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clay problems

hi,all,this is my first post so please excuse me if all this has been asked before..i am landscaping my back garden but have hit a bit of a problem...i have decked the back section,patio on front section and in the middle i want to lay a turf lawn.problem is that when old garden  was levelled the base is pretty much solid clay..what would i need to do to prepare it for a lawn....or could you point me to a thread that could help?

thank you in advance



  • you would need to break up the clay by adding organic matter (like loam) and drainage (like gravel or sharp sand)

    easiest way to do it would be to dig it over, mixing in the gravel and sand as you go, top dress with loam or topsoil and turf on top of that. at this time of year breaking up the clay into big chunks and spreading the gravel/sand over the top and letting winter break the big lumps up for you might be easiest way to go about it, then lay your turf in the spring.

    if its realty solid clay think about adding some land drains to help drain the water away from the turf.

  • KornoKorno Posts: 99

    Clay is very difficult to work with when wet, it doesn't break up quite so easy compared to it being dry and you cant be sure if you've mixed the sand evenly or if there's enough. i would wait until early spring and hit it with a large pick axe to break up the solid clay in to large chunks that are manageable. Just breaking up the clay and getting the air circulating around it is most important, mix a good amount of sand in to it all, sprinkle plenty of lawn seed on top then give it a good soak of water.

  • i have dug down to about 100mm.i was thinking of putting a 50mm layer of mot stone then a  layer of grit sand and finally some topsoil to take the turf...i was told this would work,or have i been given duff info?  thankyou for your replies ,by the way.


  • KornoKorno Posts: 99

    That sounds like decent straightforward info the only thing i'd like to add is that I think you should break up the clay a bit further down than 100 mm probably another 100 mm so that it can breathe new life and will have better drainage, it will turn boggy when it rains heavy otherwise.

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439

    Kurt:  I have gardened on clay for about 40 years so speak with some experience. Also I have sowed four gardens for lawn. Forget about about doing anything now until spring; it will not dry out enough until then but as soon as it does hire a rotavator (it makes it so much easier!) and incorporate whatever organic matter you have.  Sand helps too and rotavate it in. Clay is actually pretty fertile but it needs opening out.  The best thing in my opinion is farmyard or stable manure.    

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • LeifUKLeifUK Posts: 573

    I agree with Redwing. My lawn was heavily compacted, weed infested, poor draining and on clay. I killed the lawn, spread 1" of sharp sand, then rotavated and levelled it before sowing seed. Wait till spring as said above. 

  • Hello Kurt,  We garden on heavy clay as well, and I completely agree with Redwing.

    There was too big an area for us to deal with manually, so we employed a landscaper who used a rotavator, and sowed the seed with another fancy machine.   We went for seed rather than turf because the landscaper said it was a lot less expensive and we'd end up with a better lawn.  With hindsight, I rather wish we'd had more money to spend and used turf, as you're doing.   It was a particularly dry spring that year, and we had to set up a sprinkler, and the grass eventually grew.  We do find it difficult to maintain however, there's a lot of aeration, scarifying and sweeping in of sharp sand, and it still never looks good in the winter months.  My friend lives by the coast, has sandy soil and the most beautiful lawn, and she doesn't do a lot to it either - darn!

    Lots of good advice in all the above comments for you - good luck.

  • You're in a fortunate position insofar as you have a blank canvas.

    We inherited our clay-based lawn when we bought this property last year, and soon discovered that after just a few hours of rain it becomes a quagmire. I'd dearly love to take it all up and start again, employing some of the good advice given above, but I don't think its going to be worth the effort given the time we intend to spend here.

    Best of luck. 

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Des - you could spike and brush in some sand, and spread some sieved compost on top ....but you've probably done that already.

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