Hints & Tips

The five steps for laying turf like a pro

By Steve Orme

Nothing transforms a property quite like new turf. Whether you’re putting the final touches on a renovation, replacing your tired old lawn with a brand new one or just patching up a troublesome area, a few strips of fresh turf can add the exclamation mark your home deserves. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist – or any other type of physicist for that matter – to lay turf. Just plonk it down, roll it out and voila, right? Well, sort of. Like most things in life, there are a few simple rules to follow to give yourself the best chance of success.

There are several factors that will determine the type of turf you choose to install. How much sun/shade does your lawn receive on an average day? Do you have children who will turn it into a cricket pitch or football field? Does Rufus the 50kg golden retriever think you are going to all this effort purely so he can have something new and different to dig up? And then there’s YOU. Are you committed to devoting a hefty chunk of your life to ensuring your new patch puts the local golf course or bowling green to shame? Or would you prefer to take a more hands-off approach and still have a lawn that’s the envy of your neighbours? Mother nature will also issue plenty of challenges to your newest pride and joy. Drought. A week or two of torrential rain. The dreaded army worm. Onion weed.

But regardless of which type of turf you ultimately select, the one thing you can control is how you do the job. So before you change your search to, ‘How to concrete my back yard’, keep reading and follow these five steps to laying a thriving lawn that will be the envy of your neighbours.

Step 1: Poison your existing lawn

If it’s there now, it WILL grow back later – guaranteed! No matter how much soil you remove or how many hours you spend on hands and knees extracting clover and all of its little weed cousins, it simply won’t work. It might take a month, or maybe a week, but your underground squatters – and many of their close relations – will return to ‘their’ home eventually.

The answer is to spray your existing lawn with Roundup, or a similar product, first. While there is still no guarantee a few sneaky weeds won’t take up residence at some stage, spending a few minutes now could potentially save you hours of frustration down the track.

What you will need:

  • At least one bottle of Roundup. Measure up your area first and check the container for quantity guide. 
  • One weed spray container. 
  • Dry conditions. If it rains 24 hours before you spray and/or 24 hours after, chances are the Roundup will be diluted and either won’t work at all or will be far less effective. 

Ace’s handy hints:

  • Allow up to two weeks for the existing lawn/weeds to die. 
  • Avoid spraying too close to plants, turf or the veggie patch, especially if it’s windy. If you think you missed the target, heavily water the area you inadvertently poisoned. 
  • Keep children and pets away from the sprayed area for 24-48 hours where possible. 

Step 2: Loosen existing soil

Once the poisoned area has turned yellow you are free to begin the installation process. A compacted sub-base is one of the most common reasons new lawns fail. Most varieties of turf these days are extremely resilient and can cope with the multitude of issues life presents. But if the soil it is laid on is rock hard it will either never take root or, at best, will suffer from major drainage issues.

The answer is to loosen up the existing soil to a depth of at least 10 centimetres. How you achieve this unglamorous goal depends on both the size of your area and your physical capabilities. There are two methods to choose from:

1. If you’re feeling strong and the area is less than 20m², attacking it manually with a maddock is an option. Simply start at one end and strike the soil in a downward motion until the entire area is loose underfoot.

2. If your yard is on the larger side, do yourself a favour and hire a rotary hoe (a walk-behind, petrol-powered plough) to do the job. All of the major hire companies carry rotary hoes. This is the most effective method for loosening soil and will preserve the valuable energy you’ll need for steps three and four.

What you will need:

  • Rotary hoe (optional) 
  • Maddock 
  • Protective eyeware and earmuffs (if using a rotary hoe). 
  • Gardening gloves 

Ace’s handy hints:

  • Even if you use a rotary hoe make sure you pick around the edges of the area. The machine won’t go right up to the edge of walls, paths or garden edges.

Step 3: Clear away dead grass and add new soil

Once the sub-base has been loosened you will be left with a mix of dead grass, soil and any other debris that was lurking beneath the surface. Use a rake to roughly level out the soil and remove as much dead grass and unwanted debris as possible.

