The first and most important rule is to make sure the ground where the turf is being laid is properly prepared. Failure to do so often results in a lumpy unloved lawn with sections of it not growing well.
If you’re replacing an existing bad lawn, then remove it by slicing thinly underneath the existing turf trying to remove as little soil as possible as this is topsoil with lots of nutrients in it. The removed turf can be stored, grass side upside down, with a cover placed on it to rot down and give you loam soil to use elsewhere in the garden.
Use the garden fork to thoroughly dig over the area. This does three things; breaks up compacted soil, reveals large stones or other debris to be removed, and allows air into the soil. This is an essential process to help grass roots grow well and deep into the soil to help lessen the amount of watering needed to keep the lawn looking good and healthy.
- Dig down to the depth of your fork breaking the soil up as you dig with the side of the fork.
- Sieve out medium size stones and debris.
- Add and dig in a layer of organic matter; well-rotted garden compost or manure are both good options.
- Rake over the soil lightly, moving the rake in both directions, removing smaller stones as you go.
- Mark out the area you’re turfing using canes and string.
This next step may seem counter intuitive but it’s not…
Compress the soil lightly with your feet, doing what’s called ‘the gardener’s shuffle’, going up and down and across the freshly dug over marked out area. This ensures that the soil is both firm and level enabling roots of the turf to make contact with the soil and ‘grow away’ well. Remember you’re lightly compressing rather than heavily compacting the soil.
Next use the straight edged narrow piece of wood to literally push and pull over and along the lightly compressed area. It’s a final check that the soil is completely level, and you’ll need to squat down to do this.