This section is from the book "A Dictionary Of Modern Gardening", by George William Johnson, David Landreth. Also available from Amazon: The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses.
Turf may be obtained either by sowing grass seeds, or laying turf obtained from a common or down; and if the latter mode can be adopted, it is the best, as the turf is obtained at once, and more regular than can be under the best circumstances from seed.
All the preparation of the soil required is to dig it level, a spade deep, provided the subsoil is open, otherwise to have a good drainage effected (see Draining); to have all large stones removed from the surface, and to have it brought to a perfect level, by repeated rollings, and filling up the hollows when necessary, as indicated by the level. The surface being then loosened by raking, is ready for the seed or turf.
"Never use that from a haystack, for it will have mixed with it the seeds of weeds; but buy of respectable seedsmen, as much as you require. For this purpose the best are Poa pra-tensis, green or spear grass; Poa compressor, blue grass; Anthoxanthum odo-ratum, sweet scented vernal grass: - either of the above, mixed with a small proportion of white clover, will form a permanent and pleasing sward.
"Sow evenly, and rake well in, and roll. When the grasses come up, the ground should be carefully gone over, and cleared of all weeds and spurious grasses, as they appear. Strict attention to this will do much to ensure the future excellence of the lawn. During the first season after sowing, the grass may be mown three or four times, but not in hot dry weather; and afterwards, the oftener it is rolled and mown the better." - Gard. Chron. - Gard. and Prac. Flor.
The season for laying turf is any time from September till April or May, though it will grow at almost any time of the year, even if there is occasion to lay it in summer, and dry weather succeed: for although it will open at the joints, and turn brown, as if dead, yet, after the first rain it will close again, and resume its verdure.
The turf for this use is cut with an iron instrument called a turfing iron, observing to cut the pieces all an equal width, length, and thickness - the proper size is a foot wide, a yard long, and about an inch thick; they should be first marked by line, the proper width, length, and depth with a racer or rutter. Racing them first longwise a foot wide, then across in yard lengths; then proceed to cut them up, having particular regard to cut them level, and equal in thickness, otherwise it will be impossible to lay them level. As you cut, a man or boy should roll each turf up close and tight, the grass side inwards, and pile them up by tens, especially if they are cut by the hundred. They are to be laid regular, turf and turf, unrolling them as you lay them, joining them up quite close edge to edge, making good all deficiency of broken parts as you go on; and as soon as laid, it should be well beaten with broad heavy wooden beaters, being flat pieces of elm or oak plank, two inches thick, fifteen or eighteen inches long, and a foot broad, having a long handle fixed slanting in the middle of the upper side; and with these, beat the grass regularly all over, and then roll it well with a heavy roller, observing the beating and rolling should be repeated in moist weather.
"If very dry hot weather succeeds, so as to occasion the turf to shrink and open at the joints, a good watering will be of much advantage." - Abercrombie.
If turf is scarce, cut turves into pieces, about three inches square, and plant these, green side up, pretty thickly over the space intended for the lawn. Beat them down into the soil, and water freely, roll frequently, and water also in dry weather. The turf will soon be as close, and the sward as perfect, as if the ground had been entirely turved.