Grass Seed or Turf, Which Should You Use? An In-Depth Comparison

by Daniel Hunter

When creating a brand spanking new lawn, you can do it in one of two ways. You can;

  1. Lay turf, or
  2. Sow grass seed

But which method should you choose? Have you even given it much thought?

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the pros and cons of both so you can decide which is right for you and your garden.

If you decide turf is best, I’ll show you a shocking reason to choose your turf supplier with care!

Grass Seed vs Turf: How They Compare

I’ve created a summary table so you can see which is best given different considerations.

ConsiderationsGrass SeedTurf
Speed to a Useable Lawn
Time of Year
Choice of Grass Species
Ease of Installation
Sloped Areas
After Care
Ease of Repairs
Resistance to Disease
Birds Eating Seed
Environmental Factors

Grass Seed is Much Cheaper Than Turf

When it comes to comparing the cost, it’s not even close. Turf is waaaaayyyyy more expensive than grass seed.

Let’s have a look at Rolawn’s turf calculator and compare it to their grass seed calculator.

As you can see below, their Medallion turf costs £444 for 100m²;

turf prices

Compare that to their Medallion seed which is only £84.90 the same 100m²;

grass seed prices

The turf is almost six times more expensive.

So if we’re basing our decision on cost alone, then grass seed is the winner by far.

That said, cost is only one consideration, there are many more.

Turf Creates a Useable Lawn Quicker Than Grass Seed

a newly turfed lawn

So turf is more expensive than seed but what you’re really buying is time.

When you lay turf you’ll have a nice looking lawn as soon as you’ve finished (provided you’ve not cocked it up of course!)

This is why new housing developers use turf.

(It also hides all their rubble and crap. Which is why lawns in newbuild homes are shit and often start to die within weeks. But this is another conversation for another day).

If you take proper care of new turf, you can start to use it within a matter of weeks.

Grass seed, on the other hand, takes a while to germinate and establish. That means you’ll not only have a bare patch of soil for a while but you’ll have to wait much longer to be able to use your lawn.

Depending on;

  1. Growing conditions and
  2. The type of seed you use

Full establishment could take a couple of months.

You Can Lay Turf at Any Time of Year

Providing you can water it enough, you can lay turf at any time of year. The only exceptions are when it’s baking hot or in frosty conditions.

Grass seed needs temperatures of at least eight degrees Celsius. That rules out winter.

Hot conditions can dry out and kill grass seed which means mid-summer is also out of the question. Unless we get a wet summer, in which case it’s very possible.

So that only leaves us with spring and autumn.

There’s More Choice of Grass Seed Than There is in Turf

grass seed

A big benefit of using grass seed to create a new lawn over turf is the amount of choice you have. There are tons of species and cultivars to choose from.

This means you can choose the best type of grass seed for your garden depending on soil type, shade etc.

By comparison, turf is very limited in choice and it’s grown in fields on nice soils and in full sun.

When laid onto clay soil in a shady garden, even the highest quality turf won’t perform as well as you’d like. You might feel a little disappointed.

Sowing Grass Seed is Easier Than Laying Turf

It doesn’t matter if you’re sowing grass seed or laying turf. The process of preparing the soil is exactly the same.

When it comes to the application though…

Although turf is easy to lay, it can be heavy so you need to be fit enough to do the job. You also need to make sure you lay it properly. Then there’s the cutting and shaping around paths and edges. Again, this isn’t difficult but it’s another thing to go wrong if you’re not confident.

If you make a mess of it, it’s expensive.

With grass seed, all you really need to do it spread it and rake it in. There’s no weight to it so it’s not physically demanding. You just need to be as accurate as possible when spreading it, which is easy when you use a lawn spreader.

Turf is Better For Sloped Areas

A sloped lawn

When it comes to sloped areas, turf is by far the better choice.

You can lay it on slopes like a carpet, it’s easy to water and when it roots, it protects the soil and stabilises the ground.

Seeding slopes can be a nightmare.

A single downpour of rain can wash it all downhill, leaving you with a muddy mess. Slopes also tend to dry out faster than flat ground. Keeping the seed damp enough without washing it away is a pain in the ass.

New Turf is Easier to Look After Than New Grass Seed

Both turf and grass seed need regular watering for a couple of weeks after laying or sowing.

But caring for new turf is definitely easier. The only thing you need to do with new turf is to water it once, sometimes two or three times a day. Although this depends on the time of year.

The only thing you need to make sure is that you water deeply so the roots can only access it by growing downwards. If you don’t water deep enough, your turf will develop shallow roots. As a result, it can become prone to suffering from drought conditions.

