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The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Lawn: Turf vs. Seed

Nothing quite compares to the sight of a perfectly manicured lawn. The lush, green expanse provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities and relaxation and is often the envy of neighbours and passersby.

But if you’re new to lawn care, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you opt for turf or seed? How do you ensure that your lawn gets off to a strong start?

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll answer these questions and more, giving you all the information you need to start a beautiful lawn that will be the envy of your neighbourhood. Whether you choose to start from turf or seed, we’ve got you covered. So grab your gardening gloves and let’s get started!

Seed vs Turf?

When it comes to creating a lush green lawn, there are a couple of ways to go about it. But how do you decide which one is right for you? Well, that all depends on your individual circumstances. Are you working with a tight budget? Do you have plenty of time to devote to lawn care? Are you looking for a specific type of grass to suit your taste?

Fear not! To help you make an informed decision, we’ve created a handy graphic that compares the pros and cons of two popular options for establishing a new lawn: turf and grass seed.

Advantages: Instant lawn: Provides an instant, mature lawn that can be used immediately. Consistent appearance: Provides a uniform and consistent appearance. Erosion control: Prevents soil erosion and provides stability to the soil surface. Time-saving: Requires less time and effort to establish than grass seed. Weed-free: Turf is typically weed-free when installed.
Disadvantages: Costly: Can be more expensive to purchase and install than grass seed. Limited selection: Turf is only available in a limited number of grass varieties. Heavy and bulky: Turf can be heavy and difficult to transport and install. Risk of transplant shock: Turf may suffer transplant shock if not installed and cared for properly. Not customisable: Limited ability to customise the lawn with specific grass species and blends.

Grass seed:
Advantages: Cost-effective: Generally less expensive than turf to purchase and install. Wide variety: Offers a wider range of grass species and varieties to choose from. Customisable: Allows for customisation of the lawn with specific grass species and blends. Easy to store: Grass seed can be stored for extended periods without losing its viability.
Disadvantages: Time-consuming: Requires a longer time to establish and mature. Inconsistent results: May result in an inconsistent appearance due to variations in germination and growth. Weeds: Requires vigilant weed management during the establishment phase. Erosion risk: May not provide immediate erosion control if the grass does not establish quickly.

Preparation is Essential

Transforming your lawn into a beautiful and healthy oasis is a task that requires preparation and effort. The key to achieving a lush, green lawn is to create the best possible growing environment for your grass. Whether you’re starting from scratch by sowing seeds or laying turf, the ground beneath is the foundation that will determine the success of your lawn.

Clear the Weeds

To begin, you must tackle the weeds. Clearing the site of weeds is crucial and should be done well in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to deal with these pesky invaders. Applying weedkiller when the weeds are in full leaf several weeks before sowing or laying turf is the most effective solution. If you’ve missed the window of opportunity, it’s better to wait until autumn to tackle the weeds and delay the lawn until next spring.

Consider Drainage

Proper drainage is also crucial to the health of your lawn. If the ground is heavy and wet or water tends to accumulate in winter, grass will struggle to grow. It’s essential to address drainage issues before planting your lawn.

For challenging situations, it’s best to call in an expert. But for smaller lawns, you can raise the surface slightly and surround it with a drainage channel filled with shingles, allowing water to drain away from the grass surface.

Create a Level Surface

Creating a level surface of fine soil is the final step before planting. Take your time to rake and remove any stones, and use a plank of wood to firm the ground by walking across it. Once the whole site is firmed, rake again, and add a base fertiliser.

Traditionally, Growmore is used, and a couple of handfuls should be applied to each square metre. Growmore provides all three main plant nutrients in equal proportions and is a fast-release formulation. Lightly rake the fertiliser into the surface, and you’ll be ready to plant in just a few days. For the best results, apply the fertiliser about a week before sowing.

Starting a Lawn From Seed

Get ready to dig into a luscious lawn! Spring and autumn is the perfect time to start sowing your own green oasis. Not only is it a more budget-friendly option compared to buying turf, but it’s also a piece of cake to do and yields fantastic results. So why not roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? A stunning lawn is just a few seeds away!

Why & When to Sow

Sprouting a lawn from scratch is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding experience. Not only is it cheaper than buying pre-grown turf, but you can also select from a range of seed mixes tailored to the specific conditions of your yard. And while it’s true that sowing seeds require a bit more patience than laying down turf, the end result is well worth the wait.

The key to success is all about timing. For optimal germination, aim to sow your seeds during early autumn or mid-spring when the soil is toasty and moist, and the temperature is just right. With a little luck, you’ll see your lawn come to life in just seven to ten days!

