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Introduction

Do you want your lawn to be the best it can possibly be? Are you prepared to go the extra mile with soil preparation so that your ongoing turf maintenance is less? Well, you have come to the right place. This guide on how to lay turf will provide you with all the information you need to have an easy to maintain lawn that will be the envy of your neighbours.

Whilst some turf installation guides on the internet will step you through how to install turf in the quickest and easiest manner, this guide provides you with the full details of the important preparation work that should be completed before any turf is layed to ensure it has the best chance for long-term survival.

Ready? Ok, lets get started…

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Equipment Required

The below photos show the items you will need to complete the steps mentioned. You will no doubt have most in your shed/garage already however some of the larger and more uncommon items, such as the Rotary Hoe, should be able to be hired from your local hardware store.

wheelbarrow
Wheelbarrow
Green Garden Shovel
Garden Shovel
Nail rake
Nail Rake
Bread knife
Bread Knife
Rotary Hoe
Rotary Hoe
Plate Compactor
Plate Compactor
large plastic rake
Large Plastic Rake
Soil Spreader
Soil Spreader
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How much turf do I need?

Measuring to figure out how much turf you require isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Simply divide up your lawn area into any of the shapes below, then add them together to get the total needed.

Rectangle or Square Areas

If you have a square of rectangle lawn area you are very fortunate because it won’t get any easier than this. Simply multiple the length by the width to reach your total. For example:

Length = 7m
Width = 5m
7m x 5m = 35m2

Rectangle Grass Lawn

Circle Areas

Measure the radius, then multiply the radius by itself and then by 3.14. For example:

Radius = 5
5m x 5m x 3.14 = 78.5m2

Circle lawn

Oval Areas

Measure the length and width in meters, then multiply the length by 0.80 before multiplying the result by width. For example:

Length = 18m
Width = 10m
18m x 0.80 = 14.4m
14.4m x 10m = 144m2

Triangle Areas

Measure the base and height in meters, then multiply the base by 0.50 before multiplying that by the height. For example:

Base = 12m
Height = 14m
12 x 0.50 x 14 = 84m2

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Common types of grass lawn

There are various types of grass lawn available on the market. Each have their positives and negatives. To help you determine which is the best grass for your use we have provided a summary of three of the main types of grass you will find readily available at most grass suppliers.

If you are looking for a quality turf supplier we highly recommended Green Life Turf. They won the 2013 Australian Achiever National Award for Australia’s Landscape, Nursery & Garden Services & Supplies (having previously won the award back in 2009 as well).

Buffalo Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)

Note: this page focuses on the Australian version of Buffalo, not the north American prairie grass native to Canada, Mexico.

Strong, easy to grow and low in maintenance. It is easy to see why Buffalo Grass continues to be one of the most popular lawn types. Did you ever roll around in the grass as a child only to discover you had itchy skin? Chances are you were rolling around in one of the older styles of Buffalo which had scratchy type leaves. Nowadays, most Buffalo breeds come in soft leaf varieties which means its reputation as a ‘scratchy leaf’ is a thing of the past.

Buffalo is a good all year round lawn given its drought tolerance and ability to maintain a good colour during winter months.

Common types include Sir Walter, Matilda, Palmetto and Sapphire.

Facts:

  • Low maintenance, requires less watering than most grass types.
  • Requires approx. 50% less mowing than Kikuyu in summer.
  • New soft leaf varieties are ideal for children.
  • Excellent drought tolerance.
  • Less invasive than Kikuyu or Couch.
Buffalo Grass
Buffalo GrassStenotaphrum secundatum

Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandestinum)

A good choice for lawns expected to be under heavy usage. Kikuyu is one of the more affordable grass types but is somewhat high in maintenance given the need for more regular mowing in summer. It’s most pleasing aspects is its ability to repair itself quickly which is why it is suited to lawns with heavy traffic. A popular choice for use in public areas and schools.

One of the disadvantages of Kikuyu is that is it very popular with weeds and is known to suffer from different diseases such as brown spot.

It is highly aggressive and can spread quickly. Utilising a male sterile Kikuyu type can reduce the spread somewhat. You will need to keep an eye on it as it is known to spread into neighbouring garden beds easily.