Next, start adding the new soil. Begin by dumping half-wheelbarrow loads, starting from the furthest corner, at two-metre intervals. Spread out the first few piles using a rake, making sure to achieve a 5cm coverage. Continue until the entire area has been covered. Use a soil leveller for the best results.

What you will need:

  • At least one wheel barrow 
  • Shovel (preferably a long-handled square mouth), rake and soil leveller. 
  • Quality organic turf underlay soil 

Ace’s handy hints:

  • If you are aiming to add 5cm of new soil, work on the premise that one cubic metre of underlay will cover approximately 20m². Therefore, you would need 5m³ to cover a lawn that is 100m². 
  • If you are receiving a delivery of soil from a supply company, ask the driver to dump your soil as close to the work zone as possible to avoid unnecessary effort. 

Step 4: Roll out your new turf

Congratulations, you’ve reached the glory stage. Let the transformation begin!

Start in the far corner and roll out the first strip as close as possible to the garden edging, path or retaining wall that frames your yard. Continue rolling out the remainder of your turf towards the shortest end until the entire area is covered. Cut excess pieces with garden sheers or the sharp end of a shovel and use off-cuts to fill any gaps in your new masterpiece.

What you will need:

  • Fresh turf 
  • Wheelbarrow 
  • Garden gloves 
  • Garden sheers or shovel 

Ace handy hints:

  • Lay a border piece of turf around the edge of the entire area 
  • Start at the furthest point at work back towards your pile of turf. It is better to walk on your soil than your brand new turf. 
  • Level out any footprints in your soil before rolling out your turf. 
  • Always lay towards the shortest end of the yard to reduce the amount of cutting-in you will need to do. 
  • Avoid gaps, all turf should be touching the piece next to it. 
  • If you are laying on a steep hill, consider laying across the slope to lessen the chance of movement. 
  • Avoid using strips smaller than 30cm when patching. 
  • Keep foot traffic to a minimum for the next 4-6 weeks where possible. 

Step 5: Watering your new lawn

The hard work might be over but the job isn’t finished … don’t worry, no shovels required for this part. This is hardly breaking news but your new turf will need water to survive. The most effective method is to saturate the entire lawn every second day for the first month. A common mistake is to water daily, which can cause the roots to rot over time. Allow the roots to dry out in between watering for the best results.

Ace’s handy tips:

  • If using a sprinkler, place an empty ice cream container in the landing zone. Once the container is full move the sprinkler to the next location. 
  • If it rains the day you are scheduled to water then take the day off. A light sprinkle doesn’t count though. 
  • Be especially careful not to over water in shady areas. If the soil still appears wet, give it another day to dry out before soaking. 
  • Avoid watering in the heat of the day, early morning or evening is far more effective. 

So what next? Before you get your hands dirty you’ll need to choose which turf is the right one for your property and what other materials are required to get the job done. Check out our ‘Hints & Tips’ section to help you sort through the multitude of turf varieties on the market. The team at Ace Landscapes is happy to answer any other questions you may have and we strongly recommend making the effort to get a first-hand look at the different options before making your final decision.

Which turf is the right one for you?

By Steve Orme

So you’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and invest in some new turf. You fire up Google confident you’ll have it all sorted out in under five minutes. How hard can it be? Grass is green. It’s all the same, isn’t it? Well, um, no! Reality quickly sets in as the words Sir Walter, Sapphire, Kikuyu and Matilda ricochet around your screen (actually, that’s your head spinning). You read on, bravely, only to become mired in endless guff about leaf size and shade tolerance.

Before you decide synthetic grass is a much better option, stick with it, we’re here to help. There are more turf varieties on the market than ever before and cutting through the noise to find the right one for you can be difficult. But if you take a systematic approach and ask the right questions, you can’t go wrong.

While there are a multitude of turf varieties to choose from, factors that are out of your control could cut your options down to one. Alternatively, all varieties could remain on the table for you, leaving you to agonise over which shade of green you prefer. The questions that need to be answered can be broken down into the following five categories:

  • Shade tolerance 
  • Wear and tear 
  • Mowing requirements 
  • Other maintenance requirements 
  • Appearance (leaf structure / shades of green) 

Ask and answer these questions in the order listed below to find the right turf for you.

