Those with poor grass cover might be wondering: how much to returf a lawn? It's a question I found myself wondering too after a scorching hot summer and several hard frosts on a barely recovered rear garden.
It now resembled a battle lost in Middle Earth rather than the usual lush green blades my partner and I had enjoyed several summers ago. Winter die-back and grass thinning can be an ongoing problem for householders, especially those with children, pets, or sloping gardens. There are a number of routes you can take with your lawn ideas to give your grass a fresh burst of life, but is returfing your lawn the answer? And is it expensive?
I spoke to David Hedges Gower, the chairman of the Lawn Association, to get to the root of returfing when it comes to sorting out your patchy and tired old lawn.
How much to returf a lawn?
The cost to returf a lawn is around £17 to £25 a square metre for a standard grade of lawn grass (for instance this turf from Tradepoint). This amount includes both buying the turf and the cost to lay it.
“Buying turf is still deemed as cheap. Nowadays, turf suppliers use cheaper grass species to make it affordable to buy, so you can still buy rolls of ‘standard’ turf for anywhere between £2 to £5 per square metre," David Hedges Gower explains.
“However, the cost to lay turf is slightly different. Removing existing vegetation is hard work, as is the re-levelling of existing soil and of course, some soil levels may need to be added to as well.
“The cost to lay a new lawn can vary depending on varying factors so the cost to lay can end up being in the region of £15-20 per square metre.
“Generally, in the UK, there is a consistent grade of turf quality and species. There are one or two specialist turf suppliers who custom grow turf for the slightly higher-end market, so you do get what you pay for.”
David is one of the UK's leading lawn experts, with over 30 years' experience in the industry. He is Chairman of the Lawn Association, an educational platform for homeowners and professionals, and founded the world's first lawn care qualification.
When should I returf my lawn?
David says you can lay a lawn all year round – barring frost and snow – but the most favourable time is September to May because of the rainfall. Summer is fine but from June to August you may have to intervene with hosepipes.
“Simple logic will tell you that to lay turf in summer will require you to use a certain amount of water,” he says. Is that a wise use of water? "Well, that’s a different question, but allowing our natural rainfall to wet new turf is commonly done," David adds.
“Just be aware of future hosepipe bans. They may just catch you out.”
If you instead choose to go down the grass seed route (check out our guide on how to sow grass seed), the best time is in the spring or autumn.
“Of course. In fact, the warmer the better,” David says.”However, it comes down to how often you can water during that pre-germination process.
“And once you have germination you also have to consider how to water in order to help establish that seed. With water shortages a thing of the future for sure, using nature’s resources is useful.”
He adds that getting the perfect seeding times can be down to luck and clever judgement but the best times are March to May and September to October.
You can also take a look at the best time to scarify a lawn if that is a sensible option for your garden.
Can you returf over grass?
David: “People often ask whether this is a sensible thing to do, but let's debunk it.
“If your lawn has failed for whatever reason, do you honestly think it's down to the failing of the grass? Or do we think it may be the growing medium it's not surviving in?
“Grass is so easy to grow and when it fails it's simply down to a problem in where our grasses are growing.
“If a plant died in a pot, we would simply work out that the problem lies in the soil. Was it too dry? Did we over-water it and make the habitat not suitable for a healthy plant?
“Although you can throw turf down over old existing turf, you would have to ask yourself why you would put it down over something that had already failed?
“Correct the reason it failed in the first place and you won't need to consider it again.”
Where can I buy turf for returfing?
Whether you want to shop local or go online, there are plenty of options available to suit all budgets.
If you are buying online, be aware that a lot of turf is actually artificial (and more difficult to tell the difference in pictures than you might expect) so read the description carefully before buying it.
Otherwise, it's probably worth going down to your local garden centre, This way you can inspect the turf quality yourself and feel the grass type and whether it would be suitable for your garden design.
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.