Improving lawn drainage

Good afternoon all,

My lawn has become a boggy mess. A year and a half ago I dug up 12 inches of heavy clay soil (using a pick and mattock, as it was that hard). Added tonnes of compost and manure and lay seeds. It grew well.

However, recent rains have identified drainage issues, as puddles remain on the surface for days and the grass has subsequently died / become sparse. I've read that adding sharp sand will increase the drainage after aerating but was wondering if this is the right way to go?

i can't add a drainage system as the lawn is too small and enclosed. I put some wellies on today and tried aerating and adding sand but stopped after 30mins as it was clearly obvious that the soil was far too wet/drenched! (You live and learn - I know that you can't do this if your standing in cm of water 😀). It looks horrendous now.

these are what it looked like last year after a few months of seeding:

This is is what it looks like after this winter (and me messing with it):

Any advice on how to work to remedy this would be appreciated. I have two weeks off work in two weeks and was hoping to work on it then (if it dries out)!

Thaks in advance! 

P.s, on a side note, it's clear that what I did 18 months ago is helping the soil, as a rake can penetrate I further and there were a number of worms present today (there was never any before). 


  • Sharp sand will help but try reseeding at the same time you could try digging it up again and adding in several bags of horticultal grit ;)
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 3,433
    Don't be too down hearted as most grass after the winter looks on the bad side. Have you had a particularly wet winter or a lot of melting snow?
    Go over the sodden bits with a garden fork. Force it well into the ground vertically, shoogle it back and forth a few times and then repeat 6 inches away etc etc. That might help to get rid of standing water. Once it is a bit drier you can do the whole exercise again but this time brush sharp sand into the holes. And repeat. And repeat. 
    You may find after a few years that the problem is persistant. In which case, I would kill the whole lot off and turn the area into a gravel garden.  
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Kensington84Kensington84 Posts: 15
    edited 11 March
    Thanks both,

    Ive aerated using a garden fork in exactly the way you mentioned and the puddles cleared after an an hour or two. And now it's started chucking it down again 😂. I'm hoping for some brighter weather when the Easter holidays arrive so that I can get stuck in with it in prep for the summer. It was too much of a sloppy mess to brush any sand in.

    In in all honesty, it was stoned when I bought the house 3 or so years ago. It looks infinitely better with grass and it does grow very well during the warmer months. I'm reluctant to give up on it but thank you for your advice 😀. I have the sharp sand ready but of course would be more than open to any other suggestions.

    edited to add: yes this winter has much wetter and snowy-er than usual, so that certainly has not helped.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 14,107
    The other thing you could try is to dig a flower or shrub border along all or part of that wall and make a small ditch between it and the grass.  This would allow for extra drainage.   I did it in a badly drained part of our last garden and it worked well. 

    I'm afraid that the forking and aerating is going to be an annual sport for a few years to come but the more you can brush in sharp sand, the better it will become.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • LeadFarmerLeadFarmer Posts: 855
    edited 11 March
    Clay can be problematic, dig a hole in it and it acts as a pool retaining the water. Add soil or sharpe sand into that hole and it will still fill with water when it rains. Unless there is somewhere for the water to go to then the clay will just retain it in the soil above.

    Maybe your wall could be helping to trap the water in your lawn? 
  • Kensington84Kensington84 Posts: 15
    It is very possible that the wall is trapping in water. After reading around here are the three options I've come up with:

    1) aerate using a garden fork and add plenty of sharp sand to (hopefully) open up the top layer over the summer.

    2) use step 1, but replace sharp sand with horticultural grit (though I was of the understanding that they are essentially the same thing)

    3) dig around the outside, down by 12-18" and use 10mm pea shingle. This would allow somewhere for the water to drain but I'm cautious that this may affect the stability of the walls.

    of course, I'm still open to suggestions from you knowledgeable lot 😀
  • UpNorthUpNorth South Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK Posts: 241
    Your time off work in two weeks time.....i suspect anywhere in the country this will be too early to do anything much with the grass.  grass needs to be above 10 to grow at all and above say 13 Celcius to see noticeable growth.    of course a few days strong sun would do wonders but doesn't feel like the current prediction for the next month is going to bring much sun, mores the pity.     We're all in the same boat though.

    p.s. i like the idea above of putting a plant bed along the wall, add some height, choose some plants that love clay, they'll take plenty of water up especially big-leaved things.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 2,616
    I think a lot of us with clay soil have had an awful lot of rain recently and the same problem,digging it up and laying drain pipes would be a nightmare, what about aco drains, if you could somehow get them to go into your drainage system, we have them on the edge of a path, and driveway.
  • Kensington84Kensington84 Posts: 15

    i thought about acid rains when I saw them in use on the motorway yesterday. How would I go about investigating how to connect them to current drainage? I don't have much money at present to get somebody to look at it for me. Forgive my ignorance as well, but wouldn't the lawn need to be on a camber so that water on the surface drains down to them if they are on the outer perimeter?

  • Kensington84Kensington84 Posts: 15
    The only other thing that I did think of was to install perforated pipe. As I dug out around 12" of heavy clay last year, and replaced with good quality soil, it wouldn't take too long to dig deep enough to install. I could then potentially run the pipe under the ground between the house and garage(see pics) and connect it to the downpipe on the front of the garage. The water would then drain onto the driveway and down into the road guttering.

    pics should make it easier to understand.

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