. Only apply treatment during a period of changeable weather, picking a dry window of opportunity between wet rainy periods.
Why does moss grow on my lawn?
The appearance of moss tells a lot about your lawn. Seeing moss would tell me that the soil is too acidic. If you take a soil sample and analyse it to get a ph reading you will find that the measure will be quite low. Moss likes acidic conditions.
Then there is the type of soil that lays beneath the grass and moss. This will be heavy soil and will be, most likely, clay. This type of soil is rarely free-draining. The nature of clay is that it seals, preventing both water and air from moving through it. If this type of ground becomes compacted it will make it even less permeable.
If the ground has a high level of sand, it’s less likely that you will see any moss at all. Sandy type soils are much more open. This type of soil is difficult to compact and so remains free-draining.
So, if you see moss growing on your lawn you can assume that you have a lawn trying to grow on soil that is heavy clay. The soil surface is sealed due to compaction. Neither water or air can get into the grass roots and the soil is acidic. Seeing moss is such an indicator of acidity that it isn’t worth bothering analyzing the soil.
How do you get rid of moss in your lawn?
Even on heavy clay soil there are things you can do to get rid of moss. If you feel energetic enough you could go over the lawn with an aggressive rake that will scratch it out. What you gather can then be put through your composting system.
How to get rid of moss in lawn naturally
Don’t bother with spraying chemicals or vinegar for this because there are much more effective things that you can do. The aim is to change the conditions so that moss can’t grow.
So, how to stop moss growing on the lawn? The best, and probably the only way, to reduce the acidity in the soil is to spread white lime on the surface. This will neutralize the acidity and raise the PH level. Doing this alone will, in most cases, get rid of the moss.
Spreading lime doesn’t need to be an annual event. White lime will stay in the soil for a number of years which means that the effect of spreading lime will stay for some time.
What rate of lime do you spread?
Depending on the level of infestation a good starting rate would be approximately 1lb or ½ a kilo of lime per square metre. This would be a good dose that will suppress the moss from returning for a decent while, you may need to dress the ground again at some point in the future.
The spreading of lime will do most of what you need to prevent the returning of moss to the lawn but, because of the nature of heavy soil, you will need to take some action to open up the surface. In a farming situation this would be done using equipment that breaks the surface and disturbs the soil beneath.
On a lawn we need to be rather more sedate and use aerating tools as mentioned earlier. If done thoroughly this will open up the surface enough to allow drainage of surplus surface water. Doing all of this will make your lawn look and feel a lot healthier.
Where to buy hydrated lime?
You can buy large bags of hydrated lime. If you buy more than you actually need for now it will keep but you must ensure that it is well sealed inside a plastic bag. It is hygroscopic which means that it absorbs moisture from the air. If this is allowed to happen then it will set into a solid lump.
Do I need to roll my new lawn?
In a word ’no’. There is nothing to be gained from rolling a lawn that has well established grass growing on it. The only time when you will need a roller is when you are preparing a new seed-bed before sowing the grass seed or carrying out repairs to an established lawn.
There was a time when some claimed that by rolling the lawn in the spring time this would increase the number of new shoots on each grass plant. The view at the time was that it would thicken the grass and provide a more full and lush lawn.
In fact it damages the plant causing substantial bruising. Because of the admirable resilience of the grass plant, it survives this imposed adversity and proceeds to recover. It’s an indication of just how tough the grass species are when we see it flourish after what is, for them, a violent intrusion.
In agriculture you will see fields being rolled in the early spring of the year. This is for a different reason. Very often it will be because cattle will have been roaming on the fields during the autumn of the year before. This will have marked the fields with hoof-marks leaving the field surface roughened. The rolling will smooth this and prepare the field for the new growing season.
Another reason is to press down any stones that may have come to the surface. This is necessary as stones may find their way into harvesting machinery causing expensive damage.
Rolling is also necessary for sports fields e.g. football pitches, golf courses and cricket pitches. Some of the rollers here are really heavy. For a cricket pitch a roller full of solid concrete is often used.
We only need to manage a small lawn. If a lawn has been prepared properly from day one there shouldn’t be any need to roll it. In the case of a lawn that has been left rough with pits and mounds, the best thing you can do is to import some soil and fill the pits. If you spend a bit of time on this you should be able to bring the surface to a new level that you can live with.
How do I sow grass seed in existing lawn?
If the lawn is being used as an amenity area during the summer and slightly worn as a result, you may feel the need to sow more grass seed. Over-seeding an existing lawn is a simple thing to do but you need to prepare the lawn before starting.
Can you plant grass seed over dead grass?
Don’t sow any seeds on top of dead grass. If you do it will just sit there when it needs to be on the soil surface where it can put down roots.
If you have any dead grass lying around, the best thing you can do is to rake it all out and put it through your composting system. This sort of material will make really good compost.
Can I put grass seed on top of grass?
Sowing grass seeds on an established lawn will work. You must cut the grass short and rake away the grass clippings so that the new-sown seeds can find their way onto the soil surface. Before you sow the seeds you must prepare the soil surface to give the seeds the best chance to become established.
