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Will New Turf Grow Successfully Over an Old Turf Lawn?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 18 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Turf Lawn New Lawn Site Site Preparation

Q.

I have been told that it is okay to install a new turf lawn over what remains of an existing turf lawn. I understand that when the old lawn is covered with a soil/sand mixture and aerated that it will just break down and form a suitable foundation for the new turf to grow upon.

Our original turf lawn was installed about 18 years ago. It is now mostly moss with some exposed areas of soil. The winter was very wet and cold, causing some areas of grass to die off entilely. Will a new turf lawn bond properly and grow sucessfully on top of the old lawn underneath?

(B.C, 1 June 2009)

A.

The general agreement amongst gardeners seems to be that laying new turf over an existing lawn would be likely to cause problems with the new grass forming its proper root structure, but having said that, there are some remarkable success stories – admittedly mostly from the US – which suggest this method can work really rather well. I suppose the answer to your question depends on who it was who told you about the idea – and if it was a professional landscape gardener who’ll back his or her words with a proper guarantee of the work, then you have to be on to a winner!

For most new lawns, however, the traditional approach of preparing the site before you lay turf is almost certainly the right way to go.

Prepare The Site

The usual rule of thumb when it comes to any new lawn – seed or turf – is that for success you need to allow three months from the start of site preparation before laying or seeding to allow the soil to settle, and the first part of that involves getting down to bare earth. This can be a long and laborious job if you’re clearing rubble or tree stumps, but since you’re planning a “new” lawn where there’s already an old one, hopefully this stage will be limited to a little judicious use of weed-killer to see off the moss and perennial weeds.

Depending on how flat your existing site is, now is the ideal opportunity to grade the ground to remove any undulations, or lumps and bumps that exist. The new lawn doesn’t have to be spirit-level flat – a slight slope from one end to the other helps drainage – but it obviously shouldn’t look like a ploughed field!

If you do need to level the site, it’s better to buy in topsoil to make up the hollows rather than risk exposing subsoil by digging down the humps; if your topsoil layer is less than around 15cm (6 inches) thick, you’ll need to add material to provide a good bed for the new turf. Since you mention a lot of moss in your old lawn, it’s probably worth trying to improve the drainage too, as part of this process.

The ground needs to be dug over to a depth of 15-25cm (6-10 inches), the clods broken up and then, about a week or 10 days later, needs to be firmed up, either under foot or with a garden roller if the area is large enough to need one. Finally, a day or so before the turf is due to be laid, have a final check to make sure that everything is firm, level and that the top surface offers a good tilth to get the new lawn off to the best possible start.

Professional Advice

Good professional advice from someone with local knowledge and who has actually seen the site for themselves can often be the difference between success and failure when it comes to establishing a new lawn. If you haven’t already done so, it would be well worth making contact with someone reputable in your area who can give you some help – creating a lawn from turf can be a daunting prospect to undertake alone, particularly if the site does need a fair bit of preparation work to get it ready.

Best of luck with the new lawn.

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The laying of new turf on old turf compared to grass seed. Ok, in general I pay £2.50 for a m sq. my front garden is 5/4m so 20m sq. So £30 for new turf. Three times the cost of seed, BUT with turf you get the top soil as well all in a roll. Prep 1-spray existing lawn with a selective herbicide-weedol, kills any weed. 2-24 hours mow at lvl 1-shortest poss. 3-lay turf & use a sprinkler on it so it stays moist for about a week. Job done. You can walk on it straight away-but keep it light. So for £30 you get a fresh new lawn for the summer plus that top soil coat. Liquid feed after a few weeks. If you have any lumps or dips, then slice the lumps fill the dips. It's not rocket science. Although you would think it were with all the rubbish you read.
Mike - 18-May-17 @ 7:46 PM
I've tried for 3 years to grow an decent lawn-25sq metres- inherited when we moved in to this house. But there are two patches that refuse to grow! Strangely, they are in diametrically opposed corners. I've tried grass seed, grass seed and top cover. Is ripping the whole lot up and laying turf my only option? The wife has suggested artificial grass????
George - 18-Apr-16 @ 7:01 PM
I am intending to turf a small garden area for my son. At the moment it is tight packed pebbles. Can I just put topsoil over the existing ground,and then turf? Or should I remove thes pebbles completlyb.?
Riolobo - 26-Jul-13 @ 7:00 PM
I have heard this to be the best no fuss aproach from two landscape pro's and been told to remove the old thatch with the lawn mower( use old blades) method as best i can possibly all to avoid introducing desease and rotto the new lawn introduced.importantDo not use certain types of lawn spray fert on buffalo type lawns as this will kill them out as quick as it as laid, water well and cut high. Just about to perform the same op on my place.
rick - 8-Sep-12 @ 6:49 AM
Question. If I was to lay a new lawn on top of a an old lawn, would it be a good idea to lay a weed barrier or membrane over the old lawn before a put a layer of topsoil for the new lawn? Thanks Ross
Ross - 11-Aug-12 @ 7:28 AM
Read this very carefullyThis is the only way to replace an existing lawn that will not break your back and still give you the BEST lawn on the street. And I have pictures to prove itFunny how all the experts d t sem to know of this method, origionaly worked by my grandfather who landscaped in the Cleveland area a long time ago. My father has also used this method and has had his own landscape company since 1957First, cut your existing lawn on a fairly low setting, then kill the entire lawn with round upWait two weeksSecond, lay down the following all at the same timeA good quality seed, Pennington or Scott'sAlso apply a 12-12-12 fertilizer Also apply lime in pellet formThird water 10 minutes twice a day, morni g and eveningDo not apply any top dressing In 10 to 14 days you will have a show quality lawn. No kiddingBest time to do this. Mid to late September is best time to lay the seed downAnybody who second guesses this method is NUTS
Targa86guy - 18-May-12 @ 4:33 AM
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