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We’ve briefly touched the topic on general site preparation before laying turf in our last turf-related post. In this one, we’ll focus on the key step of levelling the ground prior to laying sod.
You’ll learn in more detail not only how to prepare the ground for turf, but also some specific levelling techniques, designed to ensure the best possible start with your lawn establishment. Last but not least, you’ll find out when you need to consider getting some topsoil, as well as what to do if your garden is not exactly flat, but on the sloppy side.
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Laying turf is, of course, superior to planting grass seeds when it comes to getting an instant lawn. It can be enjoyed and used almost straight away. However, you still need to get ready for some hard work regarding the preliminary ground preparation, as well as learn exactly how to level a garden before turfing.
So, here is how to prepare the ground for turf:
Remove old grass seedlings and any perennial weeds first. Thorough manual weeding always renders the best results but, if you wish, you can apply a standard herbicide. The trick is to allow enough time for the weed-killing product to “clear off” (at least a couple of weeks), especially if it’s been classed as a residual weed killer.
Dig and till the ground to a good depth. A minimum of 6-7 inches is recommended, but the deeper you rotovate the soil, the better, especially if you’ve skipped completing the task manually and used the appropriate equipment for the job.
Rotovating the ground properly will most likely result in stones and rocks of various sizes appearing on the surface. You know what to do, right? Remove all of those, as they will prevent you from levelling the soil nicely and effortlessly later on.
Add compost or well-rotted manure to the planting site. Mix it into the soil with a tiller. If you’re aware of any deficiencies that your garden soil might have, then this step is a must. Experts advise leaving the freshly cultivated surface for a few weeks to settle before proceeding to the next step. This will also help you spot any new weeds that have come through before you lay the turf.
You may be tempted to grab a lawn roller to level the soil. However, our advice is to do the job with your feet. It takes time, but treading over every inch of the site will allow you to get the feel of the tiniest uneven spot, which you can break down by stomping it with your heels. In other words, to avoid ending up with an uneven lawn later on, level the soil with the help of your garden boots several times in different directions.
When you’re done levelling, get a fine rake and go over the planting site with it. Scratch the surface with the rake more than once and never in the same direction. This will help you loosen the top layer of soil and give the grassroots a better chance to transplant properly.
We should note here that there are different opinions on how to level the soil before laying turf in the best way. So, let’s explore the matter further and see why the physical efforts and hard work described above will pay off at the end.
So, why should you stomp rather than use a roller?
The idea behind using your feet to level the soil before laying turf is that your own weight will help you break every single bump of soil down more effectively. Furthermore, a roller could easily “miss” any depressions in the soil as you go along and navigate the equipment with your hands. Last but not least, your feet will feel any odd small stones, covered in dirt, which you may have failed to notice and remove. In contrast, a lawn roller will just “sink” those further down into the ground.
Your feet should work their way and tread over the planting site sideways and at an angle of about 90 degrees (imagine the hands of a clock, set at 10 minutes to 2). Take your time and cover the entire area two or even three times. Some people prefer to rake the surface that they’ve just trodden on, straight away as they go. The end result should be a perfectly level area, covered in soil that has been brought to a fine tilth, meaning it doesn’t look or feel compacted and solid.
Check the level of compaction with your finger. A good guide will be the depth at which your finger cannot go any further down, i.e. about 1-2 cm. This depth is enough for the turf to root successfully.
To sum up, if you level the soil by stomping it with your feet, followed by a gentle rake, you’ll eliminate the risk of ending up with an uneven lawn later on.
Sometimes, the existing soil is so poor that you are better off adding a significant amount of topsoil. Or the site you want to turf hardly has any soil at all, as you’ve turned it into a compacted sub-base for a patio you no longer wish to have and you’ve just removed.
Last but not least, you may need to use some topsoil to reduce the gradient of a slope, which you plan to lay your turf on. Whatever the situation, getting topsoil is your best bet to correct a range of faults with your garden, whether we’re talking about levelling the ground or the unfortunate case of having hard-to-work-with, heavy clay soil or acidic sandy soil.
How much topsoil you need to get will depend on what type of problem you’re trying to fix before laying the turf. Just as a guide, to work out the quantity you intend to purchase, multiply the length and the width of the site area you need topsoil for. The measurement result is the size of the surface, which should then be divided by 30. The figure you get, you can multiply by the depth (in inches) to end up with a good estimate of how much topsoil you’ll need in tons.
Well, as topsoil differs in its density, it’ll be an approximate number that you may need to adjust, depending on the type of loam you’re buying and what exactly you’re using it for.
So now that you know how to level the soil before laying turf, take a look at these additional tips that you may find helpful.
And before you go, check out our guide on whether or not you should strim wet grass. It’s worth noting out the cases you actually CAN do this, as our weather always tends to not play along by the rules.
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Source: Deposit Photos / By kivitimof