Do you want your new turf to be the envy of all of your neighbours? Are you prepared to go the extra mile with soil preparation so that you don’t have to spend so much money on turf maintenance?
Well, this guide will run you through everything you could possibly need to know for preparing, installing, and maintaining your new lawn. We have completed hundreds of turf installations and have all of the inside information that you could possibly need to get the best result.
Most turf installation guides will run through the basic steps, but this guide provides the full details of every single step – particularly the soil preparation that is vital to making sure your lawn has the best chance for long-term survival. After all… if you’re going to invest in buying new lawn you want to make sure it looks the best right?
Let’s get started!
Most Common Types of Lawn In Australia
There are various types of grass lawns available on the market. Each has its positives and negatives. To help you determine which is the best grass for your use we have provided a summary of three of the main types of grass you will find readily available at most grass suppliers.
In Australia, there are many varieties of lawns to choose from. Each one has its positives and negatives. To help you figure out which type of grass is best for your use we have provided a summary of three of the main types of grass you will find out most grass suppliers.
Buffalo Grass (Stenotaphrum Secundatum)
One of the most popular lawn types, buffalo grass is strong, easy to grow and low in maintenance – it’s pretty easy to see why Buffalo Grass is one of Australia’s favourite choices for lawn installations. One common misconception is that this species of grass results in itchy skin. Older varieties had a scratchy leaf type, however nowadays this is a thing of the past – most Buffalo breeds come in soft leaf varieties.
Buffalo is excellent year-round given its drought tolerance and ability to maintain colour during winter.
Common types are: Sir walter, Matilda, Palmetto and Sapphire.
- Low Maintenance – requires less watering than other grass types
- Requires about 50% less mowing the Kikuyu in summer
- Drough tolerance
- Less invasive than Kikuyu or Couch
Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum Clandestinum)
Kikuyu is one of the most popular choices for lawns that are expected to have lots of use. Kikuyu is one of the more affordable grass types, but requires regular mowing in summer so can be considered higher maintenance.
Kikuyu is commonly used in public areas and schools. Another disadvantage of Kikuyu is that it gets along well with weeds and can suffer from diseases such as brown spot.
Kikuyu is highly aggressive and can spread quickly. Modern varieties such as a male ‘sterile’ Kikuyu type can reduce the spread, but you will need to keep an eye on it as it is known to spread into closeby garden beds.
- Popular in public areas such as parks and schools
- Can die in shady areas
- Prone to weeds
- Can handle heavy use
- Quick to self repair
- Requires more mowing
- One of the cheapest varieties of grass
- Aggressive – can spread quickly
Zoysia Grass (Zoysia Japonica)
If you feel that buffalo grass leaves are too broad and couch grass leaves are too fine, then Zoysia grass might be just what you are looking for. Zoysia is a slow growing grass that requires less frequent mowing when compared to Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch. It offers more shade tolerance than couch and kikuyu and is very soft to touch so children will enjoy it. The most common type is Empire Zoysia.
If you’re looking for something in between buffalo (with broad leaves) and couch grass (fine leaves) – then Zoysia grass might be the option for you. Zoysia is a slow growing grass, and requires much less mowing compared to Buffalo, Kikuyu and Couch. It offers more shade tolerance than couch and kikuyu and is very soft to touch – so children will enjoy it! The most common variety is Empire Zoysia.
This type of grass has a slow growth rate and is therfore perfect for sloping land where it is harder to mow. It is harder to establish than other grasses but once set it is strong and well suited to high traffic areas.
Zoysia is a strong grass and can recover from wear and tear but will repair at a slow rate
- Grows slowly
- Soft and kid-friendly
- Loves the sun and has moderate shade tolerance
- Can go brown during winter months
- Can handle high foot traffic
- Slow to repair once damaged
- Low mowing requirements
- Very high drought tolerance
- Well suited to sloping areas given its minimal mowing needs
Equipment required for installing a new lawn
The following is a lits of all of the equipment you will need to complete your new lawn installation. You should already have most of these tools in your shed/garage, however, some of the larger and more uncommon items, such as the rotary hoe you may have to hire from your local hardware store such as Kennards Hire.
- Garden Shovel
- Nail Rake
- Bread Knife
- Rotary Hoe
- Plate Compactor
- Large Plastic Rake
- Soil Spreader
How Much Turf Do I Need?
Measuring to figure out how much turf you require isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Simply divide up your lawn area into any of the shapes below, then add them together to get the total needed.
Figuring out how much turf you need can seem daunting, but its not as complicated as it may seem. You can figure out the square meters of your property online by using a tool such as QLD Globe (free satellite measurements).
Alternatively (and likely more accurately) you can measure your property manually. Simply divide your lawn into any of the shapes basic shapes below and add them together to get your total area.
I have included all of the formulas you will need for calculating the area, but if you’re not a fan of maths (like me) you can google ‘area of circle’ and you will get a handy calculator that will input your values into the formula for you!
Rectangle or Square Areas
A rectangular lawn is by far the easiest to calculate! Simply multiply the length by the width to get your total area.
