Is Laying Turf on Sand Possible & Should I Do It In the First Place?

can you lay turf on sand

There isn’t a house owner out there who doesn’t like the idea of having a nice front lawn that can make every person in their neighbourhood go green with jealousy. But what about for those of you who have soil which is a bit on the sandier side? Can you actually lay turf over sand?

Table of Contents:

The instructions below will be useful to those of you who have:

  • yards with sandier soil;
  • leftover sand from building projects you want to incorporate somehow;
  • sandy areas in the yard from uninstalled patios and driveways;
  • the desire to improve the drainage of your yard through sand in the soil.

OK, how can I lay turf on sand myself?”

Hold on, before that you need to mix the sand with some other type of soil and a bit of organic matter. Why? Sand on its own won’t do a very good job at keeping your turf, well… alive. Of course, plants need specific nutrients, good water drainage and aeration in order to grow. The earth in your back garden must have about 50% sand by the total volume in order to become a sandy soil. If you want to try laying turf on sand you have to add some compost and fertiliser to the mixture, so the grassroots are encouraged to grow.

Now, let’s talk a bit about clay soils. This type of earth has the ability to bind mineral nutrients but has bad drainage and aeration. You can see the equation forming, right? Why not just mix sand with clay? This is a practice that may sound quite effective but not if you get the proportions wrong. The perfect soil has 50% pore space. Now let’s put a sandy soil and a clay one under a microscope. Clay has small pore spaces, while the ones in the sand are larger. When you mix the two types of earth together, a puzzle sort of effect occurs – the larger pore spaces of the sand get filled up with the smaller clay pieces. And what do you get at the end? A heavy, dense soil which has terrible pore space. Basically, you end up with cement.

Now that we’ve removed the extremely bad idea of mixing sand and clay, let’s talk about…

How To Improve Soil Structure

The worst thing that you can do to a garden that mainly consists of clay soil is to add sand to it. On the other hand, soil which is too clayey or sandy won’t do you any good. Before we talk about how to improve your soil, you need to figure out what kind of earth you are working with, first. Go to your garden, roll up your sleeves and grab a nice big ball of dirt. Now, poke it with your finger. If the soil just breaks up in your palm, it has more sand to it and if it just sits there, it’s clay. The perfect soil is crumbly. Crumbly means that the earth has good water drainage and that air can pass freely through it.

So, if you want to improve the structure of your soil, you have to loosen it. You can achieve that by adding organic matter. Compost, leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peels from yesterday’s soup and even paper can give a major boost to the earth in your garden.

Another good option is to loosen the earth by tilling it. However, we don’t advise you to do this frequently. You can actually over-crumble your soil and kill the insects living there.

How to lay turf on sand

Before you do anything, you need to prepare the soil on which you are going to lay the turf on. If you are lucky to have well-drain medium loam earth in your garden, you’ll have the pleasure of skipping most of the preparation. However, if the soil is mostly clay or sand, you’ll have to invest a bit more time and back pain. Here is what you need to do for both cases:

  • If you happen to have a soil which mostly made of clay, you should mix a bit of sharp sand and some kind of organic material like compost, rotten leaves, or manure to it. By adding those you improve the drainage of the earth.
  • When dealing with sand based soils, you should aim to improve moisture retention. You can achieve that by adding, again, some type of organic matter.

Now that you’ve prepared the soil, let’s continue with the products and tools you are going to need:

  • Glyphosate herbicide
  • Rake
  • Lawn soil (optional)
  • Sod roller

What is sod?

Basically, sod is the fancy agricultural term for turf. You can lay it any time during the growing season and it works with most types of soil. If you want, you can add sod directly over sand mixed with a little bit of clay and slit or spread a 4 to 6-inch layer of topsoil beforehand. It’s all up to you.

Here is how to lay turf over sand:

  1. Look around your garden for the sunniest spot, especially if you are laying sod. This type of turf grows best under direct sunlight.
  2. Get rid of any weeds by applying some glyphosate herbicide and removing them by hand. Remember to clean the area from any debris, sticks, or rocks before putting the sod.
  3. Grade the sand away from your house, sidewalk, basically every fixed spot in your yard. After that, you’ll have to rake the soil intro smooth and gradual slopes. This way you lead the water away from these points.
  4. Add a bit of water to the sand. Don’t overwater, just moisten it a bit. This will help the sod transplant effectively.
  5. Buy the sod within 24 hours of installation. Make sure to lay it quickly in order to prevent transplant shock or damage.
  6. Lay the sod flat over the water soil and stagger the joints. Remember to arrange the sod strips in such a way that their edges touch. If you see any gaps, fill them with a bit of lawn soil.
  7. Water the sod thoroughly right after you’ve laid it.
  8. Pull out the sod roller and roll the area. Do this after everything has dried. This way you ensure that the sod contacts the sand while removing any air pockets that may cause damage to the roots. When you are done with that, fill the roller with water, about one-third up, and run it again.
  9. Apply water to the sod. Make sure to moisten your new turf with 1 inch of water every two days for the first three weeks. After that time passes, water your lawn as you would normally do.
  10. Mow the turf after a week.

Takeaways before laying turf on sand

  • Never buy old sod. By old we mean one that has been rolled up for more than a couple of days.
  • Like with everything, you need to invest time and effort in order to enjoy a good-looking front lawn.
  • Restrain yourself from walking over the sod before the roots have had a chance to lay down properly. Check the sod by giving one of its corners a gentle pull.
  • Laying turf on a compacted ground is not a good idea. It just won’t establish well.
  • Remember that theft doesn’t work well with every type of sand. Some sorts, like builders sand, are just way too find and your soil won’t have proper drainage. Opt for sharp sand instead.

Did you know Fantastic offers a stellar grass laying service? Click the button to learn more about how we install turf professionally.

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Do you agree with our guide? Have you had any experience laying turf on sand and were you successful? Let us know in the comments below if you feel the need for more answers.

Header image source: Shutterstock/ By Ingrid Balabanova 

Posted in All About the Lawn, Garden Advice

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