New turf lawn...now grass rotting and sludgy! Help!

Dear GW World Forum!

We laid turf this summer in our garden in late August and, after some intensive watering, it seemed to thrive, growing into a thick, lush carpet. Now, a few weeks back in September, I cut it back with a hand mower, which was hard work and it was at this point that it seems to have gone wrong...the grass in large areas of the lawn has degenerated into green sludge and looks totally dead.

Did I kill it by mowing it? It hadn't rained in > 24hrs prior to me mowing, but it looks like where I walked on the grass is where it is worse affected.

Some key points about the lawn:
• North-facing garden so quite shady now we're in autumn (although it receives a fair amount of sun throughout the day during summer hence the grass thriving in August/Sept);
• We're *very* close to a small river which runs at the bottom of the garden. This means that the ground is very cool (because north-facing) and damp at this time of year, especially at the end nearest the rear wall of our home;
• Ground had been rotovated before turf was lain;
• Soil is quite clay-ey in places. I rotovated some sharp sand in when preparing it;
• Lawn is approx. 10m2;
• Not sure of the variety of grass used...

We're deeply upset as it cost a fair amount to get it done (we have young children and no time to garden) so any advice is gratefully received. And if it's hopeless, then I'd rather know too!

Thanks!
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Posts

  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 895
    Hi Richard,

    Could be be a combination of factors. 

    How long was was it before you ‘cut it back’ and what height did you cut it to? General rule of thumb is to only cut about a third of the length especially in early days of establishment.

    It will recover if that was the cause. Clay soil is likely to be a contributing factor. You’ll often get good initial development before the effects of a clay soil based lawn take hold. This may also explain the soggy conditions although the whole country has had significant rainfall in the last couple of weeks or so. Can you provide some photos? This may help with further input. 
  • PosyPosy Posts: 1,621
    You say it hadn't rained for 24 hours before you cut, but was the soil very wet? We have similar conditions: high water table, heavy clay. The ground becomes water logged and cutting in these conditions can make a mess. Our established grass and weed arrangement recovers in a few days so yours may do so, too.
  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 7,093
    Grass usually recovers, even after the worst assaults [ not implying anything  ] I think you need to wait until Spring to see what happens.
    You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand
    The things you think are precious, i don't understand
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 26,002
    Also - was the blade[s] sharp in the mower? 
    That can affect the quality of the cut. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Fairygirl said:
    Also - was the blade[s] sharp in the mower? 
    That can affect the quality of the cut. 
    Mower was brand new, but I think the length of the lawn at the time (about 6"+) was perhaps too much for it. I didn't want to use my ancient FlyMo as I read somewhere that you should use a rotary blade. 
  • here are some pics of the worst-affected areas

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 1,486
    Long grass doesn't cut well if it's been flattened, eg by walking on it or because it's got too long and fallen over in heavy rain (and 6 inches is pretty long for a cylinder mower to cope with even if conditions are good).
    If you get a dry spell so you can get onto it, it might be worth raking very lightly with a spring-tine rake to lift or remove some of the flattened soggy stuff (I can't tell whether it's clippings or not).
    I think I see worm casts in the picture, which is a good sign for the soil.
  • JennyJ said:
    Long grass doesn't cut well if it's been flattened, eg by walking on it or because it's got too long and fallen over in heavy rain (and 6 inches is pretty long for a cylinder mower to cope with even if conditions are good).
    If you get a dry spell so you can get onto it, it might be worth raking very lightly with a spring-tine rake to lift or remove some of the flattened soggy stuff (I can't tell whether it's clippings or not).
    I think I see worm casts in the picture, which is a good sign for the soil.
    Thanks Jenny! I'll give that a go. And, yes, we have lots and lots of worm casts!

    In fact, since the first post, it looks like the lawn is perking up as we've had less rain and a bit more sun in the past few days. Let's see...
  • Hi Richard,

    Could be be a combination of factors. 

    How long was was it before you ‘cut it back’ and what height did you cut it to? General rule of thumb is to only cut about a third of the length especially in early days of establishment.

    It will recover if that was the cause. Clay soil is likely to be a contributing factor. You’ll often get good initial development before the effects of a clay soil based lawn take hold. This may also explain the soggy conditions although the whole country has had significant rainfall in the last couple of weeks or so. Can you provide some photos? This may help with further input. 
    Thanks Dave. I added some photos. It's in SE London, which I gather is quite clayey soil.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 26,002
    I'm wondering if @Posy could be near the mark too. 
    I don't think the grass has had long enough to be really well established, and it certainly was a bit long for cutting at this time of year, as it's hard for it to be dried out enough to help get a clean cut, but it should recover. If it dries out a bit, you could always try giving those bits a spike with a  fork, and if they don't recover, you can always do a bit of reseeding in spring.  :)
    Growth will slow down a bit now, depending on where you are of course. It's been too cold here for grass to put on much growth, so mine probably wont get another cut now until spring unless we have a sudden heatwave  ;)  
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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