Soil Preparation and Turf Installation

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 absorption. Roundup will need approximately 10 days to do its job. Wait 10 days then proceed to step 2.

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 Hire stores. Use a rotary hoe to churn the dead weeds back into the soil whilst tilling the soil at the same time.

Step 3 – Spreading of turf Underlay

Turf underlay is sold in most garden centres and the better the quality will result in a better quality of overall soil. As a rough guide you want to aim for the soil to be mixed at a ratio of 10% sand, 90% organic compost. This soil should be minimum of 50mm and up to 100mm depth.

Step 4 – Add Some Nutrients

Note: whilst this step is optional but if you want the absolute best lawn possible, we recommend you follow each of the four parts below.

Part A: Add Gypsum

Gypsum Calcium sulphate, or gypsum, is helpful in breaking down clay soil. This allows the soil to open up and makes it easier for nutrients, air and water to circulate more freely. Lawn roots can also penetrate the soil easier when the soil is not as hard.

The best thing to do is mix the gypsum in with the soil where the turf underlay mix is going to go. A rotary hoe makes this easy. Beware of areas where mortar or ‘brickies sand’ were stored as they can cause high pH issues in your soil, it’s the last thing you want to happen after getting your turf established

Part B: Add Organic Matter

This is particularly important for sandy based soils. You need to apply organic matter or compost. What is Sandy Soil? Sandy soil is easy to spot by its feel. It has a gritty texture and when a handful of sandy soil is squeezed in your hand, it will easily fall apart when you open your hand again. Sandy soil is filled with, well, sand. Sand is primarily small pieces of eroded rocks. Sand tends to have large particles and the particles are solid and have no pockets where water and nutrients can hold to it. Because of this, water and nutrients tend to run out, and because sandy soil lacks both water and nutrients, lawns have a difficult time surviving in this kind of soil. The best way to improve sandy soil is to increase the ability of the sandy soil to retain water and increase the nutrients in the soil as well. Amending sandy soil with well- rotted manure or compost (including grass clippings, humus and leaf mold) will help to improve the soil the fastest. You can also add vermiculite or peat as sandy soil amendments, but these amendments will only add to the soil’s ability to hold onto water and will not add much nutrient value to the sandy soil. When amending sandy soil, you need to watch the salt levels of the soil. While compost and manure are the best way to amend sandy soil, they contain high levels of salt that can stay in the soil and damage growing plants if the salt level builds up too high.

Part C: Add a wetting agent.

The simplest way to improve water take up by hydrophobic soils is to use a soil wetting agent. “We believe that what happens in some soils when organic matter breaks down is that it leaves a waxy coating on the soil particles. Wetting agents are like detergents or a fertiliser with water beads. We recommend you apply the lawn Starter fertiliser at this point, at a rate of 3kg/100m2 or 900gm/30sm2, and rake through the top 30mm. What is Lawn Starter? Lawn Starter is a premium water saving starter fertiliser with nutrient accelerator for healthy root growth and is recommended to give your lawn the best start possible.

Part D: Add Fertiliser

You need a fertiliser that is high in Phosphorus as this helps the early formation and growth of roots. This is why starter fertilizers have a higher percentage of phosphorus. Established lawns need very little phosphorus because it is not flushed from the soil as readily as nitrogen. A complete fertilizer is one that contains all three of these major elements. We recommend BT Eco fertiliser for this.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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. Don’t have a compacter or can’t hire one then rolling it with a turf roller will do just as well and the good thing is you can use our turf roller complimentary when you install your lawn.

Step 10 – Watering

Another important factor in how much to water a new lawn is how often you should be watering. When you install a new lawn you need to start watering no more than 15 minutes after you lay the first slab. Continue watering until the entire area has received a good soaking.

Watering a new lawn

We then recommend you use the following schedule:

Week 1 & 2: 1 -2 times daily

Week 2: 1 time daily

Week 3: Once every second day

Week 4: Three times a week

Week 5: Twice a week

Week 6: Twice a week

Week 7: One deep watering a week

(Please note that this may be variable and conditional on what season it is, i.e. during winter this will be significantly less).

This is a starting point, if the weather is warm or windy we would recommend you increase the amount of watering. It is vital to watch the leaf of your grass, if it starts to thin out then you need to increase your amount of watering. If in doubt give it some more water.

Our best advice is if in doubt, give it some more water. You have spent time, energy and money on preparing your area and laying new turf. To setback your new lawn to save a few dollars on water is counter-productive. By being generous with your watering during the establishment period, your lawn will establish the quickest and you will have a healthy and vibrant lawn.

Step 11 – 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 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.

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.

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, Seasol 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 then every 3 months apply a slow release fertiliser such as PRO TURF 2.

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