Industry sector:

Turf supplier: Turf production

Turf production on a commercial scale is typically a labour intensive and costly business. According to industry sources, a turf farm needs to be at least 400-500 acres (160-200 hectares) if the cost of machinery is to be covered. It is also very important that you have enough land to be able to grow a succession of turf crops so that you can always fulfil orders. You might decide to rent additional land, on which you grow fast maturing general contract turf and grow slower, specialist turf on your own land. Some turf suppliers operate from several different sites so that they can offer customers turf grown on different soils. This can help the turf to become established quickly once it has been laid.

Land suitable for turf-growing must be well-drained, level and stone-free and easy for your lorries or tractors to access. You may need to consider irrigation systems during the summer months. The soil itself must be suitable and not contain too much clay.

The soil must be carefully prepared before seeding - for example, getting rid of as many stones as possible. Once you have planted the seeds they are likely to germinate between one and two weeks later. You will have to apply fertilisers to encourage growth (and good, green colour) and herbicides and pesticides to keep weeds and pests to a minimum. The crop should be inspected regularly.

Once the turf is established it will need to be mown to keep it short and to train it to grow upright. In the summer months you may need to do this twice a week. You will also need to vacuum it regularly, to pick up clippings, leaves and other debris.

After 14 to 18 months or so the turf will be strong enough to be harvested. If your land is well-drained you will probably be able to harvest all year round, except for times when there is snow on the ground.

Turf has a short 'shelf life' and can dry out very quickly in hot weather. Many turf growers try to harvest in the early morning when it is cooler and aim to deliver to customers within 24 hours of harvest or less. (If it's not kept properly it will deteriorate significantly within 36 hours - meaning it's unlikely to thrive once it's been laid.) You should give some thought to how you will keep turves cool and moist if you plan to deliver to customers who are not located nearby.

Turf is most commonly supplied in rolls of one square metre or one square yard. Some suppliers also cut 'jumbo' rolls which measure 15 to 25 square metres or yards.

When you are estimating how much turf your land will produce you should remember that you will have a certain amount of wastage and that some turves will not be of an acceptable quality. You might only obtain saleable turf from 85% to 90% of the total available planted area.

You are likely to need several pieces of machinery such as a turf-seeder, vacuum, top-dresser, mowers and harvesting machinery. Fork-lifts are used in the field to load pallets onto delivery vehicles. You can find out more about machinery for turf care from suppliers such as BLEC Global Ltd.