Facts:

  • Popular on council ovals and parks
  • Can die off in shady areas
  • Prone to weeds
  • Can handle high traffic areas very well
  • Quick to self-repair
  • Requires more mowing
  • One of the cheaper grass varieties available
  • Colour can fade during winter months
Kikuyu Grass
Kikuyu GrassPennisetum clandestinum

Zoysia Grass (Zoysia japonica)

If you feel that buffalo grass leaves are too broad and couch grass leaves are too fine, then Zoysia grass might be just what you are looking for. Zoysia is a slow growing grass that requires less frequent mowing when compared to Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch. It offers more shade tolerance than couch and kikuyu and is very soft to touch so children will enjoy it. The most common type is Empire Zoysia.

Given its slow growth rate, this is one grass variety that won’t be invading your grass beds anytime soon. Whilst, like all grasses, it will require edging on occassion, the frequency will be much less compared to other grasses.

If you have sloping land, Zoysia might be a good option for you given there will be less need to mow.

It is harder to establish than most other grasses but once set it is very hard wearing and is suited to high traffic areas.

Whilst Zoysia is a strong grass and can recover from wear and tear, once it is damaged it will repair at a slow rate.

Facts:

  • Slow growing
  • Soft to touch
  • Loves the sun
  • Can go brown during winter months
  • Moderate shade tolerance
  • Can handle high traffic areas
  • Slow to repair once damaged
  • Low mowing requirements
  • Very high drought tolerance
  • Well suited to sloping areas given its minimal mowing needs
Empire Zoysia Grass
Zoysia GrassZoysia japonica
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Soil Preparation and Turf Installation

Now we start to get into the nitty gritty. The information contained within this section has been derived from the soil preparation steps developed by Fu Manchu of the Homeone Landscape and Garden Design forum. Fu is an expert at what he does and his advice is so good we have included it here for you in summarised form. We have added some minor detail on certain steps just to provide further detail in case you are a beginner.

Step 1 – Weed Removal

Before you do any digging or any kind of work on the ground it is important to ensure it is weed free. The most effective way to do this is to apply some ‘Roundup’ onto any areas you plan on installing turf. It is recommended to spray Roundup in the morning to allow it to absorb into the weeds during the day. It is also best to pick a time when rain isn’t expected so that it isn’t washed away. One handy hint is to add a few drops of dishwashing liquid and a capful of Seasol if you have some handy into the Roundup bottle before you spray it, the dishwashing liquid and Seasol will help the Roundup stick to the weeds and increase the absorbtion. Roundup will need approx. 10 days to do its job. Wait 10 days then proceed to step 2.

Spray the weeds

Step 2 – It’s tillage time!

‘Tillage’ is a phrase used to describe the preparation of soil by digging or overturning, this can be via the use of tools such as a rotary hoe or the more manual methods of shovelling, raking or using a mattock as a few examples. The easiest method and the method we recommend for this step, is to use a rotary hoe. If you don’t have rotary hoe you can hire one from stores such as Kennards Hire. Use a rotary hoe to churn the dead weeds back into the soil whilst tilling the soil at the same time. How long will it take? That is a tough question to answer but as a rough guide you should be able to get through 90m2 in a couple of hours.

Tillage soil preparation

Step 3 – Spread some certified organic compost

Have some certified organic compost delivered and spread it over the area that will be turfed.

As a rough guide you want to aim for the soil to be mixed at a ratio of 10% sand, 90% organic compost. To put this into perspective, if you have a 1m square area of soil, add 0.2m cubed of organic compost. The amino acids along with the Humic and Fulvic within the organic compost will work to break up any clay in the soil.

If you are having difficulty locating certified organic compost, we have listed a number of suppliers at the bottom of this guide who may be able to help. If you live in Western Australia, you can also use a product called ‘Piggypost’ from DSATCO instead.

Spread certified organic compost

Step 4 – Add some nutrients

Note: whilst this step is optional and some of the products can be difficult to come by, if you want the absolute best lawn possible we recommend you follow each of the four parts below.

Part A: Add some PowerFeed to the soil.

For the Powerfeed, add one capful (10mL) to every 1L of water in a watering can and spread across the soil area.

PowerFeed contains a variety of different ingredients including fish, liquid compost and macro nutrients. It is basically a soil conditioner and liquid fertiliser combined. It is made by the same Australian company (Seasol International Pty Ltd) who make Seasol which is another excellent product. One of the other benefits of PowerFeed is that it works to break down clay soils and reduces nutrient loss in sandy soils.

Part B: Add some Bactivate.

