Garden turfing (for garden construction) is best done in the spring or in the autumn. Weather conditions are also very relevant for this type of work. Preparation on a wet day can be difficult (sometimes impossible) with successful turfing also dependent on the soil type i.e. heavy clay soil or light sandy.
For Small Lawns
Remove the existing grass/weeds with a sharp spade or mattock and dispose of. Next use a fork or spade to dig the ground to a maximum of 4 inches depth (10 cm) – very important! An even, shallow depth is the goal – not uneven deep pockets of ground which will sink later on and cause depressions in the lawn.
When all dug, use a good metal rake to refine and grade the ground, pushing back and forth with the rake sifting out the debris and breaking up the soil clumps. Work methodically, starting in the corner, working across the area in (say) 1 m wide strips, making sure that the debris is cleared into small piles and then cleared away using your builders bucket and shovel.
When raked and cleared, tread the entire area with the heels to concentrate the weight, again in a methodical way, with attention to detail.
Repeat these steps at least twice more. The final rake-out should leave a fine even tilth good enough for seeding ideally, but, as always, this will be dependent on the weather!
In between raking, hollows and bumps can be addressed – shaving away the rises and filling-in the hollows as you see them. A good eye is an asset for this task but if it is a flat lawn, then stretching a brick line across the site will certainly help.
In wet weather conditions (as already stated) work is best delayed. There can be situations where the project has to go ahead, in cases such as these a bulk bag of course sharp sand from the local builders merchant will be a life-saver. This sand should be spread over the dug area, where raking/treading will be possible (although still difficult), this will stop the soil from clogging and rolling into lumps.
Please Note: the sand needs to be raked in and not simply spread over the top as a screed.
For Large Lawns
You will need to borrow/hire a self-propelled rotovator, preferably with a reverse gear as the larger ones can be awkward to handle and to pull around. The rule for rotavators’ is, the larger the machine the better and quicker the result (access allowing of course).
An old lawn will be compacted and firm. This will therefore take a lot of breaking up and the first pass with the machine will be tough going. Again, make sure that you work methodically. Don’t worry if the rotavator lurches forward from the stones and various buried debris hitting it. It is important, whilst the rotavator in use, to keep a ready hand on the clutch lever (this is necessary to disengage the drive) and to note that the reverse gear on it is used to back up. The re-digging of hard patches may be necessary and if this happens the lowering of the blades needs to be done gradually back onto the area. In essence, the heavier and more powerful the machine, the better the result in breaking up the ground.
When all dug over, a small tractor with a soil grader (or some assistants armed with rakes) are needed to achieve the smooth fine surface suitable for turfing or seeding.
Following on you will need some lengths of short scaffold planks and a sharp half-moon turf cutter, plus a metal rake is always good to have at hand to make last minute tweaking to the surface preparation.
If your lawn is irregular in shape, then make sure that you lay the whole perimeter out first – in effect framing the entire area. You will need to cut the turves around any tight corners very carefully and keep checking that the tool has not pushed divots into the preparation below.
Starting from a corner chose the longest run (the idea is to lay a continuous straight line of turf with the edges butted together and with no gaps). Try not to stretch the turves as you lay them – as this will encourage shrinkage if they dry out.
Cut each end of the run into your edging turves with the half moon (again checking for disturbance in the preparation underneath as you cut through).
When all laid and cut-in successfully, if the level looks slightly bumpy, then water thoroughly and then compact the grass down with a plank laid across the bond with a heavier-build (chunky) landscape assistant walking up and down. Avoid using a roller at this stage. In any event, always finish with a thorough watering!
The Perfect Lawn care
Your new (hopefully) perfect lawn might well need rolling after 2 to 3 weeks.
In the growing season cut after 2 weeks leaving the grass approximately 1.5″ to 2″ high – do not scalp the lawn at this stage! It needs the green to photosynthesize for root growth.
Water little and often in the growing season – evenings are best!
Dogs and children are generally not good for new lawns. Efforts should be made to keep off the new grass until there is sufficient root growth for ground stability.
(c) Copyright 2013, Mark Cook, All Rights Reserved. Written For: gardenconstruction.net
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