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new lawn on compacted clay


I am in the process of creating a lawn at the back of my house. The previous owner had paved and stoned the area. The size is about 30ft by 40ft. It is 50/50 split of stone and paved.

So I have removed the membrane and most of the stones from the stone area. I have lifted up all the patio flags and now there is about 4" of hardcore that was supporting flags. I can also see from level of neighbours garden area that previous owner has diggered down about 6-7ft to create this space.

What this means is there is no top soil. As the area has been dug out to 6-7ft the base is compacted clay. A few of stones from stone area are sitting on top of clay and all hardcore remains from flag area.

My dilemma is what is next step after clearing area. I was thinking I just level out stones and hardcore over the clay evenly. Get top soil for about 6" coverage and then sow seed. Is this enough or do I need to do anything extra regarding the clay. Any responses appreciated from novice gardener



  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    The previous owners must have done what you describe for some reason it would have been a huge operation. 

    I know what your'e asking about, but what I'm wondering is the shape of the actual site. You seem to be describing a bowl shape to your garden so drainage could be an issue. Have you got a picture you could post. 

  • KT53KT53 Posts: 8,454

    To clarify, are you saying your garden is 6 to 7 feet lower than your neighbours?  That's how I'm interpreting your original post.  If so I think you may have a problem with water from surrounding properties draining down onto your garden.  Add compacted clay to the equation and you could soon have a free swimming pool rather than lawn.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the responses.  Here are some pics to give a bit of clarity




    Pic below. 

    Neighbours garden is above this wall.  Thats wall about 6-7ft high.

    Would like to put small patio in corner.  Maybe just 8ft by 8ft.  Kept some flags and hardcore to do this.  Rest of space just want lawn.  Something for kids to have space to play, kick football.  Get them out of the house.








  • I'd really want to break up the compacted clay. When you put the top soil on, water wont drain very well, which may make it boggy. It might be a painful job but digging the clay over - adding sand and or compost or some sort of soil improver would probably be well worth the effort. You basically want a sub surface that drains freely but with plenty of organic matter to allow worms etc which will help with aeration. Other wise you will get a lawn but this will quickly compact and turn to mud - especially as a football pitch.

    Also looks like it its been terraced rather than 6ft straight down. I wouldn't know if this makes any difference but you may have better soil at the front  which would help the cause. I'd also turf rather than seed if that's an option - it takes time for the seed to germinate and cover the ground adequately, at least the turf will be useable in a few months of laying.

  • Is next door higher than your house and is the garden lower than your garden.
  • House
  • 3rd pic gives best idea. Wall with large red patch is how much higher neighbours garden is. Smaller wall to left of this is how much higher neighbours house is.

    I was thinking if some sort of drainage would help, maybe French ditch. In bottom pick would be running diagonal from bottom left to top right. There is a gutter drain just at bottom of that corner in top right of pic.
  • Have the previous owners used the lower area for parking.
  • No. Wasn't used for parking
  • Possibly the top level would be best to be used as a seating bnq area with block and plastered planters with a new fence along the top maybe toughened glass.

    And the lower section a foot of ground to be dug out and rotivated with a sokeaway in the middle filled with large rubble, pea gravel, sharp sand and compost mixed in to brake the clay up then topped with topsoil.

    And repainted the walls

    I can see why the last owner did what they did
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