1. How many hours of shade will my lawn receive on an average day?

Before you fall in love with the turf of your dreams, only to find out you don’t get enough sun for it to survive more than a few weeks, answer this all-important question. All varieties will tolerate full sun, but only a few can survive in heavy shade. Kikuyu and most types of couch will need 70 percent sun on an average day, therefore they are not suitable for high-shade conditions. As a general rule buffalo performs better in shade, but some varieties are more shade tolerant than others. Check out the guide below to narrow down your options.

Note: 20-30 percent shade means your yard receives approximately six to seven hours of direct sun on an average day. If your garden only receives two-to-three hours of sun on a normal day, choose a turf that is capable of handling 70 percent shade or more.

  • Zero shade:             Kikuyu, Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Windsor Couch, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo. 
  • 20-30% shade:        Kikuyu, Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Windsor Couch, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo.
  • 50% shade:             Windsor Green Couch, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo. 
  • 70% shade:             Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, ST 85 Buffalo, ST 91 Buffalo. 
  • 85% shade:            ST 85 Buffalo, ST 91 Buffalo. 
  • 91% shade:             ST91 Buffalo. 

2. How much traffic will my lawn need to deal with on an average day?

This is not an exact science but let’s break it down into three categories of traffic – Minimal, moderate and heavy traffic.

If a daily trip to the clothesline is about as hectic as life gets in your backyard, you qualify as having minimal traffic. If you have a small-medium dog and kids who play the occasional game of cricket or soccer in the backyard, let’s call that moderate traffic. If your yard will play host to daily games of cricket or soccer and you have a dog who tries to tunnel his or her way out on a daily basis, you’ll need a turf that can handle HEAVY traffic – but you probably already knew that!

  • Minimal traffic:         Kikuyu, Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Windsor Couch, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo. 
  • Moderate traffic:       Kikuyu, Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo. 
  • Heavy traffic:           Kikuyu, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto                                      Buffalo. 

3. How often will I need to mow my lawn in the warmer months? 

Factors such as temperature and rainfall will obviously affect how fast your grass will grow, no matter which type you select, but certain varieties do grow faster than others. We’ve grouped all varieties into three categories of growth – slow, medium and rapid. Slow growing means your lawn will need to be mowed approximately every two-to-three weeks in summer. Medium varieties need a trim every 10-days-to-two weeks, while rapid growers need a haircut every week in the warmer months.

  • Slow growing:          Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Windsor Couch. 
  • Medium growth:       Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster), Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo. 
  • Rapid growth:          Kikuyu. Sir Walter Buffalo (doesn’t grow as fast as Kikuyu but is the fastest grower of the buffalo family). 

Note: While couch is slow growing, if you want your lawn looking like a golf course or bowling green you will need to mow at least once a week. See maintenance requirements below.

4. What other maintenance will my lawn require?

Let’s define this as the amount of time you’ll need to devote to have a lawn you can be proud of. All types of turf need the same amount of love in the first six weeks, but once they are established the requirements can differ greatly. This is just a general guide as conditions specific to your property can affect how much effort you’ll need to put in, but we’ve broken it down into three categories: Low, medium and high maintenance.

Low maintenance means the only love your lawn will need is to be mowed, it’ll take care of the rest under normal circumstances. Turfs in the medium category are like teenagers, they like to be fed but can otherwise look after themselves most of the time. You may need to top dress or fertilize it once a year and water occasionally, but that’s about it. Those in the high maintenance category will require regular mowing, rolling and top dressing.

  • Low maintenance:     Kikuyu, Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster). 
  • Medium:                      Sir Walter Buffalo, Sapphire Buffalo, Matilda Buffalo, Palmetto Buffalo, ST85 Buffalo, ST91 Buffalo. 
  • High:                            Wintergreen Couch, Greenleas Park Couch, Santa Anna Couch, Windsor Couch. 

5. Which turf looks the best?

If you’ve made it this far then you have a choice between at least two different types of turf. While the first four questions essentially answer themselves, you actually get a say in this one. Your previous answers will determine how many options you have left to choose from but ultimately this answer is all about looks and personal taste. Do you like a fine couch leaf? Is a broad leaf buffalo more your style?

