Making A Brand New Lawn - It's a mess...

Hello all,

First post and thank you in advance for your help and guidance. 

I have a large section of back garden that for years before I bought the place has been allowed to just grow. It's pretty wild! With crazy weeds growing to hip height and all kinds of spiky ugliness.

I decided I want to get a lawn started for the summer. 
Here is what it looked like about 3 weeks ago this after a pretty big start on it.


(The electric trimmer was useless!) :)

I got a commercial grade strimmer and cut it all down to ground level. As you can see it is covered by a very shallow root 'wild grass' that has a straw-like quality. It's lumpy and clumpy and would be useless as a lawn. Closer look here:



It comes away with a little effort and the roots aren't deep. The soil underneath while not all clay, in about 50% of the area in question clearly has a high clay content. This is what it looks like underneath. These pics also taken today after the 2 large storms we have had so the soil is saturated more than normal. However, there is a fair bit of clay clearly in the surface.



I was advised by my local garden centre to spray and then get a scarifier to strip off this grass layer. This turned into a bit of a joke, the top layer is so dense and full of roots and weeds and rubbish that the scarifier would last all of about 20cm and then be completely clogged up, weigh a ton and stop working. So that didn't work. 

So I bought a fantastic little rotavator and using the scarifier option began slowly stripping off the top layer of growth. 

This is how it looked before and after:




Really, REALLY heavy going but it then allowed me to till the soil down to a depth of about 15cm and begin to create a little bit of level ground that isn't completely overgrown. 

Here is where we are today: (Its very wet after the weather!)
This is the more heavily clay area at the top of the garden. (Area B in the final pic)



This is the lower area (Area A in the final pic), probably 50% of the area I want to lawn is not as heavy in clay, but its very much lower in gradient and gets a lot of water running off over it. The soil is darker and less dense (still quite a lot of clay though!) but also has MUCH more deep growth/roots in it. As I till I'm hitting roots and bulbs like you would not believe. So LOTS of deep stuff growing down there. Here is what it looked like after top clearing:
   
AFTER:


Now: I have had the first of 4 tons of topsoil delivered today. Again, VERY wet but a completely different and much darker shade than anything currently in the area.



So this is the end result: Area A is on the down slope, has more of the roots and bulbs. Soil has less clay and this is where I plan to put most of the topsoil. 

Area B is much more clay, more of the stringy grass and much more 'dense'. 



So after all this here is my question:
If I continue to till the soil all over, I am breaking up the surface quite well and I can add topsoil as necessary to make a 2-3cm top layer over most of the area. 
1) Will I not just be giving everything I have removed the chance to grow back? Once I have cleared and levelled and prepped the area and put down grass seed, won't the new grass just be strangled by all the stuff that was growing there before as it grows back?
2) What is the best grass seed to use? The area is in full sun, but as you can see has I high clay content and needs to be reasonably hard-wearing. As you can tell I am happy to make the effort by regular maintenance but don't know what seed to choose?
3) Is there anything else I should do NOW before I continue to till/rotavate the soil, tearing out the bulbs and roots of existing growth, like treatments or weed killers or anything?

I plan to have the surface finally prepared (weather permitting) by the end of the weekend and ready for grass seeds next week. 

Help! I don't want all the old stuff growing back and I would like the start of a reasonable lawn by the time summer is in full swing. 

I am enjoying doing it all myself, no desire in hiring a team from a turf company to do it all for me.

Thank you again and I will aim to answer as many questions as you may have in as much detail as I can. 