If you have the choice, opt for early autumn. That way, your seedlings will have plenty of time to settle in and establish themselves before the frost sets in. Spring is also a great option, but be aware that the grass may take a little longer to root as it directs its energy towards blooming.

Choosing the Right Seed Mix

If you’re looking to create a beautiful lawn that perfectly suits your needs, it’s important to select the right seed mix. There is no one-size-fits-all seed – instead, take the time to choose a blend that will thrive in your particular climate, soil type, and sunlight conditions.

When it comes to popular options, you can’t go wrong with one of these three choices:

First up is the multi-purpose lawn – a rugged blend of hard-wearing grasses that can stand up to regular foot traffic, rowdy kids, and playful pets. With its mix of perpetual ryegrass, tall fescue, red fescues, and browntop, this grass grows quickly and requires only standard upkeep.

If you’re in the market for a more luxurious option, consider a fine or luxury lawn. These fine-leaved grasses are less robust than their multi-purpose counterparts but will form a plush, velvety surface that’s perfect for leisurely strolls or picnics. A blend of Chewing’s fescue, strong and slender creeping red fescue, and browntop are the most common varieties used in this mix. Just note that these grasses grow more slowly and require more delicate care.

Finally, if your lawn is located in a shady area, you’ll need a seed mix that can handle lower levels of light. Many blends exist specifically for this purpose, often containing hard fescue, strong and slender creeping red fescue, and browntop. These fine-leaved grasses are less hard-wearing than the other options but will thrive in areas where other types of grass struggle.

Of course, there are plenty of other seed mixes available on the market – from drought-tolerant blends to quick-growing options. But chances are, they’ll include many of the same grass varieties found in the three categories above. So take a closer look and choose the mix that’s right for you – your lawn will thank you for it!

Top Tip:

While it might be tempting to cut costs by opting for cheaper lawn seeds, you could end up with a lawn that’s more suited to grazing sheep than hosting social gatherings. Cheaper options may contain unwanted weeds or coarse agricultural ryegrass that can ruin the aesthetic of your lawn and make it less enjoyable to spend time on.

To ensure you get the lawn of your dreams, it’s important to choose a reputable brand and check the ingredients carefully. Make sure to opt for ‘turf’ or ‘fine’ perennial ryegrass, as this will help ensure a high-quality, durable lawn that’s perfect for your family’s needs. Remember, investing in the right lawn seed now will save you time and money in the long run, so choose wisely!

Preparing the Site

Be sure to prepare the area several weeks in advance of sowing to ensure a level, dense, well-rooted, and weed-free lawn.

To achieve a flawless lawn, you’ll need to remove all perennial weeds well in advance. Pesky culprits like couch grass and bindweed must be dug out with all their roots, or you can use a weedkiller (but avoid residual weedkillers as they can harm your new grass).

If your soil is hard and compacted, don’t fret! Rotovate or dig to a depth of about 20 cm. For fast-draining soil, add lots of well-rotted manure or homemade compost to help retain moisture. Your soil is like a canvas, and the better you prepare it, the more beautiful your lawn will be!

After digging, give your soil some time to settle. Ideally, you’ll want to wait for five to six weeks. Use this time to weed again, preferably by hand. Now, it’s time to get your steps in! Firm the soil by treading the area several times in different directions using small, shuffling steps. Next, rake the surface thoroughly in various directions, creating a level surface, removing any large stones, and breaking up any clumps of earth. This creates a fine, crumb-textured seedbed. For an extra boost, you can rake in a general-purpose fertiliser at a rate of 70g per sq m. With this level of preparation, your lawn will be the talk of the town!

How to Sow a Lawn

Sowing a lush green lawn is easier than you think! Be that as it may, to come by the best result, you really want to disperse the seeds as uniformly as could be expected. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. Here are some simple steps that will help you sow the lawn of your dreams.

First things first, weigh out the perfect quantity of seeds according to the size of your new lawn. The packet will give you the weight per square metre, but keep in mind that it can vary depending on the seed mix. Once you have measured the right amount, divide the seeds into two equal batches.

It’s showtime! Start by sowing half the seeds over the whole area, just like a farmer planting crops in parallel rows. Walk up and down while scattering the seeds as evenly as you can. Next, repeat the process with the second batch of seeds, but this time, walk from side to side.

Now, gently rake over the sown area to cover most of the seeds with soil. If rain isn’t in the forecast for a few days, water the seeds gently with a light spray to keep them hydrated without dislodging them.

Ah, birds! They love munching on freshly-sown seeds, but we don’t want them to ruin our hard work, do we? Cover the seeds with horticultural fleece weighted down at the edges, and keep them warm and moist to improve germination. For larger areas, try using bird tape that vibrates in the wind and produces a humming noise that birds don’t like. Or, if you’re feeling generous, increase the sowing rate by 50 per cent to compensate for any potential losses.

