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Turfing onto clay soil

Hi all,

Hoping you can give me some advice on my turfing ambitions.

I've just renovated my house and the back garden (small - about 4x6 metres), which was initially full of rubbish, got cleared but then became a builders yard for everything and anything for six months.

A few months ago once the builders had gone I pulled up the plastic and had dig around. Its a Victorian house so unsurprisingly the ground was full of rubble from when the house was built. Many rubble sacks later it is much clearer, but during the last bit I was working in the rain and found the soil sticking to me like glue. Obviously a bit of research later I've identified it as clay soil (obvious really) and I've committed the cardinal sin of digging in the winter when it's wet. And digging quite a lot!

So after doing a bit of reading I bought some soil conditioner (about 750 litres) and dug that in (when it was dry this weekend). That's now in although it was noticeable while I was digging how compacted the soil has become as a result of my previous efforts (and from walking on it when wet -doh!). 

The manure is now in and I've been careful not to walk on it. There are golf ball sized lumps of hard clay soil but other than that it seems ok. When I turned it over there were some pretty hefty chunks. The soil seems to drain reasonably well and was not waterlogged when I dug the manure in. During both efforts I have not seen a single worm!

Question is, if I turf it in four weeks will the turf survive? The only reason for the four weeks is that a baby is due in six! Would it help to put some top soil on to give the roots something to work into initially?

No idea if what I've done will work but thought I'd ask for some advice before forking out £200 on turf. The garden is west facing and gets a reasonable amount of afternoon and evening sun.




  • StevedaylillyStevedaylilly Posts: 1,087
    Hi David

    In my opinion, it would have been better to have left it until the soil had dried out later in to spring. As you have added soil conditionor and manure leave this to settle down in to the soil. This will improve your soil structure and effectively drainage. I would add some grit to the soil to improve futher drainage  
    Your next step then, once the soil has dried, is to remove any other large stones and walk over the soil to consolidate it. Get your self a rack and go over the soil to level and fill any depressions in the soil. Walking over it and racking the soil until you have, what gardeners call, a fine tilth that I'd the prepared base for turf laying. I would then throw down some Growmore fertiliser prior to laying the turf 
  • Thanks Steve 
  • 1634 Racine1634 Racine Posts: 568
    @dvdshrrtn Strangely I have almost the exact same problem and only this afternoon have had a long conversation with a specialist.

    After building work my clay soil was heavily compacted and I was enquiring about getting it hollow tine aerated and then reseeding.  He said with the surface as it is I would struggle to get seed to establish and recommended I for turf instead.

    His advice was as follows:

    - level out the surface with any soil you have knocking about or some bought topsoil if necessary

    - once you are happy break up the surface of the clay into a light crumble with a fork or heavy rake

    - go ahead and lay your turf

    There shouldn't really be any need to fertilise because clay soil is generally quite good on nutrient levels
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