Should Soil Be Compacted Before Laying Turf?

Laying turf might seem like a relatively simple task, but there are a few essential things you’ll need to consider before doing so. Adequately preparing the soil for the brand-new turf is one of the most crucial ways to ensure its longevity and overall health. So is it essential to compact the soil before laying turf?

Soil shouldn’t be compacted before laying turf. It should only be compressed very slightly—enough so that all the bumps in the soil are evened out. However, if you compact it completely, you’ll likely find your turf won’t do as well since it prevents roots from sprouting efficiently.

In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss why your soil shouldn’t be compacted before laying turf. We’ll also go through the steps of preparing your soil and how much topsoil your turf needs to thrive. Finally, we’ll discuss whether watering the soil beforehand is necessary and what type of soil is best for your turf. 

Why Your Soil Shouldn’t Be Compacted Before Laying Turf

Compacting your soil very tightly isn’t a great idea. It can create a much tougher environment for roots to spread proficiently. You’ll probably find that the essential components of growth, such as nutrition and moisture, will be much more difficult for your turf’s roots to access. 

Soil compaction is something a gardener can do by accident, such as walking regularly over the area, but it can also happen naturally. The rain can actually compact soil, especially if it rains every day. Rain fills the aeration channels created by organic matter, so if there’s too much rain, you’ll need to till your soil a little bit after the rain stops. 

That said, temporary soil compaction isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean the quality of your soil has deteriorated. It only becomes problematic if the soil is compact on every level, throughout the topsoil and subsoil.

You can prevent over-compression of your garden soil by gently tilling the ground every so often using a rake or even your hands. You can also use a soil additive such as compost. This will help to loosen up the topsoil and will even help your turf thrive.

How to Prepare Your Soil

Laying turf is a simple enough task, but you’ll need to ensure your soil is primed and ready to go beforehand. Preparing your soil properly means your turf will have the best conditions for new growth, and roots will have a much easier time spreading out and taking in essential nutrients.

Follow the tips below to prepare your soil before laying turf:

Treat Your Soil for Weeds

If there are any pesky roots in there, make sure you pull them out fully. Pulling out the weed tops isn’t sufficient and will allow them to grow back. You can also use a chemical weed killer for this step.

If you’re looking for a good natural weed killer, try out this BioAdvanced BermudaGrass Weed Killer from

This is an excellent option for those looking for a weed killer that doesn’t harm your lawn. It’s also rainproof, so it won’t wash away all your hard work as soon as the rains come. Just make sure to double-check whether it is suitable for the type of turf you’re laying.

Release Compacted Areas

Next, use a shovel or trowel to release any compacted areas of soil. Your topsoil should be slightly loosened and then very gently compressed so that all bumps and uneven areas are flattened.

If you don’t flatten the area, your turf roots will find it much harder to spread evenly. You can use a rake to finalize this step.

Remove Small Stones

You should also remove any small stones in the area. You don’t want any hunks of rock to get in the way of the turf since this will lead to bumpy turf! 

Place a Layer of Compost Over Your Topsoil

You can use peat moss for this step if you so wish, but compost is much cheaper, easier to source, and naturally beneficial for your soil. Mix up the compost slightly with the first layer of soil and then sprinkle more topsoil over this. Use a rake to flatten out the area. 

Test the Soil pH

For turf, a relatively neutral soil pH is generally recommended. You can use a soil pH meter for this step to ensure the proper pH level. 

Prepare for Turf-Laying

Once your soil is ready, place something flat (like a wooden board) over the area to keep it nice and flat without compressing the ground too much. This will help maintain the integrity of the soil until you can lay your turf.

Remember that once your turf has arrived, you’ll need to lay it reasonably quickly. Within 24 hours is usually the best timeframe. 

Other Topsoil Requirements for New Turf

You’ll want to stick to topsoil that’s excellent quality and has a mixture of compost sprinkled over the top. Healthy topsoil leads to better results—that goes for growing almost anything—so make sure you keep your soil happy and nutrient-healthy. 

Here are some of the topsoil requirements for new turf:

Topsoil Should Be at Least Six Inches (15 cm) Thick

Turf isn’t difficult to grow, so you may not necessarily need too much topsoil before laying it out. A few inches should do the trick, as long as it isn’t too compact and can allow for good aeration and drainage. You’ll generally want about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) of good quality topsoil for turf. 

Water Your Topsoil Adequately

Many gardeners don’t realize that they need to water their topsoil before laying turf. While it’s generally not a great idea to completely saturate your soil, you will need to ensure it has enough moisture to welcome your turf’s roots.

This allows the extra moisture to spread the natural nutrients throughout the top and subsoil. You’ll need to do it the day before laying the turf.

If you do end up saturating your soil, you’ll need to wait a few days for it to dry out and start again. Saturating the area will lead to increased soil compaction and less aeration deep within the soil. You need to avoid this since the soil won’t be ready for your turf unless it’s only slightly moist. 

If you live in an area with lots of rain, you can place a dry layer of topsoil over the top of the soil and mix it in slightly with the compost. Use a rake to loosen the area and place your turf as quickly as possible. If you’re not careful, your soil can become overly loose and lose its fertility.

If you live in a relatively arid region, you’ll need to spritz the soil with water around 24 hours before you lay the turf. This will keep the area moist enough until planting—just try to refrain from completely saturating the soil. 

For best results, don’t use a high-pressure hose for this job. Watering with high pressure means you’ll be far more likely to over-compress your soil, removing the essential aeration capacities that will enable your turf to thrive.

Choose Good-Quality Sandy Soil

Sandy soil allows for the free movement of nutrients, air passages, and moisture throughout the area, giving your turf the best chance of survival. It’s excellent for turf, and if you add a bit of compost or other natural additives to the topsoil, you’re looking at the perfect condition for turf.

If the soil in your garden is primarily clay-based, you’ll need to add a sandy mixture to it to promote proper drainage and aeration. Clay-based soils tend to be fairly heavy and condensed, making it much more difficult for nutrients and moisture to travel throughout. 

Whatever soil you choose for your turf, make sure you use one that doesn’t contain any lumpy pieces, such as stones. Stones make for an uneven lawn, and you’ll be able to see those lumps from far away.

Unfortunately, once you’ve laid your turf, you’ll find it quite tricky to fix this, so ensure your soil is light and not too dense.

Keep the Soil pH Neutral

Finally, your grass will love very neutral soil, so if your garden soil is slightly too alkaline, you can add a few small handfuls of peat moss to enhance it. Getting your hands on some peat moss can be hard, but a small amount will do the trick to bring it up to your turf’s standards.

Final Thoughts

You shouldn’t be compacting your soil before laying turf. Soil compaction leads to poor drainage and aeration systems within the soil, leaving you with moisture-lacking soil that can’t spread nutrients well to your turf.

Compacted soil also stops roots from pushing deep into the ground, making it much more difficult for new turf to thrive—especially in the beginning when roots are pretty small and can’t push through heavily-compressed soil. 

Remember to prepare your soil well before laying turf. Using slightly moist, sandy soil is the best way to ensure your turf will thrive.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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