Can You Lay Turf on Sand & Should You Do It in the First Place?
- Published: Jan 07/2019
- Last update: May 19/2023
- 8min read
- Views: 36,992
We’ll all agree that Brits are avid gardeners, who are especially proud of their lawns. And they’ll be always interested in how best to establish new turf, based on the soil type in their gardens. Commonly, the soil in your yard will contain a mixture of sand, clay, silt, loam or chalk in different proportions. In that sense, you may have sandy soil, loamy sand, sandy clay, sandy silt, clay, sandy loam, sandy clay loam, lime-rich soil, etc. The list goes on.
Well, our new post will focus on laying sod over soil that is predominantly sandy. We’ll also explore various situations, where for whatever reason sand has been incorporated in your garden, and see whether you can lay turf over soil mixed with sand.
To make things clearer, this post is for anyone, who wants to lay sod and:
Predominantly sandy soils are light to work with. Also, they warm up quickly and drain very well. On the downside, sandy soils are acidic and rather poor in plant nutrients. The fact that they can’t hold onto water well is the reason why whatever nutrients they may contain are washed down fast by the rain. Naturally, this also makes sandy soils dry up quickly in hot weather conditions. The above brings us to the logical conclusion that you can lay turf on sand only if you improve the soil beforehand. You need to add organic material of some sort, be it compost, mulch, manure and/or peat soil. This will improve tremendously the micronutrient profile of your sandy soil, as well as its water-retention properties.
In other words, laying turf on sand is possible if you amend the structure and the composition of the soil, first. Furthermore, if you mix your sandy soil with compost or topsoil, this will raise its pH to a level that makes the soil more accommodating for growing a wider range of grass varieties.
Still, we need to point out, here, that not all sandy soils are actually bad. Read on and find out why.
What is sandy loam?
Sandy loam comprises a mixture of sand, silt and clay in different proportions, where the percentage of sand is larger than the other two types. It also generally contains humus and thus, it is fertile and easy to work with, especially when it comes to establishing your lawn. As sandy loam boasts the characteristics of all three main soil types, it drains nicely without compromising water and nutrients retention. In addition, air moves easily between the soil particles. Loam also feels soft and crumbly to the touch. In that respect, count yourself lucky if your garden is mostly made of sandy loam with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0, because this type of soil is perfect for maintaining a healthy and green lawn. To sum up, it’s a green light for laying turf on sandy loam with hardly any soil preparation.
Knowing your soil is a key before proceeding with your turf laying project. So, below, we are going to show you the ways of how you can identify the type of soil you have in your garden.
But before that, let’s explain briefly what determines the three main soil types’ gardening characteristics. Sand, silt and clay differ in their particle size, with sand being 0.05 – 2mm, silt – 0.002 – 0.05mm and clay – less than 0.002mm. As we’ve established above, if your soil contains all three types in the right proportion, then, you have nothing to worry about.
We’ve had questions from clients and readers alike, whether they can lay sod directly on sand or on soil, mixed with sand. So, we’ll try to answer those by discussing the following scenarios.
Laying sod directly on a compacted surface, covered in sand, where you’ve previously had a patio, stone slabs or pavers installed, is not a good idea. The grass roots will simply not establish well, unless you prep the area well in advance by digging, tilling and mixing in plenty of organic material into the existing soil, in order to improve its structure and boost its nutrients content. This is hard work, of course, and takes time. Still, assuming that your former patio was not that big in size, the other option is to purchase good quality topsoil and distribute a layer of at least 6 inches over the designated area. Then, you can safely roll out your sod on top and get your lawn started with success.
We would never recommend using your leftover builders sand, for instance, to level your uneven garden, if you plan to have a lawn over the area, that is. Similarly to the case above, sand may drain well but that’s about it when it comes to creating a beautiful, lush lawn that stays this way for long. Again, to lay successfully new turf over a garden area, where you’ve incorporated sand material, you’ll simply need to roll up your sleeves and get down to mixing in lots of compost, peat, manure and/or granulated fertiliser, first. Considering the huge effort that the project may involve, there’s always the option of laying artificial turf, instead.
Clay soils are the polar opposite to sandy soils. They are cold and don’t drain well, as the water stays in the tiny pore spaces between the minute clay particles. This type of soil is generally more fertile than sandy soil, but it will always need amendment of some sort if you want to grass the area. Clay compacts easily, when both wet or dry, which is the last thing you want if you’re planning to lay turf on top. On that note, folks erroneously try to improve drainage and soil structure with sand alone, but even sharp sand won’t suffice, unless mulch or compost has been added, as well. Why? The reason lies in the difference of particle sizes – sand alone will clog up the tiny spaces between the clay particles, and thus remove all air that is so needed for roots growth and soil life. Naturally, all paths for water to drain will be clogged up, too.
As we’ve discussed earlier in the post, sand soil needs to be improved, first, before laying the sod. Choose a nice, dry (not too hot) day for the job. Below, you can read our step-by-step guide on how to lay the turf on sand so that your lawn thrives, even if your soil is not exactly on the foamy side.
Tools that you need:
Steps to lay turf:
Turn over the soil with a garden tiller to a depth of 5-6 inches.
Make sure to remove all rocks, stones, debris and weeds.
Mix in well your organic material, peat or topsoil with the tiller. To raise the pH of sandy soil, you may add some limestone, if needed.
Rake well the planting site and smooth out the surface by breaking down any bumps.
Use a garden hose with a sprinkler attachment and dampen the area to increase the chance of turf establishment.
Roll out the turf, starting from the outer edges and moving towards the centre. If you need to lay a smaller piece, use your cutter and never rip the turf. Press on gently each roll or slab of turf and push the individual pieces together to achieve a uniform look.
Water your new lawn generously to encourage successful grassroots growth.
Get your lawn roller and roll the new sod to remove any air pockets and help the roots transplant better.
Get an expert landscaping survey
We hope you’ve found this post helpful and informative enough to share it with your friends. And if you have any questions or additional tips on laying turf on sand, do make use of the comments box below!
Header image source: Shutterstock/ By Ingrid Balabanova
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