Preparing heavy clay soil for first planting

My ground worker has levelled and contoured my garden to perfection, but I now need to break the clumps(fist size) down to a fine tilth ready for sowing my grass seed.  I have been advised by neighbours not to roll the clay soil as it compacts and then gives rise to large cracks, so I suppose gradual settling and raking (a lot of soil to rake) would do it,  So any advice on how to achieve the above in as short a timescale as possible would be much appreciated.


  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 12,101

    If it were in a flower bed I would say add as much compost and manure as you can lay your hands on, but for a big area like a lawn that may not be so easy. Do you have a rotavator? I had the same problem in part of my garden years ago. I rotavated and raked, not easy. So when I needed to do the next bit I had a lorry load of top soil delivered. It was hard work shovelling and raking it out, but so much easier than trying to break down clay.

  • auntie bettyauntie betty Posts: 208

    Yep, dont roll it and keep treading on it to a minimum! Grass needs air in the top few inches of soil and good drainage to at least the same depth. I'd let the sun dry the clumps out and then either rotovate or go around with a spade and bash the clumps to break them down. Any big solid lumps, break by hand as far as poss and chuck into your borders. I'd agree that some good topsoil would help things a lot. Anything that'll help future drainage without being rocky is good, as the clay will compact again over time causing your finer grasses to struggle. A lawn really is only as good as what's under it, and topsoil is cheap, especially compared to trying to fix problems after the event!

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 11,254

    My brother had a new build with a garden that had been turfed. The turves curled up their corners like old sandwiches. He took the lot off, dug out all the bricks etc, to be left with compacted clay. He rotavated in a lot of sacks of old compost, the contents of my mums compost bin, all the old tomato compost. to help break it up. He then reseeded in the spring. He now has a lovely lawn.

    You may be able to get a lorry load of spent mushroom compost if you live anywhere near a mushroom grower.

    It's not a mess, it's a nature reserve.
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