If you wish to use your gravelled area in a different way, you probably have asked yourself: “Can I lay turf grass on gravel?”. Although the answer to it is yes, we don’t recommend doing that. As long as you take proper measures to prepare the area, you will have luck putting in turfgrass. To help you out, we have created a post fully dedicated to this hard task.

So if you are:

  • Considering renovating your garden or lawn;
  • Wondering if you can lay turf over gravel;

Then keep on reading.

Table of Contents:

How to determine how much topsoil do you need

One of the most important things about laying turf is the preparation of the area that you plan to cover. Before laying turf on gravel, you need to create the perfect conditions for it to grow its roots. As the layer of gravel will prevent the grass from establishing deeper into the soil, you need to cover the area with a healthy layer of topsoil, first. 

Another important thing to decide carefully on what topsoil you should use. Avoid topsoil with high water retention rates, because the combination of topsoil and gravel already produces that effect. Consider purchasing topsoil without rocks or other debris in it.

To determine how much topsoil you need to place over the gravel, follow these simple calculations:

  • Measure the length and width of the area that you plan to cover with topsoil.
  • Choose the desired depth of the area. We recommend a depth of 4 to 6 inches to create successfully your new lawn.
  • Calculate the volume of the needed topsoil by multiplying the length times the width times the depth of the area. So, if you need to cover an area that is 10 feet long and 10 feet wide with the desired depth of 6 inches, you multiply 10 by 10 by 0.5 (6 inches are equal to 0.5 of a foot). In this example, we need a volume of 80 cubic feet of topsoil.
  • If the planting site is round, multiply the squared radius by 3.14.

How to lay topsoil over gravel to grow grass

Things you need:

  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Water (you can use a hose sprayer or a sprinkler)
  • Wooden stakes
  • Tiller
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Topsoil
  1. Even out the gravelled area with a rake. In this step, you want to prepare the ground well before spreading the topsoil. The ground should be even without big stones.
  2. Spread the required amount of topsoil over the gravel and level the topsoil with a rake. Go over the area with a rake several times in different directions. That way you create space for the roots to grow effortlessly. 
  3. Water your new topsoil layer with a sprinkler or a hose sprayer. 
  4. When the topsoil settles down, mark the area where you plan to lay your turf with wooden stakes. That way you have clear boundaries of the area.
  5. Take the tiller and rotavate the area well. It is recommended to break up the soil at least 6-7 inches deep. 
  6. Break your main area into smaller parallel sections and, with the help of a wheelbarrow, spread the rest of the topsoil on the tilled area. Do not walk on the freshly laid layer to avoid compressing the earth.
  7. Use the tiller once more and thoroughly mix the soil over the entire area. This time set the equipment at least 6 inches deep. Once the soil is perfectly mixed, it is time to lay the turf.

How to lay turf over gravel

It is essential to consider the time of the year when you lay the turf over gravel. In the summer, you have to lay it as soon as it is delivered. Hot weather dries out the soil, especially if you lay it over gravel, therefore the sooner you lay the turf the less additional care it will require. 

Important: Prepare a long wooden board to place over the soil that you have prepared earlier. That way it will prevent the topsoil from compressing.

  • Start laying the turf. Begin from the furthest point to avoid walking over freshly laid grass. Unroll it along a straight edge and finish the row. If the roll is too long, cut the hanging part and start the second row with it, or use it to cover less accessible parts.
  • Place the second roll of the turf. When you lay the second row, stagger the joints of the rows in a brickwork manner. The edges should be tight to each other.
  • If your area is circular, start from the middle and continue your way out.
  • Place a board on the turf and gently firm down the rolls to create a good bond with the soil underneath. If you see any gaps, you can fill them up with a small amount of soil and press it down or use the parts of the turf that you cut earlier.
  • Trim the ends with a knife around trees and paths.
  • Cover the naked edges of the turf with light soil, to prevent them from drying out. When the turf is more established, you can remove it. Usually, this takes a few weeks.
  • Finishing touches: Even though it might be tempting to use a roller afterwards, do not! Using a roller over a freshly laid turf might compact it and cause more damage than good. Instead, water the area nicely every day until you see that the roots have established well in the soil. Once the turf has settled nicely, you can reduce the frequency of watering.

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Takeaways: 

  • If there is a weed membrane under the existing gravel garden, better remove the whole gravel and membrane, before laying topsoil and turf. Over time, the topsoil will compact and the grass roots may not be able to grow any more.
  • Level and smooth the gravelled area with the rake, to ensure the flow of rainwater in the right direction, before you lay the topsoil.
  • Remove as much of the gravel as possible before laying the topsoil.

***

Image source: Shutterstock / Vladimir Borozenets

  • Last update: September 18, 2020

Posted in All About the Lawn, Garden Advice

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