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Laying Turf on an uneven mess.

Good Afternoon,


First time poster. We moved into a property last year and we are getting round to transforming the garden. Before the work was started it was a mound of very unhealthy grass / earth, a few beds with plants in, collapsed fencing, a huge tree and an asbestos garage. So far we have got rid of the above and so I am left with an area of uneven earth and a broken up garage base.


This was going to be my plan next, but I wanted to get some confirmation from people who know a lot more about it than me.




  • The next few evenings will be spent getting rid of the remainder of the garage base – either into a skip, or under the existing Earth to make the garden level.
  • Then I was going to hire a rotavator to ensure that the garden is completely level and so I’m not left with any bumps.
  • Next, get at least 10 tonne of stones in, or 20 if required and lay them evenly across the Earth to help with the drainage (I have been told to lay the stones at least 2 inches high).
  • After the stones I am going to spread the topsoil (can anyone tell me how high the topsoil should be?) and then rake it so it’s all level.
  • Finally I will lay the turf and it will look pristine (ideally)!


Can anyone tell me if this is basically it? Or if I have missed anything major?

Thanks in advance,





  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Hello Nick, and welcome to the madhouse!  Most of us are fairly friendly - at least, we don't bite.image

    Sounds like you have a bit of a task on your hands there.  Great work to get rid of the garage and its base - I do hope you haven't been inhaling the asbestos!   Get rid of the stone/concrete via the skip, or to someone who can use it.  If you bury it, it will come back to haunt you every time you try to dig a hole - or your successors in the house do.  For the same reason I certainly wouldn't recommend a layer of stone below your lawn, quite apart from the expense.

    Rotovators are a bit of a no-no in my opinion and that of many other gardeners. They will chop up the roots and rhizomes of perennial weeds, and every bit will grow into a new plant.  They will also chop up the earthworms which would otherwise mix and aerate your soil for you.  And they won't level the ground to any appreciable extent.  If the area and unevenness of the ground is such that you can't level it out with a spade, shovel and rake (and possibly the assistance of a few energetic friends), you'd be better off hiring a mini-JCB and shifting the soil about with that.

    Is it just a lawn you want, or are you planning to grow fruit & veg and/or flowers, shrubs etc. as well?  Is the soil really so awful and shallow that you need to import tons more?  A lawn needs at least three inches I'd say, other things a lot more, but you can turn your subsoil into topsoil over the years by repeated copious addition of garden compost and/or well-rotted manure, either of which your worms will be happy to dig in for you.

    You say you need drainage - what type of soil do you have?  And what's the topography like?


  • NickBNickB Posts: 15

    Thanks so much for your reply. All of the above that I detailed was the advice of my builder, who isn't a gardener, so hence the reason I came and asked the experts.

    We got some professsionals to get rid of the garage and thanks for the heads up about chucking it all in the skip.



     Hopefully that picture has uploaded. I can take better, more close up ones tonight, but do you think with a bit of digging and turning it up, I'll be able to lay the turf straight onto it?

    So, just to get things straight in my head, definately no need for stones to go down first? 

    I may have to bring some soil in as I'm not sure what is lying under my concrete base as yet.


  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Nick why several tons of stone? Unless you're on heavy clay you won't need to add any stone. As for the concrete base the soil underneath will be compacted so will need breaking up and the best job for that will be a rotavator. It's not a huge area but a Rotavator is quite acceptable. As for the builders ignore them. What you need to add is well rotted manure and you can rotavate that in. Leave for a week or two then take it level tread it rake again and then lay turf or seed. 

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    I suppose if it was under concrete there won't be any weeds or worms to chop up, so rotovating might indeed be the answer.  And yes, if you have a stables nearby, a couple of trailers full of well-rotted manure will definitely help.

    Is that big slab on the right staying?

    Think about what you want to grow and how much time you want to spend doing it.

  • NickBNickB Posts: 15

    It is very boggy when wet, so the builder suggested stones for drainage. I've taken some up close pics for you to see:









     And then this is under the garage base (which is going):




  • NickBNickB Posts: 15

    So I guess i need to know:

    Do I need to do anything to the existing Earth? Or do I just dump the manure on top and rotavate it all in?



  • Blinking heck, in the last but one pic I thought you had recently unearthed skeletons! A closer look showed wheel tracks instead....
  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    I think your main issue is compaction Nick. To test drainage dig a hole about a foot deep and fill with water. If it drains well you're not on clay if it doesn't you may well be on clay. Clay is easy to spot if it's wetted you can roll it into a ball or squeeze in your hand and it won't break up. If it's clay you can lay pea shingle and manure then rotavate. If it's not clay you don't need the grit or pea shingle, just manure.

  • NickBNickB Posts: 15

    Yes Keenbutgreen, I thought the exact same thing when I uploaded it. I have kept a few interesting looking rocks actually that look a bit suspect!

  • KornoKorno Posts: 99

    Your soil looks really good considering you've recently lifted up grass, it doesn't look like you'll be needing a pick axe to break through the soil either, I have stones under my turf and a very boggy clay lawn still, and yes they do get everywhere after a few bedding & planting projects (my partner ends up with the stones rattling through his lawn mower and having to stop/start every 30 secs). Luckily your lawn looks like you can do without them tbh.

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