Length = 4m x Width = 5m
5 x 7 = 20m2
Measure the radius of the circle, and then multiply that radius by itself (squared) and then by 3.14.
A 6m Radius would be 6 x 6 x 3.14 = 113.04m2
To calculate the area of an oval, the formula is Length x Width x 3.14
For example the result with be:
Length = 18m
Width = 15m
18 x 15 x 3.14 = 847.8m2
To calculate the area of a triangle, its base width x height x 0.5.
Base width = 10
Height = 5
So the area would be:
10 x 5 x 0.5 = 25m2
Preparing Your Soil And Lawn Laying Guide
Now we start to get into the nitty-gritty. The information contained within this section has been derived from the soil preparation steps developed by Fu Manchu of the Homeone Landscape and Garden Design forum. Fu is an expert at what he does and his advice is so good we have included it here for you in summarised form. We have added some minor detail on certain steps just to provide further detail in case you are a beginner.
It’s time to get to the exciting part – installing your lawn! The following 10 steps are everything you need to do to complete your lawn installation, we also cover what to do after installing your lawn.
Step 1 – Remove Existing Weeds
Before you start any kind of digging or groundwork, it’s important to ensure your garden is weed-free. One of the most effective ways to do this is to apply some Roundup (or similar products) onto any areas you plan to install turf. We recommend spraying roundup in the morning to allow it to absorb into the weeds during the day. It’s also a good idea to pick a time when it isn’t expected to rain so the pesticide isn’t washed away. To increase the effectiveness add a few drops of dishwashing liquid and a capful of Seasol into your roundup bottle before you spray it. This helps the roundup stick to the weeds and increase the absorption. Roundup requires approximately 10 days to remove the weeds, so wait 10 days and then proceed to the next step!
Step 2 – Till Your Soil
An ancient technique, ’tillage’ helps the preparation of soil by spreading nutrients from the lower levels of soil to the upper levels. We recommend doing this by using a tool such as a rotary hoe, or a more manual method, such as shoveling, raking, or using a mattock (for a few examples). You will thank yourself later if you use/hire a rotary hoe. If you are hiring a professional to complete your lawn installation you won’t have to worry about this, but if you are doing it by yourself we highly recommend doing this a company such as Kennards Hire have competitive rates and usually have a local store where they can deliver your equipment from.
The rotary hoe will churn the dead weeds back into the soil whilst tilling the soil at the same time. How long does it take? This is a tough question and depends, but you should be able to get through about 100m2 every 4 hours.
Step 3 – Spread Certified Organic Compost
Get some certified organic compost delivered and spread it over the area that you will be turfing. You want the soil to be mixed at a ratio of 10% sand and 90% organic compost. So for every 1m area of soil add 0.2 cubed of organic compost. The amino acids, along with Fulvic and Humic within the organic compost will work to break up any clay in the soil.
Step 4 – Add Nutrients To The Soil
For this step some of the products may be hard to get a hold of, but for the best possible results we recommend trying to follow each of the four steps:
Product 1: Add PowerFeed to the Soil
Add one capful (about 10mL) for every 1L of water and spread it across your turf area. PowerFeed is a soil conditioner and liquid fertiliser combined. It contains a variety of different ingredients including fish, liquid compost and macronutrients. It’s made by the same Australian company that makes Seasol, which is another excellent product. Another benefit of PowerFeed is that it helps break down clay soils and reduces nutrient loss in sandy soils.
Product 2: Add Bactivate
Bactivate is available in 25kg bags, it is another soil conditioner that is composed of specific bacillus species that enhance plant growth and protection – follow the packet instructions when you are adding it to the soil.
Product 3: Add Bentonite Clay
Adding more clay to your soil will increase wetability, water holding capacity and improve soil structure. Betonite is a natural clay with no added chemicals and it will save you time and money in the long run due to its water and fertiliser efficiency.
To apply Bentonite, spread the clay granules of the soil surface. Use about 1-2kg for every m2.
Product 4: Add Zeolite:
Zeolite is known for its outstanding results, it allows for your turf to have a dense feeder root system which means you won’t need to use as much fertiliser overall.
You can purchase Zeolite in 15kg bags, 1kg is needed every square meter.
Step 5 – Cultivate The Soil
The next step is to cultivate your soil. This is an important part of the process as it causes the nitrogen in your soil to be released and converted into a usable form for your turf. An added benefit is that cultivation will also fix any compaction that has occurred.
To cultivate your soil, grab your rotary hoe again, and cultivate the soil at a depth of approximately 350mm. If you can, try and go a bit deeper but your machine might not allow it.
Step 6 – Level The Soil
Use your nail rake to level your soil. When leveling, it’s important to remember that you should try and slope your soil away from your home to assist with good drainage.
Once complete grab a soil spreader to further level the soil so it’s flat as humanely possible, then give it a light rake with a wide plastic rake.
If you have any driveways or paths, you want to leave enough height for the leaves of your grass to be above the paths. If you are using Kikuyu or Buffalo make sure your soil is about 4cm below the top of your driveway. If you are using Couch 2cm should be sufficient!
