To Turf or To Seed - Knowledgebase Question

London, En
Avatar for jeremy75
Question by jeremy75
February 27, 1998
I have recently bought a new flat in London and the lawn is OK, not too great in places. There is a bump in the middle of the lawn and I think it causes drainage problems that mean the turf around the edges of the garden does not grow well. Also, the soil is not very good, and there are lots of weeds.

It will only cost me about $500 to returf the whole garden with sod (about 120sq metres) - is it worth the effort to dig up the exiting grass and flatten out the whole thing, or should I just seed it (I can live with the bump - I don't want a cricket pitch).

Answer from NGA
February 27, 1998
You have several options, and it's up to you how much you want to spend. I'm afraid that if you have very poor soil, even new sod won't last too long. Also, it too may be affected by your drainage problems.

From the pictures it looks like you have fairly dense shade--which will make it difficult to have a lush lawn. (Actually, in the pictures it doesn't look too bad to me!) Have you considered other options, like creating some garden areas with shade-loving shrubs and perennials? Rather than spend lots of time and money fixing and maintaining a lawn, you might consider an expanse of a shade-tolerant ground cover like Ajuga, with areas of flowering perennials.

Back to the lawn: In the past, when I worked as a landscaper, on a few occasions we encountered a problem similar to yours. We tilled the entire area, adding soil amendments as necessary (including organic matter--compost, well-rotted manure--and lime if necessary to raise pH). If possible, have your soil tested to determine the pH and nutrient levels. Is there a department of agriculture that could direct you to soil testing services?

Once the area was tilled and smoothed out with a rake, we brought in a truckload or two of topsoil and spread it thinly over theentire area, filling in the low spots; we then graded the area to a slight incline for good drainage. Finally, we spread grass seed, rolled the area to compress the soil surface, and lightly covered the area with hay to keep birds from eating all the seed.

The newly-amended soil plus the top layer of good topsoil provided the grass with a good base from which to grow. This method will take longer to produce a lush lawn than laying sod, but I think it will produce good results, and may even last longer.

You might even consider planting one of the newer dwarf lawn grasses, because they require less maintenance--less frequent mowing and fertilizing. You might seek out the advice of a landscape contractor, to get an idea of your other optionsand costs. Again, the amount of sun/shade and type of soil will impact the results.

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