Building a new lawn

There can be a many reasons for wanting to construct a new lawn, maybe you prefer grass to a previous patio or maybe you just want to start from scratch on a neglected area.

What ever the reason the correct preparation and construction techniques will play a big part in the quality of your lawn in future years. There are many things to consider, does your site need draining, does it need leveling, or do you seed the area or use turf.

Preparing the site

The first step when building a new lawn is to inspect the area. If the area is located at a new building of house chances are there will be bricks, other building materials and general rubbish that will need clearing away. Remove any remaining vegetation including tree roots.

Alternatively if there is a lot of vegetation on the site it will need treating with a total weed killer such as glyphosate (Roundup). As with all chemicals it is important follow the manufacturers guideline.

Levelling the site for you new lawn

If your site is already level you may go to the next stage of this section. However if the site for your lawn is not even it will need levelling. It is worth noting that a slight fall on the site will help shed surface water, therefore help with the drainage on you new lawn.

If a minimum amount of levelling is required, it can easily be done with a shovel and a rake. However if the lawn needs major work to create a level it may be better to remove the top soil re-level the subsoil then replace the topsoil. If any drainage is required it is better to put the drainage in before replacing the top soil.

To obtain a level site, wooden pegs or stakes may be used at intervals all over the site. Place a straight board from peg to peg using a spirit level on top of the board to check the level. Do this process this over the whole site. The soil can then be built up to the same level as the pegs ensuring your site is level.

Draining the site

If your site is free draining you can skip this process. However if you have a heavy clay soil you may need to think about some kind of drainage. If you desire a luxury lawn then good drainage is a must.

The easiest way of draining your lawn is by creating a slight fall on the surface to encourage excess water to run off to a suitable location at the side of the lawn.

You can either incorporate a soak away or a catch water drainage system to remove any excess water. For more information on these drains please visit our drainage page.

Cultivating and preparing the site for seeding or turfing

It is important that you choose the right ground conditions for this task. The soil needs to be reasonable dry for this, working a wet soil can have an adverse effect on the soil structure.

The top soil should be dug over or cultivated to a depth of 150 – 200mm (6 – 8inches), however it is important not to dig into the subsoil so it mixes with the top soil. Ideally you need at least 150mm of top soil for your lawn. If you are lacking in top soil consider adding some to bring it up to the desired level. Remove any debris such as stones, vegetation and tree roots as you come across them.

You can also incorporate some peat or sand to improve water retention or help with the drainage depending on the physical make of the top soil. A spade or fork should be used for this task, however a mechanical rotavator can be used for larger areas.

Once this process is complete you can then go ahead and create a surface for seeding or turfing. This stage involves heeling and raking the surface to create a fine tilth for the seed or turf. Firm the whole area by pressing you heels into the ground (heeling). This firms the soil which will eliminate any air pockets therefore stopping any sink age in the future. Then rake the surface removing any large clods or stones as you do this. These two exercises (heeling and raking) can be repeated 3 or 4 times until a satisfactory (level & firm) surface is created.

Pre-seeding or pre-turfing fertiliser application

A pre-seeding or pre-turfing fertiliser can be applied to the surface of the soil and lightly raked in before seeding or turfing. A pre seeding/turfing fertiliser similar to a 7.7.7 (NPK) fertiliser will be ideal for this, apply at the manufactures rate for best results.

Seed or turf your new lawn

When you have completed all of the previous stages it is time to either seed or turf your new lawn, both methods have their advantages & disadvantages. Some of these are outlined in the table below.



It takes longer for seed to establish and is more dependant on the weather for successful establishment.Turf is quicker to establish, a lawn which is laid in the autumn/winter should be established by the following spring.
Smaller time frame for sowing seed, although seed can be sown anytime during the growing season, Late August – Early September is the ideal time as the ground is warm and there is less chance of a drought.Although October – February is the ideal time for turfing, it can be laid at any time including the summer as long as it receives adequate irrigation.
Less cost, seeding is a lot less expensive than turf.It is more expensive to purchase turf than to purchase seed.
More aftercare is required for a seeded lawn, there is also more risk with problems such as weeds, disease, birds and poor weather conditions.Very little aftercare in the short term is required after the turf has been laid.
Choose your own grasses for you lawn. You can pick the grasses that will perform well with your soil type and soil conditionsYou are more limited with grass selection as you are tied to what your supplier has to offer which may not be ideal for your soil type.

Oliver Thompson
Lawn Care Expert

About Oliver: Oliver Thompson, a seasoned lawn care expert from the Cotswolds with over two decades of experience, invites all enthusiasts to join him in exploring the world of lawns, sharing knowledge, and fostering a vibrant community of lawn enthusiasts. More info

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