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Turfing & Seeding

Turf versus seed, the pros and cons of turf or seed for making a new quality lawn.

In Autumn and Spring thoughts turn to lawns. Whether you’re starting a new lawn from scratch or adding to an existing one, you face the same dilemma. Should you opt for the quick fix of turf or take your time and grow it from seed? Both require the same preparation. Both require digging over either by hand or a rotavator. The area needs to be graded out and firmed with the addition of top soil if required. Certainly finer preparation is required for seeding, but both require a good free draining tilth for creating a decent lawn. Which? Gardening took two identical areas that had previously been set up as typical small gardens (about 36 sq yd). Each featured a central path and was surrounded by fences and hedges. The soil in both gardens was cleared and prepared, then one was seeded and the other turfed. The progress of both lawns was monitored for two months, with both patches mowed when necessary.

Laying turf

Arguments for: Once you’ve laid it, watered it and trimmed the edges turf looks good straight away, the joints knit together and you can sit on it after a week or so. Cutting and fitting turf is a very satisfying job.

Against: Expense. Top-quality turf costs £130 for 36 sq yd – in this case Rolawn , which is available nationally and delivered to your door. You may find good quality turf locally for less. The rolls of turf are fairly heavy and awkward to move – worth bearing in mind if access to your garden is restricted. Laying turf is more labour intensive than seed.

Buying tips: When choosing turf, unroll a few turves and check the quality. Turves should be even thickness, and between ½in and ¾in thick. The grass should be dense and mid to dark green with no yellow or brown patches. The turves should hold together when lifted carefully and the underside should be moist. Reject any poor quality turf that is dry or shrivelled, looks diseased or contains weeds.

Sowing seed

Arguments for: By far the cheaper option. Using a Best Buy grass seed cost just £14 for 2kg, with some left over for over-seeding gaps later. And once the ground had been prepared, it was quick and easy to sow. It took about 10 minutes to sow and rake in.

Against: Seed was sown in mid-May. Although the first shoots appeared quickly it takes six weeks and several cuts before it begins to resemble a turfed lawn.

To prevent the local wildlife helping themselves to the seed, the area has to be netted after seeding, which is another hassle. It takes six weeks for the lawn to bind together before you can cut the edges and also have to reseed any sparse patches.

It is much easier for weeds to invade the seeded lawn than when you use turf, given that there are always a few bare patches.

The verdict

If you have a small area and a bit of money to spare, turf is the quickest and easiest option. For larger areas seed is much cheaper, but be prepared to wait before you can use your lawn. Watering is essential for the first few weeks. Turf dries up very quickly in dry and windy conditions. The turf can shrink and take time to recover. The joints may need dressing with a soil/seed mix. Seeded areas need water too, but it isn’t so critical. Water well twice a day for both turf and seed is advised. If you are due away on holiday, wait until you return before you seed or turf. It’s critical to look after the freshly seeded or turfed area for a few weeks.