What’s the best cure for baldness – seed or turf?

Maybe you have children and dogs, or perhaps you’re practicing your golf putting or goal keeping in the back garden? Even without these, most lawns have weak or vulnerable spots. And Spring is a great time for some essential repairs, so read up and get planning.

Of course, the best technique is to prevent damage by having a healthy lawn….blah blah blah, I know; you hear enough of this from me! So just for once let’s skip over that and go straight to the remedy. After all, I truly believe that lawns are there to be used, and there’s no shame in having a touch of baldness, especially when, unlike us, there really is a remedy!

The prescription for a thinning lawn offers a choice – turf or seed. And it’s a simple choice, but one only you can make depending on your priorities.

The big difference is simple; turf is quick, seed is slow. If you need a near-instant repair, turf is the only option. Similarly, if you need to use the area as soon as possible – perhaps it’s an essential walkway – then you need to use turf. And if you need really neat edges straightaway, seeds won’t necessarily give you this in just one season.

However, despite the allure of lawn-on-a-roll, returfing is just as laborious as reseeding, if not more so. So let’s just be clear about what each option involves.

Both options require soil preparation – digging it over, removing stones and weeds, leveling the ground, enriching and oxygenating the soil. And both options will need a lot of watering in the first few weeks – short but frequent doses for seeds, and good drenchings for turf to get right through the profile to the roots.

Turfing also requires almost military planning – you need to have everything prepared, and all tools to hand, ready to work with the moist rolls of turf as soon as they arrive. Some people prefer to relax and watch the entire process gradually unfold, from sowing seed to germination to the tiny seedlings slowly filling out into healthy grass.

Using seed also gives you more choice of grass variety – and this can be important in two ways. 1) You want your new grass to blend with your existing lawn, and modern turf often has more ryegrass than an older established lawn may have. And 2) for difficult areas like shade, you can choose a seed variety that can thrive with little direct sunlight.

And then there is the cost. Seed will always win in the economy stakes. Good turf (and you need good stuff, not tired, dry old rolls bought from dodgy suppliers) is expensive. It has been lovingly farmed, and that costs money.

But I would be irresponsible if I didn’t end with a warning, the mantra of Modern Lawn Care; everything that happens with your lawn is for a reason. So when something bad happens, work out why before reaching for a solution. Otherwise you will simply repeat whatever caused it in the first place. Both seeding and turfing in a stressed, over-shady, badly-draining or compacted area will simply lead to disappointment next season. Putting it right first will save you lots of time and give you a much better and longer-lasting outcome.