Can I Lay Turf in Winter?
The answer is ‘yes, you can’. In Australia, turf can be laid all year around, provided you take some seasonal precautions.
In winter, the key thing to remember is that turf will take longer to establish – around four weeks, compared to about a fortnight in the warmer summer months. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent for anyone wanting to lay new turf. The most important things are good ground preparation and initial maintenance – both are essential to achieving a great lawn.
To prepare your site, make sure it’s level. Because your lawn will take longer to establish and will be slower growing in the cooler months, it could have lots of competition from weeds, which tend to thrive in any season, unfortunately. To avoid them, make sure your site is totally free of weeds before laying your new turf.
Once removed or treated, put down a coarse layer of sand, and then a layer of top quality soil. Your turf supplier will advise on these, and can also help answer other questions like how much turf you need, what type of lawn is best for you, tips for laying near existing turf, paths or garden features to ensure a level finish and laying areas that slope.
In winter, turf won’t dry out as quickly as it would in warmer months, but it’s still essential to get it down as quickly as possible after delivery, ideally on the day it arrives. Waiting too long to lay turf, even in cooler weather, will damage the turf and its potential to establish.
Winter turf maintenance
Once the lawn is laid, you need to water it daily, so it doesn’t dry out – this is as important in winter as it is in summer. Water the turf in the early morning or evening, just as in summer time. One way to gauge how much water is enough is to put an empty container on the lawn as you water. When this is filled to about 1cm deep, your lawn has had enough. A good dose of fertiliser like Seasol will give your new lawn a great start.
It’s also recommended that you protect your fresh lawn for at least four weeks because foot traffic, garden furniture and family pets can all damage the turf in its more fragile establishment phase. Wait four to six weeks before mowing your turf for the first time, to give the roots time to fully establish.
Frost vs watering
If frost is part of your region’s winter climate, it’s important to note that a light frost won’t kill your grass, but also that frost doesn’t count as ‘watering’. Because frost only sits on the top of the grass blades and evaporates from there, it doesn’t provide value to the root establishment process.
In the first critical weeks, water needs to penetrate to the soil below so the roots ‘bed in’ properly. Only after heavy rainfall can you let up on watering. The effect of rain can be deceptive, too. If you’re uncertain about whether a day’s showers has been enough to save you the job of hosing during your lawn’s establishment phase, check to see if the soil is wet after the rain has stopped.
Choose the right turf for your climate
In most residential areas of Australia, the top recommendation is for strong, high-colour grass like the Buffalo varieties. These are hearty and once established, they’re easy to maintain. Buffalo grows well in the shade too.
In hot and humid areas, Zoysia thrives, so it’s a good choice for Queenslanders and anyone living in the Northern Territory. Couch is also suitable for large, sunny areas and for this reasons it is the most popular choice for golf courses and sport fields.
In cooler climates, especially those with frost (New South Wales, Canberra and Victoria) Palmetto Buffalo is a good lawn choice because it tolerates frost well and keeps a bright colour in the cooler months.
There is no reason why you can’t lay turf in the winter. If you choose the right kind and nurture it properly, by the time the summer comes around, you’ll be enjoying the many benefits of a lush, healthy lawn.