Finally, don’t forget to water your new lawn every few days, if necessary. Give it the love and attention it deserves, and soon enough, you’ll have a beautiful, healthy lawn to enjoy all year round!

Looking After a New Lawn

The excitement of seeing the grass seedlings emerge from the soil is unparalleled. But don’t get too carried away just yet, as taking care of your new lawn is essential to ensure its long-term health. Here are some key tips to follow:

  • Watering: Grass seedlings need to be kept well-hydrated, so make sure to water them regularly. You can either use a watering can with a rose or a hose with a gentle spray.
  • Lightly re-firm the soil: Once your seedlings reach a height of 5-7.5cm, it’s time to lightly re-firm the soil. A garden roller or the rear roller of a rotary or cylinder mower can be used for this. You can also gently tread on any raised areas to ensure a smooth surface.
  • Mowing: Two to three days after re-firming the soil, it’s time to cut the grass. Make sure you don’t cut off more than one-third of the grass’s height, and ensure your mower blades are sharp. If you have a cylinder-bladed mower, remove the front roller to prevent flattening the grass.
  • Weed control: The good news is that most weed seedlings will be taken care of once mowing begins. However, perennial weeds will need to be weeded out by hand. And if any coarse grasses appear, remove them too. Avoid using lawn weedkillers on newly sown lawns for at least the first six months to a year.
  • Usage: Try to avoid using your new lawn for the first eight months or so. If it’s an autumn-sown lawn, it’s best to avoid using it until June. If it’s a spring-sown lawn, use it as little as possible up to late autumn.
  • Maintenance: If any dips appear in your lawn as the ground settles, simply add a thin layer of sieved potting compost (top dress) in September.

Starting a Lawn From Turf

Starting a lawn from turf is great! Not only will it give you an instantly beautiful lawn, but it can also be done during the cooler months from autumn to early spring.

But before you start imagining your new paradise, there are a few things to consider. First, choosing the right turf is crucial to ensure your lawn thrives in its new home. Second, preparing the soil correctly will help your turf take root and grow strong. Lastly, laying the turf requires some patience and attention to detail, but the end result will be worth it!

So, let’s get started! In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps of selecting the best turf, preparing your soil, and laying your new lawn. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have a beautiful, healthy lawn that you can enjoy for years to come.

Why Use Turf

Laying turf is the perfect solution for those who want a pristine lawn with minimal effort. It’s the ultimate time saver, providing instant gratification and immediate functionality. Perfect for busy families with kids and pets, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful new lawn in just a matter of days.

However, don’t let the convenience fool you – laying turf requires just as much care and preparation as sowing lawn seed. The soil must be adequately prepped to ensure that your turf has a healthy foundation to grow and thrive. Keep in mind that while turf is more costly than seed, the immediate results and reduced hassle may be well worth the investment. Just be sure to plan ahead and have everything ready to lay your turf as soon as it arrives, as it’s essential to lay it quickly to avoid it drying out. With proper care and maintenance, your new turf will be the envy of the neighbourhood in no time!

When to Lay Turf

When it comes to laying turf, timing is everything. Ideally, mid-autumn is the best time to lay your turf. However, if the soil isn’t too wet or frosty, you can lay it anytime between mid-autumn and early spring.

The beauty of laying turf in spring or autumn is that there’s minimal mowing needed, which means you can leave your newly laid turf relatively undisturbed for several weeks. This period of peace allows your turf to get rooted in, ensuring a healthy lawn.

But if you choose to lay your turf in early spring, be prepared to water it more frequently during dry spells over the summer months. Remember, dry conditions and mowing too soon can stress the grass and delay rooting.

One thing to keep in mind is avoiding laying turf from mid-spring to early autumn. The hot weather during this time would make it difficult for the turf to establish, leading to repeated watering that could be expensive if you’re on a meter. Plus, in today’s world, water is a scarce resource, and we should all do our part to conserve it.

Preparing the Soil

Before you rush out to buy your turf, take the time to get your soil in tip-top shape with these simple steps.

Start by removing pesky perennial weeds like couch grass and bindweed. You can either remove them by hand or use weedkiller, but stay away from residual weedkillers. These can linger in the soil and make it difficult for your turf to take root. Want to avoid chemicals altogether?

Next, it’s time to get digging. Loosen up the soil to a depth of 20-25cm to make sure it’s not too compacted. This will also make it easier for your new turf to put down roots. Then, incorporate some well-rotted manure or garden compost to help your soil hold onto moisture. If you’re dealing with sandy soil, this step is especially crucial.

