Preparing your soil for instant turf?
So you’ve put in an order for your new instant turf and you’re excited about the big day of transformation, but how do you know if your soil is ready?
It’s important to create ideal conditions when laying instant turf, to ensure it will successfully establish itself and thrive throughout all seasons. Soil plays a critical role when it comes to the survival of your grass, and it needs to be adequately prepared before laying any instant turf.
Let’s consider what you need to do to make sure your soil is 100% turf-ready.
Check the soil type
The first step to finding out if your soil is appropriate for instant turf is to determine if it’s sand-soil based or clay based. Essentially, a sand-soil base is best for instant turf as it allows for water to flow freely underneath and throughout the turf. If your base is already sandy, look at mixing in some organics to boost the nutrients (more on this later).
Comparatively, clay based soil can be quite dense and compact. This means if you have a clay base, you’ll need to de-compact and add sand soil to it. The best way to do this is by using a rotary hoe or tilling the soil to a depth of 100mm. This ensures the surface is more workable and will also help with root establishment. Applications of gypsum may also help to improve hard clay soils to make them more suitable for instant turf.
If you’re not sure about what type of soil you have, seek advice from an expert at Coolabah Turf.
Do a pH test
A pH test, completed using a standard test kit from your local hardware store or nursery, is the best way to check your soil pH levels. You want a pH level between 5.5 and 7. Don’t stress if your soil isn’t the right pH, as it can be adjusted with treatment. For example, if your soil is too alkaline, you can add compost or manure to it to reduce the pH. Alternatively, if the soil is too acidic - which is likely in Australia - you can add dolomite or agricultural lime.
Preparing soil for underlay
Regardless of your soil type, proper preparation and pre-work is critical to ensuring a healthy lawn long-term. Part of this preparation is the application of turf underlay and topsoil.
Turf underlay is the foundation for instant turf to grow on. It provides a firm base that allows for effective water use and retention, and supports healthy root systems that protect your turf from drought and winter frost.
Turf underlays are typically made up of:
- Medium to coarse washed river sand.
- Heavier soil to help hold moisture and - when mixed with the sand - create a free-flowing profile for water movement.
- Composted matter including green waste, chicken or animal manure, and some natural nutrients to help balance pH levels. We recommend a pelletised fowl manure like Dynamic Lifter or a similar product, applied to your prepared surface at 20kg/100m2 to assist with initial soil moisture retention, while also providing an effective slow release fertiliser.
We recommend applying a turf underlay to a depth of 100mm as a minimum, and spray out all existing weeds or grasses prior to spreading your underlay. It then needs to be levelled, rolled and watered prior to installing your new turf.
If you have minimal topsoil on your prepared site, you’ll need to import a quality turf underlay (such as sandy garden loam) from your local sand and soil garden centre. We recommend your finished surface sit approximately 25mm–30mm below concrete paths, or garden edges for Couch and Eureka Kikuyu turf varieties. If you’re installing Sir Walter DNA Certified, you’ll need to leave a 40mm gap below your edge.
If your patch already has a good base of topsoil, you may just need to use a rotary hoe to get the area to the same depth (100mm–150mm) and smooth or shape the finished surface.
How to level your soil before applying turf
Once you’ve got the underlay and the topsoil down, the final step before installing your new turf is to level out the soil. You want to get rid of any lumps and bumps that will become an issue later down the road when you’re trying to mow your new lawn. There are a few different ways to get your soil nice and level.
- Use your feet – this option is super easy, just slowly walk across your soil back and forth with small steps, feeling for any bumps or uneven sections. If you find uneven sections, just stamp them down with your shoes.
- Use a lawn roller – this will give you a very even surface, but try to use it in moderation so it doesn’t compact the topsoil.
After levelling the soil, go over it with a rake in different directions to loosen up the topsoil - this will give the grassroots a better chance to take root.
Ask for help when laying your instant turf
Remember, you're not on your own in the instant turf laying process! You can always touch base with our expert team (pictured above) anytime for all the intel you require to best prepare your patch for that fresh instant turf. Contact us at Coolabah Turf today for all your instant turf laying needs.