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New build house waterlogged garden - clay soil

Hello all

Just joined but looking for some advice please on the garden which has dying grass - yellow, dead and some green.

This house was purchased a year ago but found after a few months the grass didn't look great. We notice that walking on the grass that there is a squelching sound pretty much all the time and try to keep off it. Garden is L shaped with a section going behind the detached garage. The garden is North facing too.

I dug a couple of patches and found brown sticky clay (a pick axe is the best way through this stuff). Dug down to around 18 inches and no sign of soil yet. The hole isn't very wide so will keep having to widen to get access to dig further.

I want to know how to get a good lawn especially as most of the time it's in shade but the clay is a problem.

Being a new house I am of course finding large boulders etc but no too much so far.





  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Dudeni, if it's thick clay and north facing, I'd consider going grass less. You'll never get a good lawn with those conditions. You'll be permanently fighting moss and bad drainage. Your problem isn't easily rectified and lack of sun is something you can't solve. I'd seriously consider a different style of garden.

  • dudenidudeni Posts: 3

    Thanks Dave. I have tried going deeper in the test hole but water is gathering at over 2ft down. Really don't want to do away with the lawn - spent a decade looking onto a grey concrete backyard. Was going to put a border around (12") for ease of grass cutting but also to put some plants/flowers to help use the water up.

    I presume even digging a little deeper won't help as the water will back up into the soil? Was thinking if the soil was a few inches deeper it would help with the grass roots.

    This house has been one big disappointment - so much for new houses!

  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,915

    if you have nothing but clay in the first few dozen inches then it'll probably go down metres (possibly hundreds of metres)

    no point breaking your back trying to dig it out unless you want an open cast mine, I agree with consensus that grass is probably a no-no. however if you do want a lawn removing the top 6 inches or so of clay and backfilling with a decent sandy topsoil is about the only way that a lawn will happen - and even then it'll be a fight against the moss!

    best bet is to increase drainage of the existing soil by adding loads of sharp sand, grit and organic matter and digging over the top 6-8 inches in the flower beds.

    If you can afford it get land drains added before any work gets done - just make sure they drain to an actual drain and not a sump and on clay sumps don't work effectively.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 31,019

    dudeni - it's not much consolation I know, but it's such a common problem, and rarely a week goes by without someone with the same issue.

    I'd agree with Dave - you'll be fighting it constantly. You can improve areas to plant into, adn there are plants which will cope well enough,  but grass needs good drainage and light to be half way decent. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Dudeni, I can wholeheartedly sympathise.  We also bought a new-build house a few years ago.  Planting anything at all is a nightmare - the clay is like plasticine and we could almost have built a new house with the boulders we took out when trying to dig holes to plant anything image.  The borders do fill up with water when the weather is wet (where we live, that's most of the time), but so far, most things have survived.  We do have grass but it's a constant fight trying to battle with the moss.  I think you have to accept you won't have a great lawn, but with a bit of hard work, ours looks not too bad in the summer image

  • Julia 11Julia 11 Posts: 7
    Can I ask, we too have this problem in our new build, although we are south facing. We are considering digging up and gravelling some off it. Do you think this will cause us a problem with water logging. Thanks
  • dudenidudeni Posts: 3

    Julia, it depends if you have somewhere for the rainwater to go. In a previous home there was clay soil of around 8" deep below around 7 inches of top soil. Once I dug through both of these there was good soil underneath which took the rainwater away and the ground was never waterlogged again.

    Being south facing means you would get more evaporation due to more sunlight but need the drainage as pointed to above. It's a right pain isn't it?!

  • SparklesJDSparklesJD Posts: 344

    What are people's thoughts on artificial turf? My friends got this for their permanently shady, fairly small garden and they say it's the best thing they've ever bought for their house and means that their little one can play outside all year round.

    As it's London, I would guess that their soil was also clay, although it's a much older house, so possibly better drainage (don't know what effect poor drainage would have on laying it).

    I don't think it was cheap, as you have to get a specialist firm in, but might be an option?

  • David WDavid W Posts: 84

    We moved into our current house two years ago, it's twelve years old, north facing rear garden. The lawn area (and most of the garden to be honest is a mess), we got a lot standing water when it rains, and the grass squelches when walked on. The area closest to the house is the worst. The cause was of course builders rubble, clay and clay subsoil which is just below the turf (which is a shockingly poor turf).

    In this area we have dug down and replaced it with new topsoil, dug compost and manure in, we also have put a sump in which on clay isn't the best but it takes some of the water which would otherwise run towards the house (slope on the garden is towards the house). The difference for the better us obvious this year.

    The new grass where the soil was replaced was seeded last year so is taking a while to get going, however it is growing, the rest of the lawn is better and we are no longer suffering from moss.

    We put paths in up each side, one to the shed and one to the greenhouse. This means this winter we have not had to walk on the lawn when at its wettest which I think has helped enormously. 

    As we have two children we didn't want to give up the lawn. Despite all the problems we now have a serviceable lawn. 

    So don't give up.

  • Our new home has similar garden lawn issues. If you can afford it employ prolawn.

    you need to really keep on top of them though.

    your lawn won't be great in winter but come spring and summer it will look lovely. I must stress that you need to keep a clpose watch on what they are doing and if it's the appropriate time of year for treatments they apply.

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