Let the ground settle for at least a few days, ideally five to six weeks. Any new weeds that have germinated should be removed by hand or using a contact weedkiller (just not residual!). Once you’re in the clear, it’s time to firm and level the surface. Put some elbow grease into it by treading the area in different directions and raking the surface several times to make sure it’s even.

Finally, sprinkle some general-purpose fertiliser on the soil at a rate of 70g per sq meter. If your new lawn is replacing an old flower bed, keep in mind that the ground will settle over time. To avoid any uneven surfaces, make it a little higher than the adjacent lawn.

Choosing & Preparing the Turf

To get started, turf specialists offer a wide range of grass mixes to suit different locations and uses, from shady areas to high-quality fine turf. You can even opt for wildflower or meadow turf, complete with a mix of native wild plants to add a touch of natural beauty to your lawn.

Before you order your turf, it’s essential to measure the area of your new lawn accurately. Be sure to check the dimensions of the turf pieces carefully, so you can order enough to cover the entire area.

Once your turf arrives, it’s time to check the quality and condition of the grass. You want it to be free of weeds and consistently rich green in colour. Don’t forget to check the thickness of the turf, too – thinner turf (within reason) roots better than thicker turf, and pieces of the same width will be much easier to lay without gaps.

It is essential to lay your turf as soon as possible after delivery to maintain its health and strength. If you can’t lay it right away, don’t worry! Simply unroll the turf and lay it flat, so the grass can get some exposure to light. If it’s dry, be sure to give it a good watering to keep it moist and healthy. Leaving it rolled up can cause discolouration and weaken the grass.

Laying Turf & Aftercare

Let’s get started with laying your turf and ensuring proper aftercare for a beautiful and healthy lawn.

First things first, make sure you’ve thoroughly prepared your soil using the tips we provided earlier. With the groundwork done, it’s time to start laying your turf.

Starting from one corner or side of your site, work your way across to face the bare soil. To avoid creating footprints, place boards down to stand on while you work.

Stagger the joints of your turf, just like you would with bricks in a wall, and press them tightly together to avoid any gaps. It’s crucial to check that each piece of turf is level – keep a bucket of sandy soil nearby to make small adjustments as necessary.

Once all the pieces of turf are in place, gently firm them using a lightweight roller or a homemade tamper made by attaching a piece of flat wood to a broom handle. Then, sprinkle a mix of sand, soil, or garden compost over the lawn and brush it into the joints. This will help fill in any small gaps and help the turf establish more quickly.

Lastly, water your newly laid turf well, especially if no rain is forecasted. Remember that the first few days are critical for root development, so it’s best to leave the turf undisturbed. With proper care and maintenance, you’ll be enjoying your beautiful new lawn in no time!

Looking after newly laid turf

Taking care of a newly laid turf can be quite exciting and challenging at the same time. Here are some essential tips to help you keep your new turf in top shape.

Watering your newly laid turf is crucial to ensure that its roots grow deep into the soil. In dry weather conditions, it is essential to water your lawn regularly to maintain constant moisture levels. This helps to promote the growth of healthy roots. During the hot summer months, water every five to ten days, and in other periods, water every fortnight. Recall not to over-water your yard as this can prompt shallow establishing and support the development of coarse weed grasses, for example, yearly glade grass.

Once your lawn has grown to about 5cm, it’s time to mow. This will help to promote healthy growth and keep your lawn looking neat and tidy. It’s important to set the blades high to avoid cutting the grass too short, which can damage the delicate new roots. With a little care and attention, your new turf will soon become a beautiful, lush green lawn that you can be proud of!


Gardening can be a very fulfilling and relaxing activity, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. When it comes to laying turf, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that your new lawn is a thriving success.

One key factor in a successful turf-laying project is making sure that the soil is properly prepared. But don’t worry, this isn’t rocket science! With a bit of elbow grease and attention to detail, you can ensure that your soil is the perfect foundation for a healthy lawn.

Once you’ve got your soil sorted, it’s important to choose the right type of turf for your growing conditions. If you’re dealing with a shady spot, for example, you’ll want to opt for a turf that’s specifically designed to thrive in those conditions. This will help ensure that your lawn gets off to the best possible start and stays in good condition over time.

Of course, maintaining a beautiful lawn isn’t just about choosing the right type of turf. You’ll also need to mow regularly to keep it looking its best and carry out spring and autumn maintenance to ensure that it stays healthy and strong.

So, whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a gardening newbie, there’s no reason to shy away from the challenge of laying turf. With a bit of know-how and some hard work, you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful, thriving lawn in no time!

Updated on August 21, 2023

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