Give it a few weeks and you can start to mow it.

Grass seed is different because you’re dealing with bare soil. By watering for a few minutes in the morning and evening you’ll encourage the seed to germinate. As the roots grow, you’ll have to water a little deeper each week to encourage that downward root growth.

But as you’re dealing with bare soil, the chances of weed seeds dropping in and germinating is high. Especially if you decide to sow seed in the spring when weeds are in their highest numbers.

This means you need to check for weeds often and pull them as soon as you seed them. You can’t use a weed killer as you’ll likely kill the seedlings too.

Also, you night find that grass seed doesn’t germinate as well in some areas and you end up with a patchy patch of grass. This means having to go back and re-seed.

None of this is difficult, it’s just more work.

Seeded Lawns Are Easier to Repair Than Turf

repairing a lawn with grass seed

Over time you might need to repair your lawn. Dead patches, recovery after heavy scarifying are two examples.

When you sow a new lawn from seed, you know exactly which grass seed you used.

For instance, you might have used Rolawn Medallion grass seed to create your lawn two years ago. As such, you know you can repair your lawn with the same seed and it’ll blend in seamlessly.

This isn’t the case with turf.

Turf growers often change seed blends so you can’t guarantee it will be the same, even if you use the same supplier.

And if you use a different supplier, the grass type will likely be completely different. As a result, your repairs will stand out like a sore thumb.

Grass Seed is More Resistant to Disease

To cut and lift turf by the square metre, turf grower use grass species and cultivars which produce a lot of thatch.

And it’s this thatch which holds turf together.

That said, thatch can cause problems. One of which is fungal disease like Red Thread and/or Fusarium Patch.

The stress of being;

  • Harvested
  • Lifted,
  • Transported
  • Re-laid and then
  • Soaked with water

Can cause fungal disease to spore.

It’s also the reason you’ll see mushrooms popping up all over the place. Although mushrooms are nothing to worry about.

Birds Love Eating Grass Seed

pigeon on a lawn

I’ve got nothing against feeding the local birds, I have a wildlife garden and the birds love it.

But when birds eat the seed that I sow for my lawn?

I’m not going to lie, it kinda pisses me off.

But that’s nature and the only way to prevent it from happening is to cover the area with netting so they can’t get in.

No such issue with turf as the grass has already grown and there’s no seed to pick at.

Grass Seed is Better For the Environment

It’s worth considering the impact that turf production has on the environment.

The production of grass seed is far better for the environment than turf.

Seed producers grow a single species in a field and leave the plants for two years to grow and mature. Only then are they harvested. These fields provide fantastastic habitata for insects and other wildlife.

In contrast, turf proders sow grass seed in is fields. They use chemical fertilisers to speed up and increase growth. They also cut itshort on a regular basis. That’s before they harvest it for delivery.

Once they have harvested a full field, it’s turned over and re-seeded.

This creates a baron habitat that is often devoid of insects and wildlife. O top of that, the carbon footprint of turf production is huge when compared to grass seed.

And that’s not all.

A new development in turf production is the use of ‘degradable’ plastic netting. Producers lay it onto the soil right after seeding.

plastic netting in turf

It’s designed to hold the turf together when harvesting. As such, turf growers can speed up production. So instead of only getting one harvest a year, they can get two. Meaning they can double their profits.

Notice I used the word ‘degradable’ and not ‘biodegradable’. Manufactures use this very careful wording. Either way, it doesn’t degrade, I don’t care what the manufacturers say.

Manufacturers who use this plastic netting are very tight-lipped when it. And because they’re so tight-lipped, you might not even realise your lawn is full of plastic. That’s until you come to scarify and end up ripping it out and making a mess. and end up ripping it out and making a mess.

And worse still, it has a huge impact of wildlife as this rather disturbing image shows.

So if you’re conscious of the environment, it’s best to use grass seed.

So What Will You Choose? Grass Seed or Turf?

As you can see, both grass seed and turf have their pros and cons so the choice is up to you.

  • Consider what most important, time or money?
  • Have you got the time to give your new lawn the care it needs?
  • Are your lawns sloped?
  • Do you want a regular family lawn or a masterpiece of a formal lawn?
  • How do you feel about the environment and your impact upon it?

Here’s my quick summay again;

ConsiderationsGrass SeedTurf
Speed to a Useable Lawn
Time of Year
Choice of Grass Species
Ease of Installation
Sloped Areas
After Care
Ease of Repairs
Resistance to Disease
Birds Eating Seed
Environmental Factors

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