The secret to any project is good preparation. Whether you are hanging wallpaper, icing a cake or writing a dissertation, poor preparation is reflected in the finished article and can be impossible to correct. 

So, when you’re creating a new lawn, it’s better to allow plenty of time to get the soil ready for your turf (or seed – the soil prep is the same)


  • Clear away any plants, weeds and debris
  • Dig or rotovate soil to at least 15cm deep
  • Improve soil texture or quality if necessary
  • Level the area
  • Firm the soil
  • Add pre-turfing fertiliser
  • Rake and level again
  • Lay your turf

Clear the area

Every last scrap of plant material needs to be taken off the lawn area.  Grass, plants, leaves, roots, twigs – everything.    You can do this with a garden spade or, if you have a large area, hire a mechanical turf cutter to save yourself time.

The old lawn can be composted down or taken to your local green waste centre.

If you prefer to use a systemic weedkiller (eg Roundup), leave the lawn for at least 3 weeks after you’ve applied it. It will take a while to kill the leaves and the roots.

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Dig it

Using a garden fork or a mechanical rotovator, dig the soil over and remove any bricks, stones, builders’ rubble or other debris.  As a rough guide, if a stone is bigger than a matchbox, it’s too big to be under your lawn.

You need to dig at least 15cm (6 inches) down – more if you possibly can.

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If there isn’t enough topsoil to get 15cm of loose soil – bring in some good quality soil from a reputable supplier.

Does your soil need improving?

At this stage, you can add soil improvers if you feel you need to.   If your garden soil is naturally sandy and doesn’t retain water for long, dig in some organic matter such as compost or very well-rotted manure.

If you have clay soil which is heavy, sticky and gets boggy in winter, incorporate some gravel to help with drainage and some organic matter to encourage worms to come along and aerate it for you.

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Level it

Now it’s time to rake the soil to break down any big lumps and to get a nice even surface.  You’re aiming to get a texture that looks a bit like the topping on an apple crumble.

It’s important to get rid of humps and hollows because you’ll find that they catch on the mower blades and you’ll be scalping the high areas of the lawn every time you cut it.

Firm it

There’s a funny little dance called the gardeners shuffle – that’s what you need to do next.  It can get a bit tedious on your own – so invite friends and family to join you in this one – trust me, it’s much more fun if you do.

How to prepare your soil for turfing | Turf Online

This garden has been prepared for turfing.  Note the texture of the soil, the lack of humps and hollows and the level.  The soil is approx 20mm below the level of the paving – that way the finished lawn will be the same height as the patio.

Criss-cross your soil, taking tiny steps so that you press every single bit of soil down.  Start off by going one way, then, when you’re finished, do it again the other way – just to make sure.

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Add pre-turfing feed

Your lawn area might look slightly lumpy right now, but don’t worry, we’ll put that right in a minute.  First you need to apply pre-turfing feed to the soil – follow the instructions on the pack.   This will help de-stress the grass plants after their journey from the turf field to your garden.  With the proper nutrients they’ll root in quickly and they’ll stay strong and healthy.

Rake it again

One final rake to incorporate the pre-turf fertiliser and to level the surface and bingo – you’re ready to measure up and order your new turf.

Helpful Links

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