Bactivate is available in 25kg bags. It is “a microbial soil conditioner composed of 5 specific bacillus species that enhance plant growth and protection.” Apply as per packet instructions.

Part C: Add some Bentonite Clay

Bentonite is a natural clay with no added chemicals. It will save you time and money in the long term due to its water and fertiliser efficiency. When used in conjunction with compost, it will aid soil wetability, increase water holding capacity and improve soil structure.

To apply Bentonite, spread its clay granules over the soil surface at a rate of 0.5 – 2kg per 1m2.

Part D: Add some Zeolite.

Zeolite is known to produce significant grass root improvement. It allows your turf to have a dense feeder root system and similar to Bentonite, it allows for less fertiliser to be used.

Zeolite is available in 15kg bags with 1kg needed per square meter.

Add soil nutrients

Step 5 – Cultivate the soil

Cultivating your soil is an important part of this process as it will cause the nitrogen in the soil to be released and converted into a usable form for your turf. Cultivation will also remediate any deep compaction that has occurred.

Grab your rotary hoe again and cultivate the soil at a depth of approx. 350mm. If you can, it is beneficial to go a bit deeper, this can be difficult though depending on the machine you are using.

The fact that you have already added organic compost means the soil won’t be too thin.

how to cultivate soil

Step 6 – Level the soil

Use a nail rake to roughly level the soil. Once complete, grab a soil spreader to further level the soil as flat as possible then give it a light rake with a wide plastic rake.

When levelling, keep in mind that it is best to ensure that any soil gradients slope away from your house to assist with good drainage.

Ideally, you want to see the soil have a depth of at least 10cm.

If you have driveways and/or pathways, you will want to leave enough height space for the leaf of the grass to be above the paths. If you are using Kikuyu or Buffalo grass, ensure your soil height is below the top of your driveway/path by approx. 4cm. If you are using Couch grass, 2cm should be sufficient.

Level soil with a rake

Step 7 – Compact the soil

Before beginning this step please keep in mind that we are compacting the soil for stability purposes and to maintain its shape and grading. We do not want to make the ground rock hard as this will make it very difficult for the turf roots to grow and for water to penetrate.

Lightly hose the soil and then complete the compaction using a Plate Compactor. You should be able to hire one from your local hardware or equipment hire shop. If your soil is extra sandy, this may take a bit longer for you.

Once compact, use your large plastic rake to rake over the soil again to ensure it is level.

Compact soil

Step 8 – Lay the turf

Now it’s time to begin laying the turf. Tip: It is best to have your new turf delivered on the day you plan to install it, that way it won’t dry out or suffer any damage. If the weather forecast predicts a hot day, it is recommended that you lay the turf very early in the morning (you will also want to water the grass as you go to stop it from drying out).

Start by laying the turf around the perimeter first. Install the rolls of turf around the perimeter edges and then lay the turf between the perimeter being sure to stagger the joints, similar to a brickwork pattern. Staggering the joints assists with avoiding erosion. Ensure the joints of the turf are butted close together to avoid gaps as much as possible. Gaps can cause your turf to dry out or look patchy. Weeds can also use the gaps as space to grow.

An old bread knife will come in handy if you need to cut the turf to fit certain shapes/spots.

Note: if you are installing your turf on a slope, it is best to start at the bottom and work your way to the top.

Do you want your lawn to have that Melbourne Cricket Ground look? Simply lay the turf in a different direction.

How to lay turf

Step 9 – Firm up the grass a bit

Grab your compactor and do a quick lap over the grass which you have just laid.

There is no need to be fancy, just do a nice quick lap to ensure the roots are sitting nicely within the soil.

The use of the compactor will ensure there are no large air pockets which may hamper the growth of the grass and its chance for survival.

Compact the turf

Step 10 – Give it some of the good stuff

If you really want to give your new turf the best chance of survival and want to see it flourish, give it some Molasses and Seasol.

Molasses

Molasses is very affordable to buy (expect to pay around $20 per 10L) and can help boost micro flora and fauna contained within soils. A boost to these can assist with the natural defence of lawn pests. It is highly recommended to be used on lawns which are susceptible to nematodes. You can refer to the list of suppliers below if you would like to purchase some.

To apply Molasses to your lawn, add a couple of dollops to the bottom of a watering can so it covers 1/2 to 3/4 of the base, you don’t need to be too exact with the measurement. Using an old ladle can be a great way of scooping Molasses out of a bucket. Fill the watering can with water (don’t worry if it foams up) and then apply to your lawn.

