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How to Lay Turf Like a Pro: Tips from the Experts at West Turf

In Queensland, we all dream of house and land ownership. If our home is our castle, our yard is our personal oasis, and your lawn will be the most used landscaping element in your outdoor space.

As cost-of-living increases bite and it gets more and more difficult to afford the basics, everyone is looking for new ways to save. If you have a yard to turf, the DIY option of laying it yourself makes perfect sense. The satisfaction you gain from a little hard work turning dirt into a magnificent, lush, green lawn is capped off by the dollars you save on installer’s fees.

Laying turf is not rocket science, but there are a few tips and tricks that will make the job look professional. Here’s how to lay turf like an expert, from start to finish.

Quick tips for laying turf

  • Complete all other landscaping before you lay the turf.
  • Clean up the site, removing any weeds or existing grass.
  • Complete your soil preparation to ensure it’s aerated and ready for your new turf.
  • Consider adding a special turf underlay soil or adding some Gypsum if you have clay soil.
  • West Turf supplies warm season turf that loves sandy loam soil.
  • Make sure the underturf is the right depth ahead of your lawn installation.
  • Measure the turf area (at least) twice to make sure you’re ordering the right amount of turf.

Laying turf is the last thing

It is important to have all other landscaping work, including retaining walls, paths, and garden beds, completed before laying turf.

There are three simple reasons for this:

  1. Landscapers and builders cannot help but damage new lawns in the process of building.
  2. If all other garden beds and paths are complete, the turf measurement will be more accurate, and you’ll have less waste.
  3. The new lawn must be kept moist and traffic off it so it can “take” successfully.

Clean the site

Whether you are laying turf for a new build or replacing existing grass, clearing the site is important. Anything under your turf affects it.

  • Spray any grass and weeds out with a glyphosate product. The most well-known and readily available is Round-Up. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills all actively growing vegetation in about 5-7 days, so be careful when spraying because drift can affect gardens. To ensure all weeds are dead, a second spray a week later is a good idea.
  • Mow the dead grass as close to the dirt as possible to remove as much existing vegetation as possible.
  • Rake out the area and remove any debris, rocks, and sticks.

Before you lay fresh turf, is the site compacted?

Soil compaction can be an issue on both new builds and existing homes. It occurs when the soil is packed down from constant traffic over time. Compacted soil cannot hold air, water, and nutrients and will cause the turf to be weak and unhealthy.

This is why we always recommend soil preparation before laying turf.

Make sure to test the soil

Test the area with a pitchfork straight down into the soil. If the tines only go in halfway, we recommend tilling the soil. Use a mattock for small areas, but if the area is large, this method will require a lot of effort. Hiring a rotary hoe from an equipment hire site, landscape yard, or Bunnings for approximately $150 for a half-day is the best option for large areas.

Are you laying your new lawn on clay soil?

Clay soil is an obstacle for a healthy new lawn, sticking together in clods when wet, and drying out as hard as bricks. There is little air in clay soil, and drainage will be very poor. Gypsum is a great treatment for clay soils and is available at your local landscape yards and hardware stores.

Follow the application rate and dig into the top 10-15cm of soil. Over time, the soil will become crumbly.

Adding organic matter like compost, aged manure, or organic fertilizers will help to accelerate the process. It is also good practice to aerate your lawn and reapply Gypsum each year to maintain the soil’s friability.

What soil is best?

Warm season grasses grown at West Turf prefer loam to sandy loam soils. Once you have rectified any compaction and added gypsum and organics to treat clay-based soil, add the topsoil. (Note: If you have the perfect loam soil for turf, you may not need to bring in topsoil.)

Landscape yards will call this “underturf.” A good mix is 20-30% loam and 70-80% sand.

Getting the levels right

When preparing your site, a profile of 100mm soil depth is optimal—75mm is a minimum. Try to be consistent across the whole site, at least ensuring you don’t skimp in sections. Often, customers will call to ask, “Why is my turf not performing in this little section of my yard, the rest is beautiful?” One likely reason is that the section missed out on a decent share of under turf.

Use a soil rake or a machine to help spread the underturf. To make big jobs easier, mini skid steers like Dingos can be hired for around $250-300/half day. There are also professional machine operators who will prep your site for you. This can be worthwhile for sites over 100sqm.

Turf slabs will carry approximately 25mm of soil. Remember, when working on your levels, tilled and new soil will settle over time.

Pay attention to your drainage and make sure there is no potential issue. Ensure water won’t pool on the lawn or flow towards buildings in the event of heavy rain. Once the underturf is spread, make sure it is levelled.

Measure once, measure twice!

Turf orders are made by the square metre (“sqm”). To work out how much turf you need, work out your square meterage by calculating the area of each basic shape in your yard that needs turfing. Draw the shapes on a piece of paper and write down the measurements of each section. It will make it easier to calculate.