HP

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Posts

  • KT53KT53 Posts: 3,767
    It looks like you have been using a Mantis tiller or similar.  They are great tools and, as you say, will till down to about 6", maybe a little further.  Unlike the big rotovators they are unlikely to create a pan of solid earth below the tilled depth.
    Despite all your work, you will obviously not have removed all the unwanted stuff so there will be some grow back.  All you can do is watch for growth and remove it as it appears.  It's going to be a long slow battle but given what you have achieved so far, certainly doable.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 23,061
    Unless you want a pristine , show case lawn, regular mowing will knock most of the unwanted weeds back. 
    Devon.
  • KT53 said:
    It looks like you have been using a Mantis tiller or similar.  They are great tools and, as you say, will till down to about 6", maybe a little further.  Unlike the big rotovators they are unlikely to create a pan of solid earth below the tilled depth.
    Despite all your work, you will obviously not have removed all the unwanted stuff so there will be some grow back.  All you can do is watch for growth and remove it as it appears.  It's going to be a long slow battle but given what you have achieved so far, certainly doable.
    Hi KT!
    Ha yes it is! I got it on a local classified as parts or not working, ordered a new carburettor for £12 and its been running like a little beast! Depending on how deep I want to go I can get down to 10-15cm with little trouble, with a little extra work it gets down to about 20cm its crazy. But again no idea if that is necessary.

    So I understand your advice is to keep going. Prep and clear as much as I can using the mantis down to a decent level, dress on top to level and then just see what comes up? After that just control whatever comes up? 
    Is there any way to nuke whatever is in the ground before I start? Weed killers I understand need leaves and growth to work best, I was thinking something more crude? Fire? :smile:

    Thank you again for any advice. 
  • Hostafan1 said:
    Unless you want a pristine , show case lawn, regular mowing will knock most of the unwanted weeds back. 
    Hi Hostafan,
    I am a little unclear on what this means. I grew up in Africa where the grass behaves VERY differently to here and what may be obvious to others is new to me so I apologise if I need you to be more specific.

    Are you saying that as the whole area grows, I will be able to just keep mowing it and that will have the effect of controlling whatever grows back that is unwanted?

    Any suggestions on grass seed? To your expert eye does it look like I have too much clay? Will grass grow on it, though I guess we know something grows there as I have to get rid of it at the moment!
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 23,061
    Very few really nasty weeds, like brambles, nettles etc will survive being regularly  mown.
    Essentially the better the "lawn" you want , the more work you need to put into it now. If you just want a flat(ish ) bit of green for kids / dogs to run about on , then less work needs to be done now .
    Devon.
  • Hostafan1 said:
    Very few really nasty weeds, like brambles, nettles etc will survive being regularly  mown.
    Essentially the better the "lawn" you want , the more work you need to put into it now. If you just want a flat(ish ) bit of green for kids / dogs to run about on , then less work needs to be done now .
    That’s fair enough. Given it’s pretty horrific at the moment other than remove as much root and weed and grass as I can, what would you advise I do to get the best result possible?
    I understand your point that good prep now will deliver a better end result. I’m not expecting a cricket wicket at all. Just a nice patch of green where the dog can potter and I can sit on a lawn chair while watching the BBQ. 

    Any suggestions on what other prep I should do?
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 23,061
    go onto you tube, or something similar and you'll find lots of videos on preparing to sow grass. I'd suggest you leave it until the weather is a bit less wet and the ground has drained a bit. Simply because it'll be easier to rake to a nice level finish.
    Devon.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 5,598
    You say that you'll be ready to sow your lawn next week.  I think that's a little early - it's still cold at nights and we could have some more wintry weather.  Sowing in March to April will give you a better result in the end, because the seed will germinate and grow away faster.  In addition, before sowing you'll need to tread the soil to firm it, and rake it to produce a seed bed, and that's not going to work on a clay-rich soil unless it's dried out a bit first.  As Hostafan says, there is some good advice, with videos, on the Net.   :)

    I think a seed mixture for "hard wearing lawns" might be appropriate, but again you'll find advice on the Net, if nobody else posts on here...
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 15,013
    As you’ve spent so much time and effort preparing it, I feel that if you can afford it,  turf would be the best option here.
    I’m sure there will be a lot more weeds coming up later and your seeds could be battling with them, also you can’t walk on a newly seeded lawn to get the weeds out.

    Just a thought, if that’s a possibility for you. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • I just want to say well done to you for clearing what sounds to have been a jungle, all on your own. 👍 You have achieved a great result so far with hard work and a lot of effort.
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