Rolled turf: all the details, from laying to maintenance

Arne Schätzle

Rolled turf, also known as ready-made grass, has several advantages over sowing seed: a short waiting period until the seed germinates, no need to worry whether or not it will sprout. And the best thing is that you can use the freshly laid lawn rapidly. Here you will find information on purchasing, preparing, laying and maintaining your lawn, as well as a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of rolled turf.

A man with gardening gloves is laying rolled turf
© Getty Images

In this article

Buying rolled turf: what to watch out for

Nowadays you can find ready-made grass in many gardening stores and from suppliers on the Internet. The manufacturers plant turf over large areas, remove it by machine and roll it – along with a thin layer of soil.

A roll from most suppliers contains about one square meter of lawn, so it is generally sold at a price per square meter. When choosing rolled turf, the principle is the same as for selecting seeds: check you opt for high-quality grass mixtures.

The composition of the seed mixture is crucial for a resilient and attractive lawn. This means it’s worth paying attention to the combination of grasses:

  • A hard-wearing play and utility turf will usually contain high percentages of German ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and meadow grass (Poa pratensis).
  • Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) and common bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris) make good decorative lawns.
  • Finally, supina blue grass (Poa supina) should be found in high-quality turf for shady areas.
  • But beware if grasses such as Lolium westerwoldicum, Lolium multiflorum and Festuca pratensis are included in the mixture. These three cheap types of grass are forage grasses.

Here in Switzerland, several companies offer rolled turf with high-quality grasses, for example Eric Schweizer AG, Otto Hauenstein Samen or the Landi Aare cooperative.

Tip: if you choose a nearby supplier when buying ready-made grass, the transport costs will usually be reasonable given the short transport distance. When asking for prices, you should therefore note whether the provider charges a flat rate for delivery or charges by the number of kilometers.

You should also agree on a fixed delivery date so that you can make sure the preparations are finished by then. Even when laying rolled turf, you will have to work the soil beforehand, for example to dig it up or remove weeds. You should also lay the lawn within 24 hours. Otherwise you run the risk of your fresh lawn rotting.

Rolled turf: preparing the lawn area

Even with rolled turf, you can’t avoid having to prepare the ground. If you already have a lawn, you should first remove it with a shovel. To prevent compaction of the soil right from the start, dig it over. A motor hoe makes this work a little easier.

After digging, remove any pieces of root, larger stones and other foreign matter from the area. The next step is to level out the ground. This is best done with a wide wooden rake. Then compact the soil with a lawn roller.

For heavy, loamy soils, it’s advisable to apply a five-centimeter layer of building sand and work it in with a hoe. This makes the soil more permeable for air and water – and the turf will grow better. In this case, you should avoid compacting the ground with a lawn roller.

If unevenness is still visible after rolling, have another go at leveling the ground with the wooden rake. Apply fertilizer before laying the turf to ensure that it will be supplied with sufficient nutrients and can grow well.

A person can be seen laying strips of turf one next to the other in the garden.

Lay out the turf strip by strip and lay the strips tightly together i.e. without joints.

Laying rolled turf: the important points

If you want to lay your own rolled turf, you will probably need help, because a roll of turf with one square meter of fresh lawn carpet weighs about 15 to 20 kilograms. Depending on the size of the area, you will therefore have to move tons.

Laying the rolled turf is a bit like wallpapering, as you have to roll out one strip at a time, without leaving joints between the individual strips. Ideally, you should have the lawn rolls set out where you want to start laying them.

Start at a straight edge and avoid cross joints by laying the rolls of each strip slightly offset in relation to the previous one. You can use a sturdy bread knife to easily cut off overlaps and adapt the lawn to the shape of your garden.

To avoid footprints, you can lay boards on the turf you have already laid. Finally, carefully roll the area so that the lawn is in good contact with the soil. To do this, move across the surface length- and widthwise.

A man can be seen cutting off protruding edges when laying rolled turf.

Protruding grass at the edges can easily be removed with a sharp knife.

After laying: rolled turf maintenance

You can start maintaining your lawn even after a short time. As with sown grass, it is necessary to water, mow, fertilize and scarify the area regularly.

Step 1: watering

If the rolled turf doesn’t seem to be growing well after laying, and gaps start to form, the cause in most cases is insufficient watering. Once on the ground, your turf requires at least 20 liters of water per square meter every day to ensure that it will bond with your soil.

Make sure that the turf receives this amount of water every day, and preferably in one go. Extensive watering can take two to three hours, depending on the water pressure. The best time for watering is – as for any lawn – usually the evening.

