As the old saying goes, "if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail" and the same applies to your ground when planning to lay turf or sowing seed!
Ensuring your soil is properly prepared before laying any new turf or sowing seed is absolutely vital to the health and success of your lawn, so to make sure no mistakes are made, Lawn & Weed Expert are here to walk you through the process step-by-step.
So, what are we waiting for, let's get into how to prepare your ground for seeding or turfing!
Preparing Your Ground for Seeding or Turfing
Regardless of which method you choose to grow your lawn, the process of preparing the ground remains the same. Here are the steps that you'll need to take.
1. Clearing the area
The first step to preparing your ground for seeding or turfing is clearing the area where your new lawn is going to be. Here, you need to remove all plant material, weeds, root, twigs, sticks, pavers, furniture, toys and anything else that may be laying on the ground. You can do this using a garden spade or a mechanical turf cutter if you have a large area to cover. Any old lawn product can then be composted down or wasted at your local garden waste centre.
As this can be quite tricky, we recommended using a systematic weed killer. Apply the weed killer and wait 2-3 weeks for it to work before removing your old lawn, plants and weeds.
2. Rotavate your soil
Once the area where your new lawn will be is cleared, it's now time to rotavate (or turn over) your soil. You can do this by using a garden spake, fork or a mechanical rotavator to save time and effort.
Here, you should aim to dig at least 15cm (6 inches) into your soil, if you can dig a little deeper to around 20-25cm even better! If, however, you do not have enough soil to dig 15cm deep, you'll need to add some. Do this with any top-quality topsoil from any trustworthy supplier.
As you're digging, be sure to discard any stones, plants, rocks and rubble that you come across. As a point of reference, if a stone is bigger than a matchbox, then it's too big to be in the ground.
3. Improving your soil
This step is often skipped as it does require a little more investment but ultimately will result in a much-improved lawn growth and help your lawn to establish better. Here, you'll need to assess the quality of your soil and determine whether soil improvers are necessary.
The best soil for turfing and seeding can be squeezed into a tight ball but crumbles as soon as it is prodded. If your soil is too loose to form a ball, chances are it contains high levels of sand, which will need high-quality topsoil or compost to improve it.
If your soil fails to crumble, then chances are it has high levels of clay. This type of soil is ideal for holding plant nutrients but can pose a problem when it comes to plants rooting. To improve clay soil, add some organic matter to encourage worms that can help with aeration or free-draining topsoil.
4. Level the area
This step is often considered the hardest part of preparing your ground for seeding or turfing. Here, you rake the soil to break down any big lumps that are left after rotavating and improving it, to get a nice even surface.
The flatter you can make the ground, the better your lawn will look when it's laid. It's vital that you remove any lumps or hollows in your soil as you'll find that these can catch on the mower blades when mowing your lawn, scalping the raised areas. Something you'll definitely want to avoid.
5. Treading the soil
Here is the fun part! Once your soil has been levelled, it's now time to firm it, also known as the gardener's shuffle (don't ask). This is where you turn a fluffy surface into a firm one and can become a little tiresome if you're doing it on your own, so it's a great opportunity to get some friends and family involved to have a bit of fun.
Turf and seed require a firm surface without a rock-solid base in order for the roots to be able to penetrate the soil easily. This is where you get your boots on and shuffle all over the lawn area, pressing and firming the soil with your feet. Start off by going one way, then when you're finished, do it again going the other way just to be sure.
If there are areas that sink, add soil to them and tread over them again to make sure the ground is as level as possible.
6. Leave the area to settle
Again, this step is not always necessary and sometimes skipped but for those of you who are looking to gain every advantage when it comes to their lawn establishing properly and growing as healthy as possible, we do recommend doing it.
Here, you'll need to thoroughly water the area and let it settle for at least 48 hours. If time isn't an issue for you, you can leave the area for around 2-4 weeks so that it becomes exposed to the elements. After this, water the area again to see the areas where the ground puddles and low spots are formed. These are the areas that will need your attention so be sure to add soil wherever necessary.
7. Adding a pre-seeding or turfing fertiliser
Before adding your grass seed or turf, it's important to get the chemical nutrients into the soil. So, here you will need to add a pre-seeding or turfing fertiliser. This will help the grass plants to root in quickly and remain strong and healthy.
8. Rake again
After applying your fertiliser, rake the ground once more to ensure it has been properly incorporated into the soil and to level it again. Aim to rake into the top 25mm of soil.
And that's it! Your ground is now prepared for seeding or turfing. If you have a little wait before your turf or seeds arrive, then we recommended watering your soil in the meantime. This will activate the fertiliser and the moisture will offer good contact between the soil and seed or turf.
To find out which is better for you between sowing seed and laying turf, be sure to read our blog post below!
Turf vs Seed: Which is Better? >
For more information on how to prepare your ground for seeding or turfing or if you would like to know how Lawn & Weed Expert can help with our professional turfing and seeding services that help to establish your new lawn, be sure to get in touch with a member of the Lawn & Weed Expert team by submitting the simple contact form below!