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Why Do Some Rolls Of New Turf Perform Worse Than Others

Why Do Some Rolls Of New Turf Perform Worse Than Others

When laying a new lawn with roll-on turf from the turf farm we will sometimes see that as the new lawn is establishing itself over time - that an odd roll of turf can look brown or is noticeable as not performing as well as the majority of the new lawn. Something is slightly wrong with this single roll of turf, which in turn is slowing down its health and vigour when compared to the surrounding new lawn rolls.

The answer here is very simple, so lets get to it and discover the reason for this anomaly.

First Rule Out Other Potential Concerns

The number one reason why the edges of turf rolls, or larger patches which begin at the edges of turf rolls turn brown - is due to air pockets between the turf and the soil. One turf roll was pushed up too hard against the surrounding turf roll, and an area of turf loses contact with the soil. This creates an air pocket which then stops the new turf from setting down roots into the soil, as well as allowing the underbelly of the turf roll to dry out. This in turn will make the affected areas of new turf to go brown.

So first ensure there are no air pockets which are causing this problem.


We want to rule out soil problems which may be affecting the health of the new lawn. This is very easy to do. If the entire new lawn is in poor health - then we may have a problem with our soil, or otherwise with the watering of the new lawn.

If the entire new lawn is looking in poor health - then the problem lay elsewhere in the care and maintenance or soil conditions of the new turf.

The Turf Farm and The Turf Cutting Machine

If we've ruled out air pockets in the laying of the turf, as well as general poor lawn health, and we simply have a single roll of turf (or two rolls) which is sticking out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the lawn, then we may just have found our problem.

Turf cutting machines which are used to harvest and roll the turf at the farm may just be the origin of our anomaly.

It is almost impossible for a turf cutting machine to cut an exact thickness in the turf as its being harvested. We can see this as we are laying the new turf, some rolls will appear thicker and others thinner. We will also notice that our new lawn is often very uneven when we walk on it barefoot after laying it.

This is due to the different thicknesses in each roll of turf.

And this is very normal whenever turf is harvested with a turf cutting machine.

What Happened To This Single Roll Of Turf

Now we understand that turf rolls are naturally cut at different thicknesses at harvest, this also gives us the answer to the question of why an occasional roll of new turf performs worse than the majority of other rolls in the same lawn.

The reason why one odd roll of turf may not perform well is because this particular roll may have naturally been cut a little thinner than average. This in turn has damaged more of the underside runners of the turf, and as a result - it will take a little longer for this roll to establish itself when compared to other rolls of turf.

New roll-on Buffalo turf may possibly be more susceptible to this occurrence. Unlike grasses such as Couch, Kikuyu and Zoysia - which all have underground and aboveground runners - Buffalo has no underground runners, and so must establish itself from its above ground runners only. And if these turf rolls are cut a little thin - then some of these stolons may be slightly more damaged - leading to slightly longer lawn establishment times for any affected rolls.

Don't Blame The Turf Farm

If you have a roll of turf which is under performing and which may have been caused by being cut a little thin at the farm during harvest…

Never blame the turf farm.

There is no such invention as a turf cutting machine that can ever cut perfect thicknesses in turf. Turf is soft and spongy by nature, so its impossible to cut such a product so perfectly.

There is no doubt that the rest of our new lawn is establishing wonderfully with full health and vigour - so our turf farm has supplied an excellent product to us.

And there is absolutely no way for a turf farm to ever be able to differentiate the slight differences in turf thickness at harvest to ever know which occasional roll of turf may under-perform when compared to others.

We are dealing with a natural product, with naturally occurring differences.

Instead, lets move onto getting this one stubborn roll of new turf to flourish.

And its easy!

Bringing This Single Roll Of Turf To Full Health

As long as this single roll of turf is not dying, it is still establishing itself in our lawn, albeit at a slightly slower rate than the surrounding turf. So we can expect this roll to stay a little off colour or perhaps a little browner than the rest of the turf until it has caught up with the establishment rate of the rest of the lawn - at which time it will look exactly the same.

There is very little we can do to a new lawn while its establishing.

We cannot apply fertilisers during the first few weeks, so the only single tool we have left to work with is water. If the weather is warm to hot - then we can ensure we apply extra water to this one roll of turf to ensure it never dries out. Which is about all we can do during early establishment to ensure this turf roll most effectively catches up to the health of the rest of the lawn, and most importantly to ensure it doesn't die off.

6 Weeks After Laying The New Turf

Once the new lawn is about 6 weeks old, we should be able to see that any difference in health between the turf rolls has almost disappeared. We can easily just leave the lawn alone, and we'll see in the next few weeks that the lawn looks uniformly healthy - and thus our problem is naturally resolved.

If we still have concerns about this single roll of turf still not catching up with the health of the rest of the lawn, then we can apply a little bit of fertiliser to this roll of turf to help it along a little.

Apply a good quality lawn fertiliser at half of manufacturers recommendations to this single roll of turf, and water in well. Only do this once and only after the lawn has been down for 6 weeks.

Do not apply any more fertiliser to the lawn until another 6 weeks later when the entire lawn should be fertilised uniformly. A half rate of manufacturers application recommendations is still advisable with such a young lawn.

A Problem Easily Fixed

In almost every case, such a problem as a single roll of turf looking a little off-colour and which is establishing itself a little slower - is easily fixed with a little extra TLC, usually just a bit of extra water to the affected roll is all that is needed.

A little bit of time, and the lawn will look uniformly strong and healthy.

And in these cases - there is absolutely no reason for a single affected roll of turf to ever die off.

Again, lets remember we are dealing with a natural product, and natural variations in health and vigour, or even slight variations in harvesting and handling of this product are to be expected, and can never be foreseen. So if you've got one of these stubborn rolls of turf in your new lawn, our best solution is our humble garden hose and a few minutes of our time each day to enjoy our new lawn while giving this stubborn turf roll an extra drink.

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