Seasol

Seasol is a great product which assists with increasing nutrient uptake and stimulating root growth. It can be beneficial for giving new lawns a helping hand during early stages of settlement.

Add 50ml to a 9L watering can and then fill with water. Apply evenly over your newly installed turf.

molasses
water-in-molasses
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Lawn Aftercare

You’ve worked hard to give your new lawn the best chance of success but all the effort doesn’t stop after its installed. Quality aftercare during the few weeks following installation is critical to ensuring your lawn not only survives but prospers.

If you are in the market for a new hose and connector, the following are recommended:

Nylex NeverKink Garden Hose – available at Bunnings. It is one of the only hoses that really doesn’t kink!

Gardena Maxi-Flo Nozzle – available at speciality irrigation stores. These nozzles are nearly unbreakable. They are made for 18mm hoses so you will need to unscrew the tap nut on the end and replace it with one that fits standard 12mm hoses.

Nylex garden hose
Gardena Maxiflow Nozzle
Gardena Maxiflow Nozzle

Daily

Ensure you give your new lawn plenty of water each day unless rain has occurred. The aim is to keep the soil most to allow the root to take hold.

Weekly

Perform a quick inspection to check that weeds aren’t starting to grow. If you spot any, remove them by hand (ensuring you get the roots), don’t apply a weed spray as it can have a detrimental effect on your new grass.

Apply Mollasses, Seasol and Powerfeed every week for the first month, after which time you can reduce application to fortnightly for a month before reducing further to once a month.

Don’t be worried if your turf turns slightly yellow in colour during the first few weeks, this can be natural and no cause for concern.

Bi-monthly

Apply some Seamungus Green Crumble. Sprinkle it on top of the lawn (apply at a rate of 40-60 grams per sqm) after a mow and water it in.

Quarterly

Apply some Molasses (instructions can be seen in the earlier step) and Blood and Bone. You can also apply a slow release fertiliser like Scotts Lawn Builder.

Half-yearly

Apply a soil wetting agent, such as Yates Waterwise Granules or Munns Wetta Lawn.

Yearly

Top dress with organic compost which is basically spreading some organic compost on top of the lawn and then raking it in. You want a very thin layer on top, nothing more.

Biyearly

Aeration is important for your lawn as it allows water, nutrients and air to penetrate deep in the lawn past any built up thatch. Aeration is basically perforating the soil with small sized holes with its main benefit being to alleviate any soil compaction which may be occurring.

There are two different types of aerating tools available, one is a spike aerator (which is like a fork and pokes holes in the ground), the other is a plug aerator (which remove small cores of grass and soil from the lawn). Even though they harder to use, we recommend the use of a plug aerator as you will get better results and given aeration is an infrequent activity you want to make sure you are doing it properly and that results will last.

Ideally you will want to make an individual assessment on how regularly you need to aerate. If your lawn receives heavy traffic such as children playing on it frequently, you will want to aerate more regularly than a lawn that is barely walked on.

Follow these steps to aerate your lawn:

  • Hire a plug aerator machine from a local hardware store to make the job as easy for you as possible.
  • Spring is the best time to aerate so try and plan for this time of year.
  • Firstly, ensure that the soil is moist. Dry soil will be difficult to aerate. The day after rain is a great day to aerate.
  • Do a lap with the plug aerator and then repeat. Most machines only cover a small portion of the surface area so a couple of passes is best.
  • Leave the extracted soil plugs to dry on top of the lawn. The next time you mow, they will be broken up and spread evenly over the surface.
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Suppliers

Some of the items mentioned in the guide can be difficult to find if you don’t know where to look. We have therefore provided a list of suppliers for some of the more difficult to find items.

Northern Territory, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria are not represented in the below supplier list however we do plan to expand the list soon.

Molasses

Molasses is available from most large pet food stores, alternatively, the below list provides the names of businesses who are confirmed to stock it.

