To lay or not to lay; that is the question...
Whenever it gets hot, people start asking me the same question– is it safe to lay new turf or should I wait for cooler conditions? And good turf doesn’t come cheap so it’s an understandable concern; the last thing you want is to watch as it slowly shrinks, dries and begins to life at the edges. But the honest answer is that is it perfectly ok to lay in hot, dry weather – as long as you take some sensible precautions.
I love lawns of course, but they still confuse people - on the one hand, grass is one of our toughest plants and can survive all kinds of extreme conditions; but on the other hand, laying turf is not a case of chuck it down, green side up, give it a welcoming water and enjoy your instant lawn. No, introducing turf to your garden requires as much care as you would give to any new plant – and that mean preparation and after-care.
Here are my tips for creating the perfect environment for your new turf – follow these and you can lay pretty much any time of the year.
Preparation: You’ve already made the right decision to buy your turf from people who understand turf. And that means the turf that gets delivered will have been expertly nurtured before being carefully cut and transported. Your job is to continue that level of care - and that means getting it down as soon as it arrives. And that means preparation.
You don’t want to leave new turf lying around while you get ready, so before it arrives (or even before you order it) get ready. Make sure the site is fully prepared and that you have the right tools, including planks to walk on; and make sure you have the means to water it frequently once laid.
Sometimes you still have to put it to one side for a short while – that’s ok but put it in the shade (and for large batches, it’s a good idea anyway to put it all in the shade and remove a few rolls at a time as you work) and don’t water it unless you can unroll it first. Otherwise you simply increase bacterial degradation.
Laying: Laying turf is pretty much the same at any time of year. You need to avoid walking on it once down (hence the planks) and it’s best to work inwards from the edges, laying alternate strips like bricks so that all the seams don’t line up. This will reduce the amount of moisture loss, especially useful in warm weather.
Watering: This is the most important after-care especially in hot, dry weather. The water must penetrate right into the soil, not just dampen the turf itself. You get far better results from fewer but more thorough waterings rather than lots of superficial ones. And water in the late evening if possible; it’s not just to reduce evaporation loss – this is the time of day when the roots will be growing and bedding in.
So, within a few hours of laying, give the entire new turfed area a really good watering. And I mean a lot of water. You can carefully peel back a corner of turf to see whether the soil is saturated – and if it isn’t, keep watering. Then as the days and weeks pass, use your common sense; you don’t want to create a mud bath under the turf, but you don’t want to risk the roots drying out either.
So, to lay or not to lay? It’s up to you, but don’t use the hot weather as an excuse not to. Of course you can wait until the autumn, but if there’s no rain you will still need to do plenty of watering. So, the most important consideration is whether you are ready, not the weather – remember, it’s all in the preparation!