The quickest, if not cheapest, way to achieve a beautiful lawn is to lay turf, but if your money is to be well spent, take time to prepare your site a month or two beforehand.
When to plant: Early autumn or early spring.
At their best: All year round.
Time to complete: 1 day to prepare; 1 day to lay turf
You will need: Turf, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, horticultural grit, all-purpose granular fertilizer, rake and broom, sharp knife, topsoil and horticultural sand.
Buy your turf from a specialist supplier and, if possible, inspect it before purchasing to ensure that it is weed- and disease-free. Reject turf with patches of yellow or dying grass. Your choice of turf will generally be limited to high-quality ornamental grass for formal lawns, and hardwearing utility turf for walkways and play areas.
Prepare the site
Two months before the turf arrives, weed the site thoroughly. Dig 4 in (10 cm) of organic matter into the soil, and plenty of grit into heavy clay to increase drainage. Level with a rake. Tread over the soil on your heels in one direction, and repeat at right angles in the other direction.
Lay the first row
Remove stones and debris from the site, and leave for five weeks for the soil to settle. Weed the site again and apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer at the recommended rate. Make sure the soil is moist, not wet, before laying. Place the first piece of turf at one edge, and tamp it down with the back of a rake.
Stagger the joints
Create a tight seam between turves by butting them together so they almost overlap and then pressing the crease down firmly with your thumbs. Continue to lay the turves in rows, and stagger the joints, like a brick wall. Stand on a plank of wood to protect the turf you have already laid.
Apply a top dressing
Do not use small pieces at the edge of the lawn because they will dry out quickly and shrink—instead, lay them in the middle of the site. Scatter sandy loam, made from topsoil mixed with horticultural sand, into the joins and brush it into the turf to fill any gaps. Water well, and water the lawn in dry spells during the first growing season.
Tips: Shaping a lawn
Use a hose or rope to create a guide for a curved lawn, and with a half-moon grass cutter or sharp spade cut around your template. For a straight edge, stretch some string between two pegs pushed into the soil at each end.