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Problem lawn - new build, clay, poor drainage, sad times.

ryankhademiryankhademi Posts: 13
edited April 2018 in Problem solving

So I moved into a new build about two years ago, it was turfed. After winter arrived the grass slowly started to die, the lawn become patchy, boggy and mossy: 

The following spring/summer, I aerated, top dressed, and overseeded. The grass began to grow lovely (although still had some problem areas especially near the fence).

The cold and rain came and the grass all died leaving nothing but mud and a few tufts of grass. I repeated this the following summer and again it happened.

This is what it looks like right now. I want to improve the drainage so that the grass survives over winter rather than having to topdress and reseed every year!

I have decided to fork it all up and add plenty of organic matter. I think I have underestimated the time frame for the soil improvement to work though, I don't think it will be ready to reseed for this summer. Initially IK had planned to double dig the soil, but that was a pain in the arse but just growing grass, so I got sloppy and just started forking the ground and turning it over, breaking it up a bit and mixing with organic matter, but there are still lots of clumps that would take a long time to break down. This has resulted in very bumpy and uneven ground and I don't think any amount of raking is going to make it flat. I did buy a tiller from Aldi but then I read you shouldn't till clay soils as it damages the structure. Additional information: the lawn faces the west, and I'm boxed in by buildings on the East and West, so I only get a few hours of sun each day from the south, the side of the garden with the water butt gets decent sun but the other side is in permanent shade due to the fence.

Any tips or advice? 


  • DampGardenManDampGardenMan Posts: 1,054
    You need to work out why it's not draining. Dig a hole a couple of feet deep in one of the wet bits and see what's there. It may be compacted clay, from when the builders were running JCBs around. It might be the remains of many bags of cement, forming a nice impermeable layer. Or maybe, like my first house, a few sheets of plywood! And check with your neighbours - do they have the same problem? Are their gardens draining into yours?

    Once you know what you're dealing with you can work out how to tackle it.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,195
    I second that course of action, but would additionally question the need for grass. The side that is always in shade, will always be a struggle so i would suggest either paving it or put gravel down.  In such  a small garden I would actually suggest fake grass, some of it is quite convincing, although I understand you have to vacumm it occasionally! 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • ryankhademiryankhademi Posts: 13
    edited April 2018
    As far as I can see, everyone's garden is a mess around here when it comes to having a decent lawn. I was thinking of putting in a bed by the fence on the shady side. I am renting this place so I will probably move out within 1.5 years once I have saved for my own place, I don't want to spend loads of money on someone else's property. My current thinking is mulch the shady side until next Spring and then hopefully that will have improved the soil, then turn the part between the fence and the shed into a bed and have grass in the little square in front of the shed and on the other side (as these get the sun).

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,955
    That is an awful lot of work for a rented yard you plan to leave soon.  I would do as you suggested, mulch it all over.. and get yourself some nice pots of flowers to add some color to the space.  Those you can take with you when you move.  
    Utah, USA.
  • I have a slightly off topic question...the waterbutt I have that collects rainwater from the roof, what happens when it is full? Does it overflow all out on to the ground or is excess carried through the pipes?
  • johnbaronjohnbaron Posts: 75
    If it's a new build you could look back at the planning conditions and see whether the developer has had to place clean cover in the gardens and soft landscaped areas. If it's imported and not suitable for use as topsoil there is precedent for making the developers remove and replace it. 
  • DampGardenManDampGardenMan Posts: 1,054
    I have a slightly off topic question...the waterbutt I have that collects rainwater from the roof, what happens when it is full? Does it overflow all out on to the ground or is excess carried through the pipes?
    If you have a diverter valve fitted then excess water should carry on down the roof drainpipe and not overflow from the waterbutt. But ... go and have a look when the butt is full and it's raining!
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • So I did some digging, I probably got about 14 inches deep and then hit a bed of orange stones. I haven't tried to dig through it. I did fill the hole with about 5 inches of water to see how quick it drained, and it emptied within a few minutes.
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