Check out our turf page for full descriptions and characteristics and don’t hesitate to contact the team at Ace Landscapes if you have any further questions. And if you haven’t done so already, we strongly recommend making the effort to check out your options in person.

 

 

Which soft leaf buffalo should I choose and why?

By Steve Orme

The emergence of a new generation of soft leaf buffalo varieties has revolutionised the turf industry in Australia over the past decade. That coarse, itchy old buffalo grass you remember from your childhood (millennials excluded) is long gone, replaced by a band of brash upstarts. There are similarities between each of the varieties on the market and even the experts need to look twice to tell the difference between some of these buffalo siblings. But there are differences which MUST be considered before choosing which lawn is the best fit for your yard.

Answering the question, ‘Which soft leaf buffalo is the best?’ is a minefield because there are so many variables at play. How much sun do you get on an average day? How much wear and tear will your lawn be subjected to? What do you like the look of? How often do you want to get the mower out? Each buffalo variety has its own unique characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. Unless you live in a cave and therefore get less than one hour of direct sunlight on an average day, there is a soft leaf buffalo on the market to suit your needs. You just have to find it.

With so many options to choose from it can be an overwhelming decision, but we’re here to help. Let’s have an in-depth look at each member of the extended buffalo family to help you pick the right one for you.

Sir Walter Buffalo (DNA Certified) – AKA: The Rockstar.

Sir Walter is the rock star of the extended buffalo family. A child of the mid 90s, officially released in 1997, Sir Walter raised the bar for the rest of the turf industry. Soft underfoot but hardwearing. Easy on the eye and stays green all year round. Low maintenance, 70 percent shade tolerant. Strong weed and disease resistance – there isn’t much that Sir Walter can’t do. Like all rockstars, Sir Walter has a healthy ego and requires anyone who sells him to be a Sir Walter DNA Certified Lawn Turf Supplier.  But Wally, as he’s known within the buffalo family, lives up to the hype.

Appearance:               Traditional broad leaf, dark green.

Shade Tolerance:       70 percent – needs approximately two-to-three hours of direct sunlight on an average day.

Traffic Tolerance:      Hard wearing. Some of its siblings have a slight edge in this category but Sir Walter is no shrinking violet and is strong enough to handle medium to high levels of foot traffic.

Growth rate:               Rapid. Sir Walter is the fastest growing buffalo turf, especially in full sun. In summer you may need to mow it as often as once a week.

Drought tolerance:    Medium drought tolerance.

Why buy Sir Walter?: If you’re in the market for a premium soft leaf buffalo that will look great all year round with a minimum of maintenance, it’s hard to go past a proven performer like Sir Walter.

Why not Sir Walter?  If you get more than 70 percent shade this is not the turf for you. As mentioned above, Sir Walter can grow rapidly in full sun so if mowing isn’t your thing that’s something to consider.

Sapphire Buffalo – AKA: The all-rounder

Sapphire is younger than Sir Walter, having come onto the market in 2002, but thoroughly deserves its reputation as one of the better premium buffalo options. It matches Sir Walter in terms of shade tolerance, is extremely hard wearing and keeps its colour all year round.

Appearance:              Deep green, miniature leaf. Sapphire actually has a broad leaf but has the appearance of a miniature buffalo when mature because the leaf folds itself. In terms of colour, it has been engineered to have a slightly blue hue (hence the name) but in most cases your Sapphire lawn will have a deep green appearance.

Shade Tolerance:      70 percent. Sapphire needs two-to-three hours of direct sunlight on an average day.

Traffic tolerance:      Sapphire is the most hard-wearing of the premium buffalo breeds (outdoing Sir Walter, Palmetto, Matilda) thanks to its deep root system.

Growth rate:              Medium. Sapphire is one of the slower growing buffalo varieties. It will need mowing every two-to-three weeks in the warmer months.

Drought tolerance:    Medium drought tolerance.

Why Sapphire?          If you want a hard-wearing turf that handles up to 70 percent shade with a thinner leaf and deep green appearance, Sapphire is a very  solid choice.

Why not Sapphire?   Sapphire really has no weaknesses. The only reason we can think of is if you don’t like the look of it as much as another option.