NEW SOUTH WALES

Brandon Mollasses
7 -19 Coulson Street, Erskineville
http://www.brandonmolasses.com.au/

Dural Stockfeeds
86 Kenthurst Road, Dural
http://duralstockfeeds.com.au/

Elders Farm Supplies
Stores at Windsor, Bathurst and Goulburn
http://www.elders.com.au/farm-supplies

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Elders Farm Supplies
Stores at Virginia, Roseworthy, Strathalbyn, Murray Bridge
http://www.elders.com.au/farm-supplies

QUEENSLAND

Brookfield Produce
http://www.brookfieldproduce.com.au/

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

City Livestock
727 Gnangara Rd, Lexia WA 6079

Elders Farm Supplies
Stores at Bellevue, Beverley, Northam, York, Moora
http://www.elders.com.au/farm-supplies

Mirco Bros
Stores in Henderson and Nerrabup
http://www.mircobros.com.au/

Zeolite

Zeolite can be found at pool shops (or in the pool section of Bunnings), hardware stores and agricultural outlets. Some specific suppliers are as follows:

NEW SOUTH WALES

E.E Muir and Sons
Stores in Batlow, Dareton, Orange
http://www.eem.com.au/

Globe Australia
8 Hexham Place, Wetherill Park
http://www.globeaustralia.com.au

The Crop Doctor
East Maitland
http://www.cropdoctor.com.au/

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

E.E Muir and Sons
Stores in Adelaide, Lenswood, McLaren Vale, Murray Bridge, Penola, Virginia, Naracoorte
http://www.eem.com.au/

QUEENSLAND

E.E Muir and Sons
Stores in Brandon, Bundaberg, Glenore Grove, Severnlea,Caboolture, Tully
http://www.eem.com.au/

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Soils ain’t Soils
Stores in Balcatta, Canning Vale, Forrestfield, Malaga, Port Kennedy
http://www.soilsaintsoils.com.au

E.E Muir and Sons
Stores in Wangara and Naval Base
http://www.eem.com.au/

Little Loads of Garden Goodness
325 Dundas Road, High Wycombe
http://www.littleloadssoilandmulch.com.au/

The Green Life Soil Co.
178 Farrall Road, Midvale
http://www.greenlifesoil.com.au

Woodvale Fish and Lily Farm
26 Woodvale Drive, Woodvale
http://www.woodvalefishandlilyfarm.com.au/

Bentonite

Bentonite is sold in clay or clumping cat litter varieties. You can no doubt find some at your local supermarket, just check the ingredients first. Alternatively you can purchase from an online store that ships Australia wide such as Petandgarden.com.au who sell Clumping Cat Litter: https://www.petandgarden.com.au/cat-litter-trays/207-mistys-clumping-cat-litter.html

Some farming outlets will sell TruFeed Bentonite as a feed additive for cattle. It contains Sodium Bentonite which has been pulverised into a fine form so it is easier to work with. You can purchase Arumpo Betonite online via The Farm Store (they ship Australia wide): http://www.thefarmstore.com.au/arumpo-bentonite-gran-25kg

NEW SOUTH WALES

Check your local supermarket for clumping cat litter made from 100% Bentonite. Alternatively you can purchase online via Petandgarden.com.au or thefarmstore.com.au

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Check your local supermarket for clumping cat litter made from 100% Bentonite. lternatively you can purchase online via Petandgarden.com.au or thefarmstore.com.au

QUEENSLAND

Check your local supermarket for clumping cat litter made from 100% Bentonite. lternatively you can purchase online via Petandgarden.com.au or thefarmstore.com.au

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The Green Life Soil Co.
178 Farrall Road, Midvale
http://www.greenlifesoil.com.au

Dunn and Walton
Shop 8, 257 Scarborough Beach Rd Doubleview
http://www.dunnandwalton.com.au/

Milne Feeds
103-105 Welshpool Road Welshpool
http://www.milne.com.au/

Powerfeed

Available from all Bunnings stores nationwide. http://www.seasol.com.au/products/62/PowerFeed

Seasol

Available from all Bunnings stores nationwide. http://www.seasol.com.au/products/61/Seasol

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Infographic

Soil preparation and turf installation
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Credits

As noted previously, the steps contained within the ‘Soil Preparation and Turf Installation’ chapter have been sourced from Fu Manchu of the Homeone Landscape and Garden Design forum. It really is the best guide on what you should do if you want your lawn to be the envy of your neighbours.

Aeration advice sourced from Briggs and Stratton.

Wheelbarrow Image from WheelBarrows.co.uk

Nail Rake Image sourced from Bulldog Tools

Plastic Rake Image sourced from Bulldog Hand Tools

Garden Shovel Image sourced from Small Town DJs

Kikuyu Grass Image sourced from South West Turf

Empire Zoysia Image sourced from All Turf Solutions.

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