Thursday, 17 April 2008

Lets Talk Turf

If I'm completely honest with you, this was scary. Now, you buy a plant from the garden centre, and if it dies on you, okay it's a bit sad, perhaps as much as £10 wasted, but these things happen. I had that Skimmia die on me last year (left), still not sure why, and one of the lavenders. No use crying over spilt milk.

But turf? The size I was looking for was 40 square metres. I found a very good price on the internet. I can't remember if it was turf online, or online turf (both of them I'm sure they were equally good in quality, it's just that one came in a bit cheaper (if anyone would like to know I can dig out the bill and confirm which I used). But "cheap" means £3.15 a roll, so something like a total of £126, plus delivery of course. This was to be divided between us and the neighbours, so really, in the end, I couldn't mess this up.

Here you have the patch, and I worked and worked it, but to lay some turf and have it all go brown in the end? Nightmare.

Let me make three things completely clear, to save you any hassle if you are laying a new lawn yourself.

(1) You will never get all the rocks out.

(2) You will never get all the weeds up.

(3) You will not get the ground completely flat.

So stop trying. Just do the best you can, and you too will be rewarded with a gorgeous new lawn.

I had advice from an acquaintance of mine, who is a professional gardener.

Firstly I will say, I have read several books on the subject of vegetable growing, with two of them advising against the rotovation method of preparing ground. Well, I'm sorry Mr. Titchmarsh and Mr. Harrison, if you are faced with a derelict plot as large as ours at the back of your house outside your kitchen door, there is no way you can convince me that getting out there with a spade and cutting off what meagre turf existed, and dealing with the huge number of weeds there, when you have only weekends, is going to give any satisfaction in a short space of time. I say if you need to, rotovate.

So as you know, we did the do with "the beast". We were left with this.

A lot of forking over, to get actual rocks out, not just the little stones. A lot of regular weeding, every weekend, to pick out by hand those that kept coming up. And then my acquaintance said, "stop weeding". And get yourself some systemic weed killer.

I would like to be organic, and hope to in the near future, but this to me was the best thing since sliced bread. Spray it on? The weeds die and it doesn't hurt the ground? Bring it on!! We had used some path weedkiller in the front, where it is all cement except for a small patch at the right where we can grow things. It worked, but I knew it wasn't something I'd use at the back. Systemic weedkiller? Revelation!

For the purpose of clearing as much as possible, and 40 square metres is a lot of ground, it was an absolute necessity. For which I am eternally grateful to Rob John for telling me about. And lots, and lots, and lots of raking. The Rake was the most important implement in this venture (and a fantastic workout to boot - bonus!).

Okay, we were ready to go, it's just that May in terms of weather was not the best, and June was getting worse ... I bit the bullet and ordered the turf for the last weekend in June. Scary, but fingers were crossed.

Forty rolls of turf is a lot of turf (each roll is approximately one square metre). It was delivered on Saturday. Left at the front by the nice delivery man, but we had to transport it all round to the back and pile it up. It started to rain (not good, but covered by a tarpaulin or five, we were fine).

Sunday. Me, and some turf. First and most importantly, I fertilised the ground. I did order some "pre-turf" fertiliser from the turf company, but unfortunately they left that out. No matter, when I popped out to get the extra tarps I picked up some Blood Fish & Bone. Just as good. Sprinkled it over and raked one last time.

Both the websites I mentioned above have very good advice about turf laying. Take your time. You need a sharp knife, and a board, or plank, of wood. I had some leftover shelving, which I used.

I laid the first row, three turves less a bit cut off at the end (which I used in the next row). Then to lay the second row, I laid the board down on top of the row I had just completed, which presses it nicely into the ground. For the third row, I laid the board on the "join" between the first and second row, to press that down too. I really butted the rows together, almost trying to overlap the turves. And I ended up with no discernable join. It took a long time. I think there are seven rows here, or was it eight?

They do say that you should order 5% more than what you need. And they are right, so don't skimp on that. I needed 38 square metres and ordered 40. It was still, just a little bit short ... We ended up getting a couple of more turves from the local garden centre, at £3.99 a go. And husband had to carry them back - not easy without a car! But we did eventually complete this final row.

And now, after a season, I think it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Just a few facts about myself, and I'm not good at blowing my own trumpet. But here goes:

I have a PhD.

I have run a marathon.

Laying this lawn gave me almost, almost as much satisfaction as those two achievements.

I look forward so much to the first cut of the year! Ah, that smell of freshly mown grass.

1 comment:

  1. This is great stuff on
    modern gardening. I'm
    still getting started.
    Welcome Spring.
    R. Clarke Forest Park