I have just moved about 8 square metres of turf from the east coast of Scotland to the west. It’s the sort of daft thing I do these days. My years of “sensible” gardening on a smallish surburban plot in Cambridge seem a distant memory. Now I try to juggle living most of the time in a rented house and garden in Edinburgh with maintaining – and trying to renovate – an acre and a quarter of wet, weed-infested hillside in Argyll.
Now, there are garden centres in the west of Scotland and they do sell both rolls of turf and lawn seed. Although the closest one that’s a reasonable size is about 50 km away (and several km of that is water), I could do a bit of a detour on my way across from Edinburgh and pick up supplies on the way. But just take a look at our “lawn”. It’s only about 25% grass: the other 75% is a mix (in varying proportions) of daisies, creeping buttercup, clover and moss. Buying beautiful turf to patch bare sections would be like buying silk to patch your trackies.
So when I recently lifted some turf in the back garden in Edinburgh, to make a mini herbaceous border with plants given to me by a neighbour, I decided not just to dump the spare turves on the compost heap but to transport them over to Sherbrooke and use them there. (It’s a pretty quixotic gesture really but I have to keep doing little things that make me feel as if I’m making some progress. And anyway, I just hate waste.)
I put each section of turf on a strong piece of plastic cut from compost bags and stacked them in the boot of the car, then off they went on the three-hour journey to their new home. (I have transported so many plants, pots, bags of home-made compost and now turves in my car that it is in serious danger of silting up.)
I couldn’t quite fit in all of the turf I had cut but I thought I had enough for the job I had in mind. That job was to turn a sunken muddy puddle at the top of the east slope into an area of grass that would slope away gradually from the east lawn – this is the top part of the garden that I’ve been trying to rehabilitate after it was bulldozed by the drainage contractors.
I started by using topsoil and compost to fill in the puddly bit and build the contour of the slope, then laid the turf sections to cover it, brushing topsoil into the cracks between the turves. But then Sod’s Law came into operation (sorry about the awful pun): job half done and run out of grass!
So on the next trip the boot was once again filled with layers of turf and – hooray! – there was just about enough to finish the job. Now I think I probably need a couple of courses of dry stone wall just to mark the separation of the grassy area from the path and the top of the steps.
I hope the turf will be happy in its new home. It’s got a good nourishing base layer of topsoil but eventually I guess the worms will mix everything up. My genteel Edinburgh turf, brought up on a diet of nutritious volcanic soil, might get a shock when it encounters the full horrors of its new rough and ready west highlands neighbourhood. It’s a bit like crayfish and rocket salad meets deep fried Mars bar!