Steps for Easy Turf Installation & Maintenance
Chris Williams, September 2016
Lawn and turf areas provide beautiful green, soft surfaces to complement trees, shrubs and perennials in your garden. In amongst hard landscaping features such as paving, decking and pergolas, mown grass zones also give you a functional flat surface for various activities, from a place to play cricket with the kids or install a trampoline, or as somewhere to relax in summer. This may seem obvious but turf installation whether by seed or pre-grown rolls of ‘instant turf’ can sometimes be difficult for the home gardener. This is simply because a lush, consistent hard wearing turf needs more inputs and preparation than most other plantings. For this reason, some people choose artificial turf to save on installation and maintenance costs of the ‘real thing’. In this post we start with some basic tips, instructions and likely costs for creating instant real and artificial turf areas for Melbourne.
Getting Started - Turf Installation Melbourne
Your first job is working out how much turf you need. This can be harder than it looks! Think carefully about what the lawn/grass area will be for and how it sits in your overall garden or outdoor living space. If you want help measuring the space or working out the places in your garden to grow turf contact Van Leeuwen Green for a consultation. But whether DIY or with professional assistance the next important step is site preparation.
Turf Installation Instructions
All current grasses, weeds and plants must be thoroughly removed. This should be a combination of hand removal and use of herbicides such as Roundup to ensure that all previous plants are gone. The soil should be dug over so that any hard objects such as rocks or left over building waste have been removed from the top 15-20cm of the soil.
The most important thing is to create a well aerated soil that retains as much moisture as possible. For sandy soils you will need to add organic matter in the form of compost, thoroughly mixed into the profile by spade, garden fork or rotary hoe. The same treatment can be applied to heavy, wet clay soils but only work them when they are dry. For poorly drained clay soils where the water pools on the surface you may need to add gypsum. Large clods of soils need to be broken up, with your ultimate goal a fine, even and consistent growing medium for your turf. When adding organic matter don’t overdo it and remember that grasses, whether by seed or rolls of established turf does not grow well on pure compost – mix it in well! Finally, do a basic pH test to make sure your soil is not too alkaline or acid. A range from 6-8 is fine.
Whether laying down rolls of advanced turf or sowing fresh seed, moisture is critical: seed or turf must not be allowed to dry out! Dampen the soil before laying turf and make sure you water as you go along section by section. This is especially important in warm weather. Water the turf or seed area in the morning and evening for the first 3 to 4 weeks. Van Leeuwen Green recommends that clients top dress newly installed turf with a sandy loam or washed river sand at a rate of around 1 cubic metre for every 100 square metres of turf or lawn. The top dressing process helps your turf get established by reducing transplant shock.
In terms of species and varieties we use mostly summer grasses such as Buffalo, Couch and Kikuyu. These are tough perennial grasses that are very drought tolerant but go dormant in winter. We install these species from late September until late April. Tall Fescue is a fine leaved cool season grass which is not as drought tolerant as the summer grasses but gives a good all year lawn or turf as along as it receives summer irrigation.
Turf Installation Cost
Instant turf is priced at the square metre, usually between $6-12 m2 depending on the species and the quality of the turf. For a decent sized lawn of 100m2 the approximate cost of the turf pre-installation would be around $1000.
Artificial or Synthetic Turf
Synthetic turf is ‘fake grass’ made from recycled plastic. There are many products on the market, ranging from cheap green grass-like mats to premium priced products that look and feel like the finest living grass. Synthetic turf is perfect for high traffic areas and for those who don’t have time or interest in lawn care such as mowing and edging. The cheap fake grasses can be purchased for as little as $20 a linear metre while the outstanding premium synthetic turfs can be as much as $500 a linear metre.
Installing Artificial Turf on Soil
Remove existing grass or weeds as well as the top 5-10cm of the soil. Make sure you shut down any existing irrigation systems that applied to the old turf. Cover the lawn area with 5-7cm of crushed 80mm grade rock.
Compact the crushed rock into position with a whacker available at tool hire centres. Ideally cover the lawn area with weed barrier geotextile fabric. Secure the barrier in place by driving turf pegs around the perimeter of the fabric and along the seams.
Now you are ready to roll out the synthetic turf. Roll and move the artificial turf into position, allowing room along the edges of for trimming. When the turf is laid out properly it’s time to secure it with turf pegs. These are special nails that will hold the synthetic turf in place. The key is not to drive them in to deeply below the level of the turf, otherwise your new artificial lawn will look like it has holes in it. Once in place you have a mowing free green zone to enjoy all year round!