Matilda Buffalo – AKA: The rising star

Matilda is a relative newcomer to the market. It is a half-brother of Sir Walter, having been bred from Shademaster Buffalo. It is almost identical to Sir Walter and Sapphire in terms of shade tolerance and strength. It stays green all year round but is a miniature or ‘dwarf’ variety, meaning its stem and leaf are thinner. Matilda is already starting to turn heads and appears to be able to hold its own against any of the more established soft leaf buffalo brands.

Appearance:                Deep green, miniature leaf.

Shade Tolerance:        70 percent. Matilda needs approximately two-to-three hours of direct sunlight on an average day.

Traffic tolerance:        Hard wearing. Suitable for areas that receive medium-to-high levels of traffic.

Growth rate:                Medium-fast. Matilda falls on the faster side in terms of growth. If living in full sun in the warmer months it may need a trim every 10 days.

Drought tolerance:     Medium drought tolerance.

Why choose Matilda? It might be a rookie but Matilda looks good, can handle high traffic, 70 percent shade and stays green all-year round.

Why not Matilda?      All the signs point to Matilda being the equal of the more established brands, but it is still early days for the youngest member of the buffalo family. There have been some reports Matilda is susceptible to heavy thatching, which is cause for some concern.

Palmetto Buffalo – AKA: The movie star

Palmetto is the family member with the movie star looks. Like most of its buffalo cousins, Palmetto is hard wearing and stays green in winter. It can handle 50 percent shade and looks great with a minimum of maintenance.

Appearance:              Dark green, traditional broad leaf.

Shade Tolerance:      50 percent. Palmetto needs approximately four-to-five hours of direct sunlight on an average day.

Traffic tolerance:       Hard wearing. Palmetto will handle almost everything you and your family can throw at it.

Growth rate:               Slow-medium. Palmetto is one of the slower growing buffalo varieties and will need a clip every two weeks in the warmer months.

Drought tolerance:    High drought tolerance.

Why Palmetto?           Because it’s slow growing, hard wearing and looks fantastic.

Why not Palmetto?    Palmetto only has one weakness but it’s a fairly big one – it only handles 50 percent shade.

Velvet Soft Leaf Buffalo (Shademaster) – AKA: The Original 

Shademaster is the original soft leaf buffalo. It remains the hardest-wearing buffalo on the market but and is still a popular seller.

Appearance:              Traditional broad leaf.

Shade Tolerance:      50 percent. Shademaster needs approximately four-to-five hours of direct sunlight on an average day.

Traffic tolerance:      Hard wearing. Shademaster can handle almost anything thrown its way.

Growth rate:               Medium.

Drought tolerance:    Medium drought tolerance.

Why Shademaster?   If you want a hard-wearing turf on a budget Shademaster is a solid choice.

Why not?                    Shademaster can only handle 50 percent shade and can turn a purple tinge in the colder months.

ST91 Buffalo – AKA: The Real Shademaster 

ST91 is the most shade-resistant buffalo and the best shade grass on the market. It is relatively hard wearing, fungus resistant and looks great. 

Appearance:              Miniature leaf. 

Shade Tolerance:      91 percent. ST91 is the most shade tolerant turf on the market. It can survive on as little as an hour’s sunlight a day.

Traffic tolerance:      Medium. ST91 can handle its fair share of traffic but there are harder-wearing brands on the market.

Growth rate:               Slow. If you’re laying ST91 in a sunny area it will bump up to medium in terms of growth. But if you’re putting it in a shady area it will need a clip approximately every three weeks.

Drought tolerance:   Medium drought tolerance.

Why choose ST91?   If you need a high-shade turf and/or like a miniature leaf buffalo.

Why not ST91?         If you prefer a broad leaf then ST91 might not be for you. It can also turn purple in the colder months.

ST85 Buffalo:

ST85 buffalo boasts the same features as ST91 but is only 85 percent shade tolerant. It is still available but has been largely superseded by ST91.

The team at Ace Landscapes is happy to answer any other questions you may have and we strongly recommend making the effort to get a first-hand look at the different options before making your final decision.

 

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