Over-seeding lawn after scarifying
Scarifying is when you scratch the soil surface between the established grass plants. This has to be done in a fairly aggressive way to prepare a fine enough tilth for the seed to germinate but not so much that it damages the existing grass.
This must be done when the ground is dry enough. If you try doing this when it’s damp or wet, you will only make a mess and the seeds will rot rather than germinate. After scarifying the soil surface you can sow the seeds straight away.
If you have a large area to do then you can use a rotary spreader as used for spreading fertilizer. Study the gauge settings for this as grass seeds are small and will be very different to handle compared to fertilizer.
After having sown the seed it would help to roll the area that has been seeded. This is one of the rare occasions when rolling is advised. If you do this in the autumn/fall time after the grass has been cut, possibly for the last time in the year, it wont cause much damage to the existing grass plants.
The rolling will press the seeds into the soil surface giving them every chance they need to germinate almost immediately. They will then become established grass plants through the winter months as grass can grow just a little at this time.
The ideal lawn roller for this is a water filled roller. You can control the weight of the roller to suit the task. Some rollers can be filled with either water or sand.
What is the best time to sow grass seed?
The best time to sow grass seed to establishing a new lawn is, as with overseeding, probably early autumn/fall time but don’t leave it too late. As the winter months approach the ground temperature drops, this won’t be a good time for sowing.
Seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. Some may survive until warmer times but most will be lost. The autumn/fall is when it’s more likely that the summer lawn activities are at an end. This is the time when the lawn is left alone long enough to be repaired.
How do you prepare soil for planting grass?
The most important task when establishing a new lawn is to ensure that you have the ideal seed-bed. It’s no good if there are big solid lumps of soil on the surface or cracks in the ground. The seed-bed must be worked to a fine crumb. You only need to cultivate the top 50mm/2inches, there is no need to go deep. You need a universal consistency over the whole surface of the lawn.
This is when using a roller is highly recommended, there is no damage to be done when doing this. A roller is one of the best tools for crushing lumps of hard soil. You may find that you will need to go over the soil surface several times to to get a really fine seed-bed. For this you are well justified in getting a water filled roller. Fill it completely with water or sand because you need to crush all lumps of soil to get as fine a tilth as possible.
When you are happy that you have a finely work seed-bed you can then sow the seed. The best way is to use a rotary spreader which, with practice, will give you a more accurate spread. Don’t work the seed into the ground, just leave it on the soil surface. Finally, having sown the seed, give it one more rolling to press the seed into the finely-worked soil.
Laying turf lawn
Laying cut turf is an option if you are in a hurry to get an established lawn. It will cost around 10 times what it would cost compared to sowing grass seeds. With some guidance and care it is well possible to have a lawn in place that will look good and will be weed-free, at least for a while.
What turf should I buy?
When you’ve made the decision to go for laying cut turf for an almost instant lawn, you will need to decide what type of turf will best suit you. There are a few simple categories. Either you will want an ornamental grass lawn or a hard-wearing lawn that’s up to an almost sports standard.
Go to a reputable turf supplier that’s a member of the TGA (Turf Growers Association). This association sets the standard for quality turf. If you explain what your needs are there should be someone there who will guide you to a suitable turf.
What is the best time of year to lay turf?
You can lay cut turf at any time of the year but it’s wise to avoid the winter months because the working conditions may be awkward. From mid spring to mid Autumn/fall is the best time because this is when all plants are actively growing. The grass roots will establish themselves by growing into the soil beneath the turf.
How to prepare for laying turf
The first job involves clearing away the old turf or any debris that covers where the new turf is to be laid. If there is any organic material that you can make use of, this can be turned into compost. This would include the old turf. Dig this off to get the old grass and roots but shake as much soil out of it as you can.
Next dig over the entire area where the new turf is to be laid. You need to establish a 150mm/6inch depth of cultivation. It can be done by hand using a spade or fork but if it’s a big area use a mechanical rotovator.
If you are planning to lay turf on hard ground where there is little or no soil to play with, it will be necessary to import top soil. If you need to do this spread it out to achieve a depth of 150mm/6inches.
If the new lawn’s edge is to touch against a patio, you may want the lawn and patio to be on the same level. To achieve this allow for a step depth from the patio of 20mm/¾inch for the new turf to sit on top.
If you are working with heavy clay soil you will need to incorporate some organic matter into this base layer. This will attract worms and provide an ideal natural cushion for the roots from the new turf.
Depending on how much clay you are having to work with you may need to work in some gravel to help with drainage.
Clear out any large stones, any that are larger than a mobile phone really should be taken out.
Next you must rake over the entire surface. You are aiming for a smooth surface that has no pits or mounds. This is a last opportunity to find any stones. As you are raking think of the surface finish that you would like to make it easy to mow with the lawn mower.
It’s important that the surface isn’t too fluffy. It needs to be firm. Some will tell you to step it down with your feet. Doing it this way you have to tread it down leaving a boot mark on every inch. You can make this work if it’s a small area but what about a large area? After a while you may start to feel silly.
So get a roller that isn’t too heavy but just enough to get some light compaction. This will reveal any soft spots that need a little extra top soil. When you’ve completed this the foundation should be set to receive the new turf.
