Laura's Backyard Renovation: And Then There was Grass

Renovation Diary

As temping as it was, we avoided using any small offcuts to fill in gaps, as the smaller pieces of turf will dry out and may die back.
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Name: Laura Watson
Type of Project: Outdoor renovation
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Type of building: Semi-detached shop front/cottage with 1200 sq. ft. backyard

The Renovation Diaries are a collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

There are two options for (real) grass – planting from seed or ordering ready to lay turf. There are also an increasing number of companies here offering ‘maintenance free lawn’, which absolutely drives me nuts. It should be illegal to advertise fake grass as lawn! I really can’t stand the stuff. Please people – plants not plastic!

This week we are tackling our very last task - laying turf! Finally time to get rid of this dust bowl!
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We wouldn’t even consider growing from seed – it just seems way too time consuming. So turf was the clear winner for us. The two biggest factors which we were worried about with regards to maintaining a healthy lawn in our yard were firstly shade tolerance, as our garden receives a lot of shade in the summer (not so much in winter as our tree is deciduous), and then hardiness – it has to be reasonably tough and fast growing to accommodate Rika! After doing some internet research we decided on a grass called Sir Walter Buffalo. It tolerates up to 70% shade, is considered a ‘medium wear’ lawn, and it was specifically developed under Australian conditions so it is capable of withstanding the intense summer heat.

We ordered our turf from The Turf Farm, who were really friendly and helpful. We calculated we would need 30.5m2, but as our lawn area is quite an irregular shape, we also estimated an extra 10% for cutting, bringing us up to approx. 33.5 m2. The price was $11.50 a square metre plus a $39 delivery fee, which is waived if you order 36m2 or more. To order 33.5m2 would have been $424.25 (including the delivery fee), or to order 36m2 was $414 since the delivery fee was waived, which seemed like the better option! We also purchased 4kg of grass fertiliser at an additional cost of $22.95, which is recommended to be used 6 weeks after laying the lawn.

We are improving the clay soil with gypsum, organic fertiliser, and good quality sandy topsoil.
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The process was super easy. We had already leveled the ground, but we needed to add gypsum and organic fertiliser to help break up the heavy clay soil which we have in our yard. We got everything delivered a few days prior so it was simply a matter of bringing everything in with the wheelbarrow, spreading the gypsum and fertiliser, then going over the area again to mix everything into the top layer. Lastly, we added a thin layer of sandy loam, which is the recommended base for turf as it is freely draining.

The first roll! Laying turf is really simple, just put it into position and roll it out like a carpet!
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The turf was delivered in long rolls, and we had to do was simply put them in position and roll them out. Although the process was very quick (from delivery time until we had laid all the turf was only about 3 hours), we found that we had to be more gentle as time went on because as the rolls dried out they became more fragile and would sometimes split from their own weight if we weren’t careful.

We shaped the rolls with a pair of super sharp secateurs.
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We cut the rolls to shape around the boundary with sharp secateurs, and we made sure as we were working that we really butted the edges of the rolls right up against one another. We also made sure that the joints of the rolls were staggered, like brick work, to distribute the joins which will dry out a bit and might turn brown.

We made sure all the edges were well butted up against each other using a metal post.
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We were told that it is important to avoid using the new lawn for 3-4 weeks after installation until it has established roots, which means no dogs or rough traffic! Luckily there is a walkway which runs the length of our house and has a gate, so although she will get a good run both in the morning and evening, unfortunately Rika will have to be kept fenced off from the lawn area while we are at work and unable to supervise!

Rika approves!
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This was such an exciting day for me! As we were laying the turf the whole feeling of the space changed — it’s a real back yard! With grass! It looked so beautiful when we were finished, Tommaso and I just lay on the grass, and I couldn’t stop running my hands across it!

We have now finished all the work we set out to achieve in our backyard and we couldn’t be happier with the result!

This is the last week of work for Laura's renovation! If you haven't already, check out the other posts in the series to get caught up — and stay tuned for the Big Reveal.

(Images and diary text: Laura Watson)

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