Step 7 – Compact The Soil
Before compacting your soil, keep in mind there is no added benefit of having rock hard soil, the purpose of this step is to increase the stability of your soil so it maintains its shape and grading. If you over do this step it will be very difficult for your turf roots to grow and for the water to penetrate into the soil.
Firstly, lightly hose your soil and complete the compaction using a Plate Compactor. Again for this piece of equipment – you should be able to hire one from your local hardware or equipment hire shop. If your soil is sandy, this step might take longer to complete.
Once your soil is compact, use your plastic rake again to go over the soil and ensure its level.
Step 8 – Lay Your New Turf!
You made it this far!
Now for the fun part. Installing the turf!
Pro Tip: It’s always best to have your new turf delivered on the day you plan to install it, that way it won’t dry out or suffer any damage. We also recommend you try and lay the turf early in the morning as this will also help the turf from drying out early. You will want to keep a hose handy to keep your new soil wet the sun comes out and the soil is starting to dry out.
We recommend starting by laying the perimeter of your soil first. Roll the turf around the perimeter edges and stagger the edges – lay it in a brickwork pattern so the edges join. Staggering the joints in this way helps avoid erosion.
No work your way inwards, using the same brickwork pattern, ensure that the joins of the turf are butted as close together as humanely possible. Gaps can cause your turf to dry out in some areas and will make your new turf look patchy. It’s also a perfect spot for weeds to grow (not what you want).
When you can’t quite fit a piece of turf, use an old bread knife – you can easily cut turf to fit into certain shapes.
2nd Pro Tip: If you’re installing turf on a slope, start from the bottom and work your way to the top.
Step 9 – Compact Your Grass
This will be quick. Grab your compactor again, and do a quick lap around the grass you have just laid. This step helps ensure that there are no large air pockets, which may reduce the growth of your grass and its chance of survival.
Step 10 – Give Your New Grass Some Nutrients!
If you want to go above and beyond for your brand new lawn – give it some love! Particularly Molasses and Seasol.
Molasses helps your lawn build a natural defense against pests, it also helps boost microflora and fauna contained within the soil. Molasses is very affordable – expect to pay around $20 per every 10L.
To apply Molasses to your lawn, add a couple of dollops to the bottom of your watering can then fill the watering can with water, don’t worry if it foams up, and then apply it to your lawn!
Seasol is a fantastic product. It assists by increasing the nutrient uptake in your lawn and stimulating root growth. It can be beneficial for giving new lawns a helping hand during the early stages of settlement.
Add 60ml to 10L watering can and then fill it with water. Apply even across your new turf!
Seasol is a great product that assists with increasing nutrient uptake and stimulating root growth. It can be beneficial for giving new lawns a helping hand during the early stages of settlement.
Add 50ml to a 9L watering can and then fill with water. Apply evenly over your newly installed turf.
Why not give your lawn the best possible chance of success?
Quality aftercare during the weeks following installation is critical to ensure your lawn not only survives but prospers!
Make sure that your new lawn has plenty of water each day (unless it rained). The aim is to keep the soil moist so roots can take hold.
After one week, perform a quick inspection to see if any weeds are starting to grow. If you see any – remove them by hand (make sure you get the roots). Avoid using weed spray as it can have a detrimental effect on your new grass.
Continue to apply Molasses, Seasol and Powerfeed every week for the first month, after that you can reduce to fortnightly, then further to once a month.
If youre turf turns slightly yellow for the first few weeks – don’t worry, this is natural and you shouldn’t be worried about this.
Apply some Seamungus Green Crumble. Sprinkle it on top of the lawn (apply at a rate of 40-60 grams per sqm) after a mow and water it in.
Apply Seamungus Green Crumble. Add it on top of the lawn (about 60grams per m2) after you have mown the lawn and follow it up with water.
Apply Molasses as instructed previously and Blood and Bone. You could also apply a slow-release fertiliser such as Scotts Lawn Builder.
Add a soil wetting agent such as Yates Waterwise Granules or Munns Wetta Lawn.
Top dress with organic compost which is basically spreading some organic compost on top of the lawn and then raking it in. You want a very thin layer on top, nothing more.
Top dress your lawn with organic compost, this is basically a thin top layer – nothing more.
Aeration is fairly critical as it allows nutrients, water, and air to penetrate into your lawn and past any thatch. It can also alleviate any soil compaction.
The aeration tool we recommend is the plug aerator, which removes small cores of grass and soil from the lawn. Even though the plug aerator can be hard to use, we recommend it as you will get good results and aeration is done infrequently so you want to make sure it is done properly and that the results last.
You may need to aerate more often if your lawn receives heavy traffic such as children playing on it frequently.
- Hire a plug aerator machine from a local hardware store to make the job as easy for you as possible.
- Spring is the best time to aerate so try and plan for this time of year.
- Ensure that the soil is moist. Dry soil will be difficult to aerate. The day after rain is a great day to aerate.
- Do a lap with the plug aerator and then repeat. Most machines only cover a small portion of the surface area so a couple of passes is best.
- Leave the extracted soil plugs to dry on top of the lawn. The next time you mow, they will be broken up and spread evenly over the surface. The nutrients are useful so it’s better to let them break down on your lawn.