Depending on the condition of your site, you will need to work through the following procedures to prepare for planting.
Planning is essential. This includes calculating the quantity of turf you need, species selection, then variety selection and availability from your turf supplier. Turf can be delivered to your door, or some turf farms offer farm pick-up. Speak with your chosen turf supplier and it is advisable to order in advance.
If you have an existing turf surface, spray the existing grass and/or weeds using glyphosate (Roundup® or equivalent product) as per label recommendations to kill the existing ground cover. Wait a mimimum 7 days to ensure that the chemical has been absorbed and translocated through the plants to achieve a suitable kill. If times and patieance allows, apply a second total kill herbicide application. Ground preparation can commence 7 days after the final herbicide treatment.
If you have an existing and now dead grass surface, you may wish to hire a turf cutter to physically remove the grass from your site. This is desirable. Alternatively, the dead grass can be left in situ.
Remove any debris (including construction debris, scraps of timber, concrete, mortar, bricks, etc.), rocks and minor surface tree roots.
If you are a Queensland resident, be on the lookout for Red Imported Fire Ants during ground preparation works. Contact Biosecurity QLD if you think you have found fire ants, by calling 13 25 23.
Check the physical condition of the soil and surface contours of the ground. If effort is required to push a screwdriver into the ground, the soil may have a high clay content and/or the soil is compacted. Compaction is often caused by heavy soil-moving equipment and/or machinery, vehicles etc. which restricts root development of the grass and water infiltration. You should also identify any low or wet areas that require attention or drainage installed.
Gypsum or lime soil amendment may be added if required. Gypsum is used to improve soil structure, including drainage in clay soils and displace excess sodium from the soil. Gypsum does not alter soil pH. Lime should be used on acid (low soil pH) soils that are low in calcium. Lime also corrects acidity by raising the soil pH. The optimum soil pH for turfgrass is 6 to 7 on the scale of 1 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). If you're unsure of your soil's pH level, a simple soil test can be conducted.
Shape the ground to provide adequate surface water run-off and drainage, leaving the soil firm with no depressions or rough areas. Steep slopes (>20%) will only cause establishment and mowing/maintenance problems. A 3-5% slope is ideal for sloping ground. For erosion control, turf can be planted on slopes or batters with a gradient of up to 33.3% (DAF, no date). On slopes greater than 1 in 4, the turfgrass is to be pinned or pegged in place as per Australian Standard 5181:2017.
If the existing site soil is poor or non-existent (e.g. new home block), a suitable topsoil or turf underlay should be imported prior to turfing. AS 5181:2017 recommends a minimum 75 mm topsoil underlay be present prior to turfing. Note: spreading 1 cubic metre of soil across 10 square metres of ground will give a topsoil depth of 100 mm. Use only screened topsoil, preferably a sand blend, sandy loam soil or organic under turf mix and as a minimum. The imported topsoil should meet AS 4419:2018 as a minimum.
Your surface should now be reading for turfing or seeding. Please refer to the next steps listed on our planting page.
Water crystals, which can be made from cross-linked polyacrylamides, starch-and organic-based materials or water-absorbent foam material, are marketed as being able to improve soil water-holding capacity and/or enhance the establishment of newly-laid turf. Manufacturer recommendations vary from mixing the water crystals through the topsoil or turf underlay, to placing them on the soil surface prior to laying turf.
Research conducted by the Queensland Government (view report) concluded that the use of water crystals provided no benefit to turf establishment where the soil already has a good water holding capacity. Also, there was no evidence to indicate that the use of water crystals will aid the long-term water holding capacity of a good soil base.