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Improving my lawn

I have small lawns back and front, full of wild flowers and coarse grasses, bumps and hollows.  I'm happy about the first, but would like to reduce the other three.  When the mower goes over the bumps, the grass gets scalped, and the bare patch is then invaded by the coarse grasses.  Also, they seem to like the edges of the lawn best, is that normal? 

Now, I don't want a manicured monoculture of a lawn, I want it wildlife-friendly, but if possible a bit lovelier than it is now.  Here's how I plan to proceed, given that my lifestyle doesn't allow for it all being done in one go.

1.  Push in stakes round the edges, at measured intervals, and stretch strings across as a guide for keeping the new surface flat.

2.  Working on one strip at a time, lift slabs of turf, sort it over a big builder's bag to catch the soil, keeping the plants I like and binning the rest.

3.  Dig the ground to a spade's depth to loosen and aerate the soil, removing deep weed roots as I go.  Based on my experience of digging the borders, I expect to encounter plenty of masonry rubble.

4. Level the soil surface, poke in salvaged plants (mostly daisies, clover and self-heal), scatter multipurpose lawn seed and water it all in.  Keep watering during dry spells.

Is this plan likely to succeed?  If not, then what?  When is the best time of year?  I was hoping to start soon, but maybe the driest part of the year is not sensible.  Autumn?  too busy pruning, clearing debris, mulching, sweeping leaves for leaf mould and planting bulbs.  Winter, not much will want to grow.  Spring, as autumn, too much else going on.

I suppose I should add some nutrients, but I can never make enough compost as it is.  It all gets used in potting and mulching.  So what else could I add when I'm putting the soil back?

The soil is clay, but I have never had drainage problems, and the pH is about 8. 

Another question:  the lawns are full of thatch, but my rake doesn't get much of it out.  What might I be doing wrong?  My rake was very cheap, the width of the head is adjustable, wire spokes with slightly flattened, diamond-shaped tips.  Is it the wrong sort of rake for scarifying, and if so, what should I use?  Or do I just need to press down more firmly when wielding it?  

Thank you for your patience if you've read this far!  Succinctness and I live on different planets, sorry.


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,101
    You need a spring tine lawn rake ... something along these lines

    Not sure about digging ... especially at this time of year ... think you may end up with more hills and hollows. 

    Maybe @glasgowdan can suggest something?

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    Thanks, Dove, I looked at that rake and it's not much different from the one I've got.  Maybe I just need to give it a bit more welly.  

    40 people have viewed without comment, so I'm concluding that my proposals are not sending anyone shrieking in dismay, and will proceed as planned!
  • JellyfireJellyfire Posts: 1,139
    I imagine most of those views will be people like me who have terrible lawns so dont know what the best advice is Josusa, Im sure those with better lawn knowledge will comment now your post is back up near the top 
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    Thank you
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    edited May 2019
    Made a start today!  I've read that if you stack turf grass side down in an unregarded corner of the garden, it turns into good soil, has anyone any experience of this, and how long does it take?  Does it need to be kept moist? or covered up? Or would it do just as well to add it to the compost bin?
  • AchtungAchtung Posts: 159
    I removed some dodgy turf from my lawn and put it in black bin liners. After a year all the 'green' had gone and I used it to replace the rubble that I had to remove and returfed over it. I think if I was going to use it in flowerbeds I would have left it in the bags for another year for fear of it sprouting. 
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    Thanks Achtung, bin bags it is then.
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    Well, I made a start on the back garden in the autumn, and had cleared a strip the width of the garden and about 18" wide by the time it got too cold and wet to continue.  Then I decided the front was in worse shape than the back, so I'll keep hoeing the bit I cleared out back.  Today, I started on the front garden.  Meanwhile, I'd forgotten the bit about putting the turf in bin bags, and the small stack I'd built is covered in coarse grasses and creeping buttercup.   Our council has just switched from bags to wheelie bins for garden waste, to I'll use the green bags for the turf.
  • PurpleRosePurpleRose Posts: 538
    Jellyfire said:
    I imagine most of those views will be people like me who have terrible lawns so dont know what the best advice is Josusa, Im sure those with better lawn knowledge will comment now your post is back up near the top 
    I am one of those people 
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