How to care for Ready Lawn

Ready lawn, the name conjures up hope of an instant solution to a pesky lawn problem! This may be the case and ready lawn certainly is very useful to achieve near-instant results for smaller tricky lawn areas, but many people do not understand the correct care and on-going maintenance of the product.

The truth is that ready lawn is one of many possible solutions for a lawn problem depending on the season, size and budget of the project. The product does require very specific care and is not entirely maintenance-free as the name would allude. There are a few important elements that need to be correctly handled if the lawn is to become healthy and well established.

Ready lawn is the term used to describe lawn that is prepared on a farm or off-site and is grown to maturity, then harvested and supplied “ready” to be installed. Often also referred to as instant turf or roll out turf, the product is usually sold in sods, which are approximately 1 square meter each. They are about 2.2 meters in length, 450 mm in width and vary between 20-30mm in thickness. The lawn species vary significantly across New Zealand and may be pure fescue or a blend of various lawn species to best suit the application.

The downside to this lawn product is the fact that there is often heavy thatch in the lawn in order to make it easier to harvest as well as a plethora of inherited pests if the lawn has not been correctly maintained.


The most important aspect of laying new ready lawn is the watering. Depending on the season the amount of water applied can make or break a new lawn in a very short period of time. During the peak of Summer in Canterbury, for instance, the evapotranspiration can exceed 5mm per day. This means the lawn is losing 5mm of water per day before it is even watered! For this reason, it is not uncommon to see irrigation systems running in the middle of the day when the North Wester is blowing making it almost impossible to prevent wilting. That being said a new lawn could be destroyed within hours if water is not applied sufficiently. Grass, particularly Rye has a very high evapotranspiration rate and reaches permanent wilting point (where the grass starts to die and is not able to be saved) very quickly in the heat of summer.

Under regular conditions (not extreme summer heat) a newly laid lawn needs to be kept moist, with water penetrating to a depth of about 50mm into the topsoil layer. This would require applying water once daily in the morning from September to December and twice or even three times per day or more from January to March depending on the temperature and prevailing wind. During winter and autumn months the watering would be less frequent and may not be required at all.

If the area is small enough it can be easily managed by hand watering with a decent hose and sprinkler. Larger lawns become a full-time job in summer and a correctly designed and installed irrigation system is a necessity in this case.


Correct mowing of the lawn is possibly the next most important factor after watering. Contrary to popular belief newly laid turf must be mowed and not left for months before the first cut.

The firmness of the lawn will need to be assessed before mowing, naturally, if the lawn is too soft underfoot it cannot be mowed. Most newly laid ready lawn will take a few weeks to firm up enough before it is possible to mow. A light mower on a high setting with sharp blades is best for this job. (I used to keep a small light electric mower for this purpose.)

Regular mowing at the correct height with sharp blades will encourage healthy lawn growth which in turn will keep weeds at bay. The best weed prevention is a healthy, thriving lawn.


Grass is a plant like any other, it consists of a root, a stem and leaves. The grass plant will need all the same care as regular plants. It requires water, sunlight, regular pruning (mowing) and food. When it comes to food, lawns are some of the most demanding and it is important to have a fertilising program tailored to your lawn and soil conditions.

Before spending a fortune on fertiliser it is important to know the soil nutrient and ph levels. These can be assessed by having a soil sample analysed. From this information a specific nutrient program can be set up for the lawn, thereby eliminating the guesswork and waste.

Pests and Fungal Control

A thriving, healthy lawn is far less susceptible to these issues but nonetheless even the most well-cared-for lawn can fall prey to one of these problems occasionally.

Fungal infestations are likely to develop in the right conditions-usually warm, moist, dark areas with limited airflow are breeding grounds for fungi. Overwatering, poor drainage and infrequent and incorrect mowing also increase the likelihood of a fungal outbreak.

 If a fungal infestation is detected it is best to spray with fungicide and avoid walking on the lawn as the traffic will serve to spread the infection.

As mentioned, it is not unlikely to inherit pests with a batch of new ready lawn. The most common lawn pests found in New Zealand are porina and grass grub. Porina is a moth that lays hundreds of eggs in lawns that hatch in the form of tiny caterpillars and devour lawns on their way to adulthood. Grass grub is a small brown beetle which causes the most damage in the larvae stage. It has a similar lifecycle to the porina and can be treated at the same time with the same pesticide.

Lawn pests like grass grub and porina are easily controlled. The biggest challenge is the early detection of the pests to prevent infestation and severe lawn damage. The best time to treat for the prevention of these pests in late summer.

Although the idea of a ready lawn conveys the idea of a carefree one-off lawn solution it will require significant ongoing care (like any other lawn will) and is only a quicker short solution. Due to the cost and labour intensive process of laying ready lawn, this is usually recommended for smaller high visibility areas. Hydroseeding may be a viable alternative, particularly on larger areas or areas where access is challenging and this is usually at a fraction of the cost of ready lawn.