I am looking to order a quantity of high-quality turf for the garden of a newly built prestigious house. In the past I have been sold turf that arrived with a significant weed population. It was not a good colour and quickly developed large bare patches. Is there any way I can avoid this in future? I believe there are standards for turf but don't know what they are.

It sounds as though you might have been sold meadow turf, rather than properly cultivated turf grown from turfgrass seed and given all the necessary care and attention. Always ask to see a sample before purchase and make sure the turf is accompanied by a declaration of composition - including details of the grass species present, the percentage of weeds and the type of soil. You want the turf freshly harvested, with minimal delay between lifting and re-laying.

You are right, there are standards. They were first published by the Turfgrass Growers Association (TGA) in 1996 but only apply to turf produced by its members and supplied with a declaration that it meets set criteria. Not all cultivated-turf growers are members - but it is a strong and active organisation.

Founded in 1995, the TGA has some 60 members, including affiliates, and is collectively responsible for producing approximately 70 per cent of the cultivated turf grown in the British Isles.

One of the organisation's principal missions is the help it gives its members to improve their standards as turf growers and businesses. Since its formation, the TGA has been at the forefront of raising the standard of cultivated turf supplied to professional and domestic users. The aim of the standards is to instil a
discipline in its members and thus give customers confidence in what they buy. The TGA's Quality Standards for Cultivated Turf were drawn up by independent turf consultant and agronomist Robert Laycock.

The Declaration of Quality Standard states the results of various assessments, together with a statement that the turf has been grown from good-quality turfgrass cultivars on a suitable soil type. It will also declare the dimensions of the turfs - the most common types being the one-square-metre and one-square-yard rolls. Other parts of the standard cover turf health, composition, presentation and strength. The turf must be green and not be visibly affected by any pest or disease. The type of soil is stated - the most suitable for landscape purposes being peats, sands and loams containing less than 40 per cent clay as determined by particle-size analysis.

Under the TGA Quality Standard, 95 per cent of the turf should be composed of the grasses sown. The percentage of other species and any broadleaved weeds should be stated. The height of the sward when harvested should not exceed 35mm and the thickness of any thatch not more than 10mm. Soil beneath the thatch should be between 5mm and 15mm deep and this thickness should be uniform within a consignment of turf.

A test for strength involves lifting one-square-metre or one-square-yard turfs clear of the ground by their shortest side. At least 75 per cent of the turves subjected to this test should remain intact. The presence of any netting within the soil must be declared. And finally, the Quality Standard states that one-square-metre or one-square-yard rolls of turf must weigh less than 20kg unless the turf is wet due to rain on the day of harvest.

More information about the TGA, its members, standards and activities can be obtained from the association on 01507 607722.

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