IF YOU want a beautiful new lawn, but don’t want to wait long to see it come to fruition, then turf’s your answer.

It offers the nearest solution to an instant lawn, can be laid quickly and shouldn’t need too much aftercare as long as the ground is moist and it rains within a couple of days of laying it.

Many people hire contractors to do the job for them, but if you are going to lay it yourself, the secret is in the preparation you do to the ground beforehand.

First, you will need to remove weeds, improve your soil by adding organic matter, address drainage issues and level off the ground on which you are laying the turf.

You will need to dig over the site for a new lawn, breaking up compacted soil below the surface to allow free drainage when the turf is laid. On heavy, clay soil, work some sharp grit into the soil to help drainage.

Rid the plot of stones by hand-picking them off before you firm the ground by shuffling over the area or laying a plank of wood down and walking along it, moving the plank of wood on to the next bit once you’ve completed one line. It’s important the soil is firmed, but not compacted.

It may take some time to level the area, but if you don’t do this at the outset then the turf you lay may end up as a lawn with little hills in it, which are difficult to mow and result in scalped areas mixed with patches of long grass. Once the grass is established, it takes a lot of work to correct any remaining lumps and bumps, so take care with the preparation first time around.

Once you’ve firmed the area, rake it over, leaving the ground level with a surface like fine breadcrumbs, fill any holes and make sure the ground is flat. Then keep off the area until you are ready to lay your turf.

A week or so before you lay the turf, add a general lawn fertiliser and rake it into the surface. You’ll need to water the ground gently if it doesn’t rain.

Make sure the ground is ready when you order your turf, as you don’t want it hanging around because it will soon dry up and deteriorate.

Turf arrives in Swiss-roll style lengths, which you then roll out on to your prepared area. If you can’t lay it immediately, open out the rolls and lay them flat to allow air and light to reach the grass.

To lay the turf, start from the furthest edge. If there’s a straight edge to the lawn, lay a row of turves along that first.

Place planks over the turf you’ve just laid which you can walk on while laying the next row of turves. The joints should be staggered in the same sort of pattern as a brick wall and the turves need to be butted tightly against one another without overlapping or stretching.

When the turves are laid, firm them down gently by laying a plank on top of them and tapping it with a rubber mallet or the back of a rake.

When you reach the edge of a flower bed or path, lay the turf over the edge and trim it with a stout pair of scissors or an old kitchen knife, following the curves.

In October and November, the ideal time for laying turf, there’s usually enough rain to help the new lawn establish itself, but if not, water the turf thoroughly over the next few weeks – and keep off it until it has really taken root.