How to lay turf – and get a lush green lawn in your garden

Want to find out how to lay turf and take the easiest route to a new lawn? Follow our step-by-step guide

how to lay turf
(Image credit: Future)

Starting from scratch with your lawn? Then you’ll need to know how to lay turf if you’re looking for the quickest and most straightforward way to grow an expanse of healthy green grass in your garden.

It’s a project you can take on at most times of the year, but the soil shouldn’t be frozen, nor waterlogged nor, at the other extreme, very dry. Spring and autumn are generally recommended because the soil should be easy to dig, and the rain will help the grass get established. Check the forecast, though, so you can try to avoid spells of very wet weather and frosts.

Just scroll down for all you need to know in order to lay turf, and don’t forget to check out our guide to the best lawn mower so you can care for your lawn with a mower suited to your garden’s size and your budget.  

Step one: assemble the kit to lay turf

Here’s what you’ll need to complete your project:

  • Fork
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Well-rotted manure or other organic matter
  • Topsoil, if required
  • Garden roller (optional)
  • Rake
  • Pre-turf fertiliser (optional)
  • Turf
  • Builder’s line, pegs and string (optional)
  • Spade or sharp knife
  • Timber boards to stand on (eg scaffold boards)
  • Garden sprinkler, hose or watering can

Step two: prepare the lawn area

prepare ground to lay turf

(Image credit: B&Q)

It is preferable to prepare the site before buying (or getting a delivery of) turf. Remove perennial weeds by hand or use the best weed killer if necessary, but it must be a non-residual product because a residual weedkiller will prevent the lawn from establishing.

Use a fork to dig the soil in the area where the turf will be laid to a depth of about 15 to 20cm. Remove any roots, large stones and debris. 

Dig in well-rotted manure or other organic matter, then leave the soil to settle for a few days but even up to several weeks before you lay the turf.

Remove any weeds that have germinated in the meantime and, if the surface is uneven, add topsoil to it and rake to level the area.

Walk over the ground, treading it with your heels across the entire area to firm the surface. Alternatively, you can use a garden roller, but roll lightly. Rake several times, making sure you work in different directions. 

If you want to use pre-turf fertiliser to promote root development, sprinkle this on to the ground, following the packet instructions, and rake over.

Step three: lay the turf

lay turf

(Image credit: B&Q)

Start from the edges of the area, and work inwards to lay the turf. It’s easiest to begin from a straight line such as a path, driveway or fence line. If you need to, you can use a builder’s line, then pegs and string to mark the boundaries.

Lay the long side of the first roll parallel to the edge of the area, and continue around all the edges. Use a spade or sharp knife to cut off any excess as necessary.

Put down a timber board to stand on and continue laying the turf in rows. Make sure you stagger the joints from one row to another like a brick wall. The ends and edges should be butted together to avoid gaps, but don’t stretch the rolls of turf. 

When you’ve finished, use a garden roller to firm the turf and ensure it has good contact with the soil. If you don’t have a roller, you can use a plank of wood to apply pressure across the area. For a small lawn, it’s also possible to bang each turf all over with the back of a rake.

Step four: water the new lawn

lay turf and water

(Image credit: B&Q)

Water the newly laid lawn. Using our choice of the best garden sprinkler is ideal for even coverage, but you can use a hose with a spray attachment or a watering can for smaller areas.

You’ll need to continue to water the lawn regularly until it is established if it doesn’t rain sufficiently – the turf should never dry out. Windy conditions as well as hot weather can have this effect causing the turf to shrink and gaps to appear.

Stay off the lawn for the first two weeks after laying the turf.

Step five: how to care for a new lawn

lay turf and mow for first time

(Image credit: B&Q)

You should mow when the grass is about 5cm high. The first time you mow the blades should be on the highest setting. Don’t remove more than one third of the total height of the grass at any one time.

If you lay the turf in spring, bear in mind that it will need watering during any dry spells over the summer. 

Our guide on how to mow a lawn is packed with tips and tricks to ensure you get the best results every time. 

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Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She's spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes and gardens – long enough to see interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement, both indoors and out, and it's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, so she's a serial house revamper.