The quickest way to achieve a beautiful lawn is to lay sod, but if your money is to be well spent, take time to prepare your site a month or two beforehand. Here's how to do it.
Buy your turf from a specialist supplier and, if possible, inspect it before purchasing to ensure that it's weed- and disease-free. Reject turf with patches of yellow or dying grass. Your choice of sod will generally be limited to high-quality grass for formal lawns, and hardwearing utility turf for walkways and play areas. Turf shouldn't be stored for long, so agree on a delivery date with your supplier that allows you to lay it immediately.
When to Start: Early fall or early spring
At Its Best: All year round
Time to Complete: 1 day to prepare; 1 day to lay turf
Two months before the turf arrives, weed the site thoroughly. Dig 4 inches of organic matter into the soil. Level with a rake. Tread over the soil on your heels in one direction, and repeat at right angles in the other direction.
Remove stones and debris from the site, and leave for five weeks for the soil to settle. Weed the site again and apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer at the recommended rate. Make sure the soil is moist, not wet, before laying. Place the first piece of turf at one edge, and tamp it down with the back of a rake.
Create a tight seam between pieces by butting them together so they almost overlap and then pressing the crease down firmly with your thumbs. Continue to lay the pieces in rows, and stagger the joints, like a brick wall. Stand on a plank of wood to protect the turf you have already laid.
Don't use small pieces at the edge of the lawn because they will dry out quickly and shrink. Instead, lay them in the middle of the site. Scatter sandy loam, made from topsoil mixed with horticultural sand, into the joints and brush it into the turf to fill any gaps. Water well, and water the lawn in dry spells during the first growing season.
Use a hose or rope to create a guide for a curved lawn, and with a half-moon grass cutter or sharp spade cut around your template. For a straight edge, stretch some string between two pegs pushed into the soil at each end.