Gardening Journal – Entry 10

Monday 26 October 2020

I’m finally back! After a week off work due to COVID symptoms (the test came back negative, don’t worry) and being without a working laptop for three weeks, here is another Gardening Journal entry.

A lot has changed in the past four weeks. Spaces that were once a lush mass of green have an added depth as the russet, gold and crimson foliage reminds us of the beautiful variety of plants all growing together. On a more somber note, the clocks have gone back, making the morning commute into work a little less miserable. However, the change has stolen away our evenings somewhat. I’m still getting used to going to sleep at what feels like 11pm. I don’t even know if the clock changes help us, really, but that’s a different post for a different day.

This week we are without supervisor and although we had a plant to work to involving some lawn cutting and shadowing a senior gardener, all that flew out of the window when some turf arrived to finish a lawn. We had started working on it almost two weeks ago, however, we came short due to heavy rainfall damaging some of the turves. So off we popped with a van-load of turves and enough tools to sink a ship.

To lay turf you need:

  • Broom – for sweeping the area before and after the job (particularly in autumn and winter when there are always fallen leaves everywhere)
  • Large rubber rake – for removing fallen leaves and debris from the soil before laying turf
  • Wheelbarrow – to carry said tools, as well as to move the heavy turves without injuring your back
  • Flat-head garden rake – to tamp down the turves after you’ve laid them
  • Clappers – to pick up swept leaves
  • Scaffolding boards – to distribute your weight when standing on laid turf
  • Half-moon – to slice through turf when you need to cut it
  • Edging shears (this will make them blunt, so always use a dedicated pair for turfing) – to cut through the turf if the half-moon won’t do
  • Loads of green bags – for the leaves, debris and turf offcuts

The first step in any turfing job is to measure out the area. As the standard size for turves is 1m² (2m x 0.5m), you simply need to buy as many turves as the size of the site. For example, in the area we were finishing off, it measured approximately 9m by 2m. We counted the turves we used for this project and the total came to 18 turves, excluding offcuts.

The next step is to decide where to begin working. The two most important things to consider are how you can use the turves efficiently to reduce as much waste as possible and how you can avoid leaving smaller pieces on the perimeter of the space. Smaller pieces on the edge of the area are more likely to dry out and possibly go brown or die off entirely.

My method is to work from the outside in, as this guarantees that the edge will have enough large pieces to keep it moist. We were working on a slightly awkward space, which had a couple of jutting spaces and was not completely parallel. While I laid out the turf on the far edge, Laurence worked on the inner strip.

The edge usually takes quite a lot longer to lay out, as it needs to be as straight as possible. This can often mean re-rolling the turf and repositioning, as the turves as so heavy that any tugging or pulling can tear, stretch or weaken it. Once the first pieces is correctly positions, the second can be lined up at the end. The idea is to work in one direction and weave your way up and down the site, as this will create the striped effect usually achieved using a mower with a mower roller.

All the edges of each turf (except the side on the perimeter of the site) have to be ‘knitted together’. This involved getting the turves close enough together that there is a slight overlap. Then you can lift the two pieces and effectively drop them into a perfect, joined position. This can then be tamped in either by giving the seam a good punch or using the flat-head garden rake to smack it in. Needless to say, laying turf is a good outlet for anger and frustration.

Sometimes the turf will need to be cut once you get to the end of the strip. This can be achieved through laying a scaffolding board along the line you want to cut and using a half moon to slice along it, creating a clean, precise line. For trickier areas, it may be necessary to use the edging shears.

As the site was not parallel, the final strip in the middle became wider and wider towards one end. After a certain point, the distance was too wide or the turves to fit in lengthways. As such, as I turned them to the sides and lay them that way, making sure the longest piece was laid on the edge, to it wouldn’t dry out.

The end result was something we were very proud with, especially as it was only the second time we had ever done it! All newly laid turf looks a little like a patchwork, but in a week or two it will look lush and the seams between individual turves will begin to disappear.