About ten to 14 days after laying, the roots of the turf should have adhered to the substrate. At this stage, you can gradually reduce the amount of watering, even in cool and humid weather. After about six weeks the lawn should be rooted. Then you can reduce watering to once or twice a week.

Step 2: mowing

Once the lawn has reached a height of about six to eight centimeters, you can mow it for the first time. In the summer, this may only take a week. Shorten the lawn to about four centimeters. You can allow one or two centimeters more in shady areas.

Tip: if you want to maintain your new rolled lawn with a mowing robot, it’s advisable to position the perimeter wire just before laying out the lawn rolls – this will make it invisible under the turf right from the start.

Step 3: fertilizing

Rolled turf should also be fertilized twice a year if possible – in the spring and fall. If your lawn is subjected to heavy use, you should fertilize in the summer as well. You don’t need a special fertilizer for rolled turf, regular commercial lawn fertilizer is sufficient.

When fertilizing in the spring and summer, in principle even rolled turf requires a mineral mix with a high nitrogen content for strong growth and phosphorus for a radiant green color. The fertilizer used in the fall should have a high potassium content to prepare the turf for winter frost. You can fertilize your lawn for the first time after four to six weeks.

But watch out: if you give the turf mineral fertilizer too soon, this often leads to extensive burns, as the concentration of nutrient salts in the sod will be too high. As a result, it’s best to ask the supplier when and how you should fertilize your new rolled turf in the first year.

Step 4: scarifying

Don’t forget: even with rolled turf, the sod will develop thatch and moss over time. This is due partly to leftover cuttings and partly to flat-growing weeds. Both of these factors make it difficult to supply water, nutrients and oxygen to the lawn, which in turn will impair its growth and resistance, so proper lawn maintenance is important.

A scarifier loosens the thatch with knives that score the soil to a depth of three to five centimeters. You can then remove the loosened thatch with a rake. In general, you can scarify twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

Advantages of rolled turf: fast and robust

The main advantage of rolled turf is that you can use it quickly. You can walk on rolled turf about two to four weeks after laying it, while sown grass does not become fully resilient until a year later. High-quality rolled turf is free of weeds, the grass is dense and there are no damaged areas.

Rolled turf is also slightly less sensitive to the weather and can cope with dry or cooler weather conditions more easily than young grass seedlings. This means that you are slightly more flexible in choosing when to lay a new lawn. You can do so in almost any season – except in winter and unless there is frost.

Another advantage is that the grass cover, which is dense and close from the start, makes it difficult for moss and weeds to find their way through. Weeds usually only have a chance at the edges and in the joints. This makes it particularly important to work carefully when laying the turf.

Two children are playing football on a lawn.

Rolled turf can bear loads after only a short time – whether you want to kick a ball, run around on it or have a barbecue.

Disadvantages of rolled turf: expensive and complex

The main disadvantage of rolled turf is that it’s expensive. Depending on the quantity (bulk discounts), type and quality, you will have to pay between 5 and 20 francs per square meter. If you have the lawn laid for you, there will be an additional cost for labor. This usually represents between 9 and 15 francs per square meter. However, good-quality lawn seeds are available for as little as 50 centimes per square meter.

If you collect the lawn yourself instead of having it delivered, you will save on delivery costs – but you will also need a suitable vehicle that can transport the heavy rolls. 100 square meters of turf has a total weight of about two tons. You may need to rent a suitable vehicle for this purpose and drive back and forth several times – so it’s worth comparing the cost of delivery and collection carefully.

Roll out the turf, water it, and that’s it? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. After all, the soil also needs to be well prepared for rolled turf. Digging or shaping, flattening and leveling, all of these tedious tasks that are necessary when you sow your own lawn are by no means eliminated when you choose rolled turf. And laying the turf is a painstaking business too.

Shady areas and patching material: additional tips

If part of your lawn is in full sun while other areas are covered by shade, you should choose different types of grass to make your lawn grow properly everywhere.
If you have a few rolls left over, you should lay them out elsewhere in the garden as a reserve – so you still have some patching material in case any corners of your new turf fail to grow well.

Conclusion: quickly done, but trickier than expected

Rolled turf is practical compared to sowing and tending to sensitive lawn seeds. However, you will still have to prepare ground to make sure the turf can grow well. In addition, laying is hard physical work, especially over large areas: for 50 square meters of lawn, the lawn rolls will weigh around one ton.

In addition, turf is about ten times more expensive than seed on its own. You will also have to allow for transport costs and the cost of an experienced gardener to have the work done by a specialist. But then you can be sure that the turf will be laid professionally and that your lawn will definitely be successful.

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