Visit our Measuring Your Lawn blog for some practical hints for this stage. At West Turf, we suggest adding 3-5% to your final calculation to ensure you are not under-ordering. It is very disappointing to be a few sqm short.

How to lay turf come Install Day

Now that you have managed an A-Class prep and ordered your turf, you are ready to receive/pick up and lay your new lawn. Here’s our advice on how to lay turf and have the best install day:

Be prepared to lay the turf as soon as it's delivered

Particularly in the heat of summer, the turf will perish the longer it is left to sit stacked. Do not water the stacked turf. If you cannot lay it straight away, keep the turf in the shade, and divide it into smaller stacks. Turf will heat from the inside of the stack outwards, which causes pallet burn. Turf will not recover from pallet burn. There are no refunds for turf that has not been laid when it should have.

  • Give one last soil rake over the site to smooth out any lumps.
  • Now the ground is ready to lay your new turf:
    1. Lay an edge strip or “header course” around your area. This will reduce any cutting-in against hard surfaces like pavers or garden edging. These surfaces can be damaged by cutting-in tools.
    2. Work off a straight edge from the house/patio outwards in the direction you will mow.
    3. Lay each slab in a brickwork style.
    4. Keep the slabs tight up against each other, but don’t overlap.
    5. Where two sections meet, finish join neatly and give “right of way” to the longest section.
    6. Soil rake out any footprints and bumps as you go.
    7. Use a spade or sharp knife to cut in any odd pieces as necessary.
    8. Immediately water the lawn, even as you are laying it.
    9. For best results, roll in your new lawn immediately after laying it to remove any air pockets.
    10. Continue to water it to give it a good soak.
    11. Keep foot traffic off the newly laid turf during the establishment period.
    12. Water, water, water for the next two to three weeks for couch varieties, and three to four weeks for Zoysia and Buffalos.

Pick up or delivery?

Pick up:

At West Turf, customers are welcome to come to the farm to pick up their turf order. The advantage of pick-up orders is you can order up to 3.00pm the day before collection. This helps if you are tight on time and not sure when you will complete your prep work. Our farm is 50 minutes west of Brisbane CBD at Wivenhoe Pocket, Fernvale.

One tonne of turf will fit in a ute or single-axle trailer:

  • Wintergreen – 50sqm to 60sqm
  • Aussiblue – 40sqm
  • Zoysia – 40sqm
  • Soft Leaf Buffalo – 40sqm
  • Sir Walter – 40sqm

Delivery:

If you would prefer your new turf delivered, West Turf delivers for an extra fee to Ipswich, Logan, Brisbane Valley, Brisbane, and Bayside. If you are outside this zone, give us a call to discuss. Deliveries need to be booked in advance; a week is ideal. If you need a last-minute delivery, give us a call, we just might have space on the truck and be going in your direction.

At West Turf, we deliver mornings from Monday to Saturday. There is up to 1300sqm on each truck. The first delivery is 7.00am, and we aim to have the last delivery complete by 11.30am.

We will try to give ETAs late the day before delivery, but keep in mind your ETA is approximate (a delivery half hour on either side is likely). We will provide an update if we are running behind.

Delivery is more efficient when space is provided for our truck to park safely at the site – 30 metres is adequate. To make installation less laborious for you, our driver will place the turf around the site as long as there is clear access and it is safe to do so. As a guide, our truck-mounted forklifts require 2.5m access; our skid steer loader requires 1.7m access.

The golden rule:

Make sure you are prepped and ready to install when your turf arrives at the site. You do not want fresh turf sitting while you prep. Turf is perishable.

What can go wrong?

After 30 years of growing and delivering turf, at West Turf we are known for our reliability. There are some things, however, that are out of our control.

Turf harvests can be cancelled due to wet weather. Our heavy 8-tonne harvesters cannot operate on the paddock if there has been too much rain. It may take a day or two to dry out, depending on how much rain has fallen. If this happens to your order, we will notify you as soon as possible to reschedule for the next possible delivery/pick-up day that suits you.

As farmers, we pay particular attention to the weather, and if we perceive an issue, we will prepare you in advance.

Roads around South East Queensland are getting busier and busier. Of course, we factor this into our ETAs, but extreme traffic may delay your load on delivery day. Expect your delivery to be a half-hour on either side of the ETA, to be realistic. We will notify you if there is an extreme delay.

Our equipment is state-of-the-art and very well-serviced, so machinery and truck breakdowns are extremely rare but not impossible.

We won’t cancel your order if there is an issue at our end, but we may need to reschedule. If your order has not been harvested and you choose to cancel it, you are welcome to a refund. Harvested turf cannot be refunded.

Call West Turf on 1300 871 366 to place an order for your ultimate lawn. We are happy to chat about your turf project and give advice on your DIY turf installation.