How do I work out how much turf I need?
A roll of turf is usually 1m² so you can measure your lawn area and work it out. Allow an extra 5% just to make sure that you have enough. If you need help to figure out how much you need there are online calculators available. Just do a search for ‘Lawn turf calculators’.
How do you lay down turf?
Laying turfs isn’t much different from laying squares of carpet but you must be aware that the cut turfs are delicate. Don’t try dragging them around because they will tear. When handling an unrolled square of turf you have to push and nudge them into place. This is when you will appreciate all the work you’ve done to establish a fine smooth surface with no stones to get in the way.
Begin by laying a row end to end along an edge, perhaps against a patio. Then you have to cut a turf in half before starting the next row. For cutting turf use an old knife or sharpened garden spade, try to keep straight when cutting.
You lay the half turf followed by a full square. This way you create a staggered pattern like a brick wall. Snug the edges together as tight as you can, if there are any gaps fill them with some fine soil. Use a short piece of wooden plank to press down on each turf to get plenty of contact with the under soil.
Place wooden planks on the grass turfs that you’ve laid where you need to stand or kneel on. Avoid walking on any fresh-laid turf because they will be unstable and may move out of line.
Can you lay turf on top of grass?
Yes you can but please don’t is the answer to this. If you feel the need to replace the grass that you already have it will probably be because the old turf is a worn out mess. You will be doing yourself and your lawn justice if you clear away the mess completely and start again.
If you place the new turf on top of old you may not achieve the desired smooth surface finish because this is something that has to be worked at. Also the old turf may try to grow through the new.
Considering the expense of buying the new turf it makes more sense to go the full distance, prepare a good foundation and end up with a lawn that you can be proud of.
How much should you water your new turf?
You need to be aware that the ground beneath the new turf must be damp. If it isn’t wet enough the roots on the cut turf will dry out and it’s quite possible that it will die.
When you have finished preparing the surface to receive the new turf you may need to soak this with water. This will definitely be necessary if you’re attempting this in a drought period in the summer.
When you’ve finished laying the complete lawn you must water it. The best time of day for watering is early in the morning before the sun comes up or, even better, in the evening after the sun has gone down. Doing this will reduce loss of water through evaporation.
You will need to monitor the moisture of the new turf daily for several days. This is a critical period as the roots from the turf need to bed-in to the under soil.
A shower of rain will help but don’t think that a heavy thunderstorm will mean that you won’t need to do any more. Thunder rain water goes as quick as it comes so keep watering. Lift up corners of the turf here and there to see how moist it is. If it looks a bit dry give it some more.
When your new turf has clearly become established a program of regular watering by hose or weather should be sufficient.
How long do you have to leave turf before you can walk on it?
You can walk on it straight after it has been laid. Just be aware that, while still new, it’s going to be unstable for a while and the odd turf may move. It can be re positioned without a problem. Just don’t plan any garden parties until it feels good and firm under foot.
When should you cut your new turf?
Feel free to cut the grass on the new turf as soon as you see any fresh growth. The advent of new grass growth is an indicator that everything is going to plan and that the roots of the new turf have pushed down into the under-soil. How ever it would be wise to tread and work carefully for the first time cutting as there may be some loose turfs here and there.
If you are cutting grass for the first time after reseeding or new-laid turf, there is no point collecting the clippings. If you are just taking a light cut it would do more good to allow these to drop down to the soil.
How to cut grass properly
The biggest mistake that people make when cutting the lawn is to cut to close to the ground. The assumption is that by cutting it aggressively tight it saves work because you won’t need to cut it again for a good while.
This, however, doesn’t necessarily help your lawn. If an extended dry period follows on from a tight cutting of the lawn the soil surface will bake and crack. With little or no grass to shade it this can get worse in times of drought. With a possible water shortage and hosepipe bans in place irrigation won’t be an option.
So, when you mow your lawn don’t be greedy. You know how much you like using the lawn mower, leave some for next time. Set the cut height to about 40mm/1½inches. This will provide some shade for the soil surface reducing evaporation. Do this in a drought time and yours will be the greenest lawn around.
Another advantage of leaving some depth of grass is that the weeds find it a struggle to thrive. The grass shades them out and they can’t get through. So if you are a ‘weedist’ with sadistic tendencies against weeds this is the perfect strategy for you.
Best lawn mower for small garden
For a small lawn it will be a toss-up between a walk-behind lawn mower or a strimmer. For small lawns there is the convenience of rechargeable lawn mowers.
It depends on what we call small. The bigger the lawn the bigger the cutting device. If you are lucky enough to have a huge lawn you can justify getting a ride-on lawnmower. This would make mowing the lawn a sitting-down-job.
What ever system you use to cut your lawn, never forget that the lawn clippings can make superb compost which can be fed back to the lawn helping to maintain a lush green centre-piece for your garden, so:
You can use compost on your lawn.
Points to think about when you do:
Wait until the Autumn/fall
Do it after your last cut of grass
Spread your compost thin and even
Aerate the turf after spreading
Rake the lawn after spreading and aerating
“A beautiful lawn doesn’t happen by itself.”