Laying down the lawn
There are no shortcuts to DIY lawn victory. Laying first-class grass is all about careful planning and preparation. Thankfully, everything you need to know is right here.
- Rotary hoe or lawn cutter and mattock to remove your old lawn
- Shovel, for digging up existing soil and digging in lawn underlay
- Rotary hoe or shovel, for turning over soil
- Shovel, shears or lawn scissors to trim turf
- Wheelbarrow, to make moving turf and soil easier
- Lawn leveler or large broom, to level underlay
- Roller, to ensure a smooth, level lawn
- Hose and sprinkler, for watering once lawn is laid
- turf underlay
- top dress
- water crystals
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
The last thing you want is to spend a whole lot of time, energy and money on a lawn that won’t last, or worse, be the laughing stock of your street.
- Clear the area first. This includes pulling up your existing lawn with a rotary hoe or lawn cutter. Don’t poison it. If you do, you risk redoing it as any leftover lawn will stop the roots of your new lawn finding the soil beneath.
- Clear rocks and weeds. Weeds left behind will work their way up between new lawn joins. Even dead weeds can stop the new lawn from finding its way to the soil beneath.
- Once you’ve cleared the existing lawn, rocks and weeds, turn over the existing soil, using a rotary hoe or a shovel (if you’re working with a small area). Make sure you break the soil up finely. Chunks of dirt not only make for a lumpy new lawn, it creates air pockets, which stop the lawn roots from holding moisture, which can cause it to die.
- If you have acidic soil, add lime. For clay soils, add gypsum. For sandy soils, simply mix in small amounts of organic material or turf underlay.
It pays to underlay.
Lawn underlay is an 80/20 mix of sand and organic matter and will make a world of difference to your lawn, because it gives it a soft soil base to freely establish its roots.
- Once you’ve completed the five steps above, add a 50mm layer of lawn underlay. Remember to allow for a height of between 40mm and 50mm for any existing paths.
- Level the surface with a lawn leveller or large broom.
- If needed, slope the underlay to fall away from the house, to eliminate drainage problems. If not, consider installing drainage using an ag pipe.
- To help with water retention, lay down a sprinkle of water crystals following package directions. These swell up when watered to form a water-holding gel, which will help to keep water readily available in your turf's root zone.
For best results, your new lawn should be installed as soon as it’s delivered.
- Lay the header section first. This is essentially a border of lawn around the area.
- Fill the remaining space using a staggered brickwork pattern. This will ensure you don’t end up with one obvious seam running through the lawn.
- Lay the lawn away from your stack of lawn, so you’re not continually walking over the newly-laid lawn.
- If laying in summer, after laying each section of lawn, water it, before laying the next section. During cooler months, all the sections can be laid at once.
- Don’t pull or stretch the lawn. Push the edges tightly together so there are no gaps between sections, so that weeds can’t sneak through and the lawn is as even as possible once laid.
- Avoid overlapping the lawn sections as the roots will dry out and the lawn will appear lumpy.
- Trim excess lawn with a shovel, shears or lawn scissors.
Just roll with it.
A lawn roller is a must. You can hire these at your local hire centre for a small fee. A lawn roller will not only even out your new lawn, it will press the lawn into the soil and remove air pockets, to ensure maximum contact between the roots and the ground and help the roots establish faster.
Water, water, water.
Laying a new lawn means a commitment to watering it. A lot. Your newly-laid lawn needs to be watered immediately, then you will need to water the lawn morning and night for the first three to four weeks. After a month, water regularly depending on the weather. A good guide is daily in summer and weekly in winter. To give your lawn a head start, before laying your lawn, spread a lawn starter fertiliser evenly over the area. Lightly rake it in and water twice daily in summer and every two days in winter.
From go to mow.
Before you cut your grass, check to see it has taken root. To do this, grab a handful of grass and pull it up. If it doesn’t lift, it’s ready to be mowed. Your first mowing should be done a little higher than normal.
Lawn generally takes about six months before it settles in. To help it along, consider fertilising about 2 to 3 months after laying it. We recommended Scotts lawn products, specific to the species of lawn you have laid. You may find during your lawn’s first winter, it’ll lose more colour than what it will in subsequent winters. That’s because it’s still establishing and its roots haven’t gone deep enough.