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Clay soil causing boggy lawn

I moved into a new build last year. I was left with a mud pit for a garden and while my funds were low (buying new carpets is expensive) I decided to fork the soil over the best I could with a tiller and then add a thin layer of compost and use grass seed rather than spend ££ on topsoil and turf. This seemed to work fairly well over the summer, but now winter has returned, its turned very boggy and muddy. 

I've been looking at improving it in the spring and as far as I can see I have two options. I can aerate and top dress the lawn with sand and topsoil and seed again. Or I can dig the whole lawn up again and work in sand and compost to break down the clay soil, then add topsoil and turf it. I know the latter would cost more but I don't know if it would really improve the lawn over winter and it would just stay boggy. Please could you let me know which route would be best?


  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 9,942
    You might be just wasting your time if the clay goes very deep. The water sounds like it's ponding on top of the clay and if the clay layer is more than say a foot deep then it will never break down enough to allow water to soak away. It's likely to be much deeper than that though. You need to deal with the water on the surface by adding drainage trenches that can take the water away from the lawn to somewhere more suitable. Without knowing the specific garden details it's hard to say what to do but usually a perimeter drainage trench will allow water to flow off the grass and out of the topsoil. A french drain can be used to take the water flow elsewhere then. You have to make sure the water isn't directed towards the house or anyone else's gardens though which makes it tricky.

    The mistake developers always make is that they level the clay with a nice heavy machine that compacts it, then they add a thin layer of topsoil enough to keep grass alive. What they should actually do is create a slope with the clay to direct water then level the garden up with topsoil and turf. But you don't get a £70 million bonus if you waste money making decent quality housing...
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • I agree with wild edges. I think you need to spend a bit of time and money getting the drainage sorted out before contemplating creating a lawn or anything else. A bit of expense now will be worth it in the long run. A good landscape gardener should be able to help you.
    Houses are being built in their thousands all over the Country at present with very little thought given to the "gardens" attached to them. More often than not the ground is like yours, or the topsoil covers a multitude of sins e.g. builders rubble.

    A gardener's work is never at an end  - (John Evelyn 1620-1706)

  • Thanks for the feedback Here is a picture off of the CCTV. I don't really see where I could drain the excess water though, maybe into the flower bed on the left? The drains for the house are where the hose is but there is a patio in the way. I thought maybe aerating would improve drainage a bit?
  • What's beyond the back fence?
    I wish I was a glow worm
    A glow worm's never glum
    Cos how can you be grumpy
    When the sun shines out your bum!
  • What's beyond the back fence?
    It backs onto a main road. It's a brick wall, not a fence.
  • Hard to tell on the photo.    
    I wish I was a glow worm
    A glow worm's never glum
    Cos how can you be grumpy
    When the sun shines out your bum!
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,016
    It's such a small area Dan - would you consider not bothering with grass at all?  If it's shady, it will be harder to keep looking good too.
    It really depends on your needs, because I'd agree with the others about it being a hard shift sorting it well enough, unless you're prepared to do all the work yourself. 
    Many lawns are similar over winter, so it also depends whether you can put up with a few months of not using it, or walking across it
    If you intend staying there long term, then it's worth doing, but only you will know whether it's worth that input  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Posts: 2,523
    I moved into my new build just over 16 years ago.The ground was solid clay (still is!) with a small amount of topsoil not dissimilar to dan.townend garden.
    Over the years the ground level has been raised though this was not intentional.I never had a lawn but my neighbours each side do and they both get very soggy lawns but I seem to be raised above it.One gravel path gets wet with exceptionally heavy rain but seems to drain quickly.The hard landscaping came about because I could not physically dig some areas as it was like concrete.
    Here is the garden on moving in and how it looked this summer.It takes some hard work but it never seemed a chore because I enjoyed creating the garden!

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • Fran IOMFran IOM Posts: 2,580
    That is absolutely beautiful! You must be so proud of your garden now with such a good design and choice of plants. You will be an inspiration to other members on the forum who are just starting out  :)
  • What a beautiful garden you have made madpenguin out of what would daunt most people with what was left to them when they moved in. You have created a lovely green oasis here even though you have used some hard finishes they are softened by the choice of plants and the water, Fran is right, this should inspire dan and any forum members starting out with new gardens.
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