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Newby Dilemma

Hi Guys,

I've recently been doing a bit of work on my parents garden but never really done any landscaping before and am completely confused on what to do next for the area below. 
The plan was to patio the left side of the garden from the steps over and then lawn the right side from the steps coming towards where the photo is taken from. 

There was a lawn previous on the square patch of soil which didn't really take too well and was quite mossy. The soil is very clay like, is there anything I can do to improve that section in terms of drainage and prep for laying a lawn? 

But the main problem is the area where the chippings are. I've dig a small hole (around 100-150mm) to see what it's like and as you can see in the second picture it's just pretty much stone that doesn't drain very well. I was planning on digging this down around 150-200mm and placing 150-200mm of topsoil on top of this to bring up to level with the patch of soil there already. Would that work or would it never take due to the stone underneath? Would I need to add drainage first? 

Any help would be massively appreciated as I've just hit a massive brick wall with this and have no clue what to do next. 


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  • Bagpuss57Bagpuss57 South West Posts: 256
    Wow what a huge job you've taken on. I have clay soil and in my experience the grass will always get mossy as it doesn't drain well. I had new lawn laid and within year the moss was back! It takes a lot of cash and hard work to get a good lawn with clay soil. I just accept the lawn now as the birds like the moss! But resorted to raised beds and slightly raised borders where I dug out a lot of clay and added a ton of grit and compost. Things are now growing well so maybe it's something to consider. Personally I'd try to make a plan of action before you begin. To make it easier try taking a photo of the garden then blowing it up bit larger and lay tracing paper over to draw out the boundary and any permanent fixtures then add shapes to see what it looks like, you can always rub it out and redraw until you get a design that's good and something you feel is manageable. Then you can measure and draw it to scale if you think it's needed. I didn't bother with measures I just had fun drawing different designs until i was happy. You could also leave the gravel and build raised beds with sleepers and add compost/top soil. (Something else I also did-well not me personally but the guy I got to do it did!) With clay and rubbish drainage I found out the hard way that not much survives. Things died with getting waterlogged in winter or getting too dry and solid in summer. Good luck, can't wait to see updates on the garden as you go along. It's so satisfying when you get jobs done though!! 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,201
    How desperate are you [or your parents] to have grass?
    I think it's possibly a bridge too far to do that without getting a digger and removing a load of material. The garden also looks quite shady. How much direct sun does that area get in a normal summer day? 
    I think the fact that it's been gravelled tells a story too. 
    I'd be inclined to make your patio area where you have indicated, and then rethink the grass. As Bagpuss says - there are other options like raised beds, which could be plante dup and easy to mainatin, or have veg in them , or whatever suits your parents best. The shed would also be lower than that area of soil on the left, so you'd either have to have a slope towards that end, or dig out a lot of gravel [ and whatever's underneath ] so that the level would be right.
    Sorry if that's a bit negative, but I'd hate to see you knock yourself out trying to get a lawn, and be forever trying to make it work. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,234
    edited August 2018
    https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/1021289/design-and-planting-of-new-gravel-dry-garden
    Have a look at this thread by @Joy90 . I thought it was a great job.
    I wouldn't have grass for all the reasons given above and also it would be almost too small to justify keeping a lawnmower. It may well be more trouble than it's worth.
  • Hi again guys thanks for the responses. I have drawn up a design which I've been trying to follow.

    Trouble is with swapping the patio and lawn section around is there's bi-folding doors in the house which ideally I wanted to try and get to open onto the patio to sort of create an outdoor/indoor living space sort of thing.  It was just the time of day that I took the photos, the garden is directly south facing so pretty much has the sun right throughout the day. 

    To be honest my parents were more keen on the idea of having artificial grass rather than lawn so that might still be an option. It was me who tried to convince them to have a lawn just to try and keep it natural. 

    At the back of the garden there I've built 3 retaining walls on what was just an old banking which have a lot of planting, raised beds etc. so wanted to try and keep the bottom section of the garden pretty basic just as a living area. We also have a dog so an open space would be ideal for him as if I were to plant down the bottom section I think he'd just ruin it. 

    Again thanks for the info guys, I think it's either going to have to be artificial or just lawn it and embrace the moss  :D  I might try and dig down a bit deeper just to see how far it goes down until I hit any sort of decent soil. 

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,234
    How are you going to get a mower onto the bottom tier of the terracing?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,201
    Yeh - I think that's a bridge too far with the terrace, as ppauper says. Some low growing planting would be better there. I had a similar little strip in a previous garden, and it was only 6 inches above the height of the main area near the back door etc. The rest of the garden was on a slope and had a deck atthe rear of the house, gravel and planting.  I just wanted some green grass to set off the other planting.  It was a right royal pain in the b*m because it was so fiddly. Not worth the effort of getting a mower out! 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,021
    Another vote for planting on the terrace section as opposed to grass (of whatever type).As plant pauper and Fairygirl say, by the time you got the mower out it'd be time to put it away again!
    Also sorry to sound like the health and safety police, and l don't know how old your parents are, but have you considered a handrail along the steps? 2 elderly parents and equally elderly in laws makes me paranoid !  :)
  • Ye I'm going to be doing something different to a lawn on the terrace, grass definitely won't grow up there due to what's underneath. 

    My main concern is the bottom half, I just priced up artificial grass and that's going to cost at least £450 for the bottom section. It would cost me just half this to dig it all out and fill it with 200mm of topsoil and then lawn it. 

    If it's mossy then in a year or two's time I'll go for artificial. But should 200mm of topsoil make a good base for a lawn? Despite the stone underneath? 
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,053
    Nice drawing. I would vote for artificial grass as well. Look on it as an investment in the future. Means your parents can enjoy it without the constant cutting and care. For the future, I would think about turning the shed into a summerhouse...…….
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 10,547
    I don't have a dog but my son does (a big one) and he's ruined their (real) lawn with peeing and pooing on it (sorry to be so graphic) and generally tearing around. What happens when you have artificial grass? Are there any posters with experience of dogs plus artificial grass who could comment?  
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