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2nd Aug, 2021

GARDENING TIME: How to lay a lawn and care for your green carpet

James Iles 13th May, 2020

WHETHER it’s your pristine Wembley-striped pride and joy or the kids’ rough and tumble outdoor play area, the ‘green carpet’ is the centre piece of many an English garden, writes James Iles.

Most months are good to lay a new lawn or give your existing grass a much-deserved makeover so long as it’s not too hot and dry or the ground is frozen.

New lawns

For new lawns, measure the area you wish to cover and order your turves (allowing for offcuts depending on your chosen shape) before preparing the ground provided it is not so wet that it sticks to your boots.

Keep the turves stacked together and moist and do not allow them to dry out if you’ve ordered them ahead of the day you are laying it.

Compacted surfaces may first require digging over or, in severe cases or larger areas, properly rotivating with a machine to break up the soil.

Once this is done, rake over the area to get it as flat as possible, removing as many stones and pebbles as you can while you go along.

Now add a dressing of top soil and work this into the earth to improve the nutrients and drainage of the surface.

When you are happy the ground has been worked to a level, fine tilth then you are ready to lay your turves.

Carefully unroll each turf trying not to rip it and lay on to the ground, starting from a straight edge to the planned lawn area. Continue in straight lines, cutting off any excess turf with a stanley knife or old kitchen knife.

The turves should just butt up to each other and their soil should be moist enough to ‘knead’ them so they knit together more easily.

The next row of turves should be laid like brickwork so their joins are staggered against the previous row.

Once they are all laid it is worth tamping them down with the back of a rake and now is also time to cut off any edges which overlap the edges of your design.

Next, walk backwards across the lawn gently brushing up the grass blades, especially across the joints, to stimulate growth.

Finally, water the lawn thoroughly and keep it well watered for a few weeks as it beds in taking note of how much it has been raining.

It is also important not to tread on it for the first four to five weeks as it settles down.

During this period, keep an eye of the grass and fix any turves which seem to have curled away or slipped from joins by rebutting them, tamping them down and watering appropriately.


One man went to mow – How to keep your lawn in good shape. Picture by Tretyakov Viktor/


Lawn aftercare

Existing lawns can also be given a helping hand at this time of year.

Remove the thatch (debris that’s built up over winter from dead grass) and moss from the lawn using a spring-tined rake such to drag it out and then compost it.

For larger lawns a scarifier machine will be required to save your back – there are also electric lawn rakes.

This will make a mess but it will soon recover and the effort will have been well worth it.

Aeration of the compacted surface is also necessary.

Push a fork about six inches into the ground and gently lift up the turf to allow air in every six to eight inches across the grass.

You could add a top dressing of sharp sand and soil mix to improve drainage and encourage strong root growth.

Add some grass seed in the mix to patch up worn areas of the lawn.

Rake over the bald patch to a fine tilth and pat down the soil and seed before watering.

But if you are not confident of getting the mix right for your lawn’s feed then there are plenty of ready-mixed liquid and powder solutions available from garden centres or online.

Don’t mow your lawn until any new grass is at least 3 inches high.

• See my latest posts on Instagram @jigsaw_gardening

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