Garden Advice

How to Lay Turf on Clay Soil

Clay soil tends to be difficult to work with as it is sticky and dense when wet, and clumpy and hard when dry. It is also very prone to cracking during especially dry weather. Clay soil is slower to allow rainwater to drain away, which encourages weeds to grow, pests to show up, diseases to spread in your garden. All of that being said, with a little care and know-how, laying turf on clay soil needn’t be too much of a headache.

The secret to laying turf on clay soil is all in the preparation. Give yourself plenty of time to get the soil in tip-top condition before you lay down your turf and you’ll have it way easier when it comes to the actual process. 

Table of Contents:

How to prepare the clay soil

As we mentioned earlier, preparing the soil before you lay turf on top of it is an extremely important process, which you just can’t skip. Follow these steps easy steps to prep the ground: 

  1. Clear away any plants, weeds and debris

First, you need to remove all plant material, including grass, weeds, leaves, twigs. Everything must go! For smaller areas, a spade will do the trick but if you have a larger area to clear, you might want to consider getting hold of a mechanical turf cutter. 

  1. Dig or rotovate soil to at least 15cm deep

Loosen up the soil by digging over or rotovating the soil. Make sure all weed roots, rubble, and stones are removed. You want to dig down to at least 15cm to create a firm foundation of quality topsoil required for laying turf.

  1. Improve the soil’s texture or quality, if necessary

Clay soils retain water and this can be an issue during the wet, winter months so add some gravel or sand to assist with drainage. You can also mix in some organic matter like grass clippings, leaves or compost which will encourage worms to come and aerate it for you.

  1. Level the area

Use a rake to get an even, smooth surface and break up any clumps of soil. Fill any dips and break down heavily compacted areas with a fork, so that when you mow the lawn, it doesn’t catch on the blades.

  1. Firm the soil

Take small steps and walk up and down, then criss-cross to compact the soil. You will also be able to feel if there are any unlevelled spots that you need to sort out. 

  1. Add pre-turfing fertiliser

Next, you apply a pre-turfing fertiliser to the soil to ensure your new turf is fed properly when it’s laid down. Just follow the instructions on the packet to give your turf the best possible start.

  1. Rake and level again

Finally, give the soil another good raking to really mix in the pre-turfing fertiliser and to make sure you have a level surface ready for the turf.

You can read more on improving clay soil in this dedicated post.

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What is the best grass for clay soil?

Clay soil is usually nutrient-rich and it is effective at holding water, so luckily there are a few kinds of grass which will thrive in it. The best grass for clay soil are types such as Bermuda, Tall Fescue, Buffalograss and Zoysia. Always consider the climate when making your decision on which grass to lay down. 

How to lay turf on clay soil

Laying turf on clay soil can sound difficult in terms of the actual process, however, the truth is that it isn’t that hard. Here is what you should do to successfully lay turf on clay soil: 

  1. As soon as you get your turf, you want to lay it to prevent it from drying out. 
  2. Start by rolling out the turf on the longest edge of the lawn, and make certain that the underside is in full contact with the soil.
  3. Put a plank or scaffold board down that you can work from and walk on without damaging the newly laid turf. 
  4. Butt the ends and edges against each other; never stretch the turves by pulling them. 
  5. Trim any excess with a long-bladed garden knife or a half-moon lawn edger. 
  6. Look for any gaps between the rolls of turf or around the outer edges and fill them in with a sprinkle of fine topsoil so that they don’t dry out. 
  7. Finally, give your new lawn a good watering.

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  • Preparation is the key to laying turf on clay soil. Clearing, weeding and adding nutrients will ensure that your lawn thrives for years to come.
  • Choose the right variety of grass depending on what kind of weather you have in your area. 
  • When you come to actually lay the turf, take things slowly and be methodical. If done right, you will have a great outcome.


Header Image Source: Shutterstock / By SpeedKingz

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