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Complete newbie needs help

Ok first off, I am a complete newbie when it comes to gardening. I may well have bitten off more than I can chew... but I really need your help and advice as I'm starting to think I've ruined my garden. This is how it stands now

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A little history (I'll try to stay brief)

Garden in new house was awfully bumpy and had a "shelf" at the back with a steep step, both of the above making it impossible to mow and ankle breaky under foot.

So we killed it off, intending to level it and replant. Using a tiny bit of knowledge gained from google I hired a rotavator (after picking a reasonably dry weekend... this weekend)

FYI, we killed the lawn off 6 days before rotavating, thinking back this was probably mistake number 1

After rotavating for a couple of hours it was apparent I had two different kinds of end products, using the above picture as reference.... the right hand section and the shelf at the back have gone like I hoped it would, soil broken up nicely.

imageimage

However, the main section of the garden went clumpy (possible clay content in that section?) or maybe just too wet as we had a couple of downpours last week. No matter what I can't break the soil down either by hand or machine, they seem like small pebbles.

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It was also incredibly sunny on Saturday and it didn't seem to improve it.

 1) The entire soil is very stoney, I am trying my best to pick out the stones but it seems never ending. Just how stone free does it need to be before I can plant?

2) What can I do about the clumps?

3) What should my next move be?

I know there isn't going to be a quick fix, and I am prepared for a lot of hard work. We don't have a great deal of money so a cost effective solution would be best. I am prepared to put the manual work in but can't afford to hire a professional or use any drastic measures such as turfing (due to the size)

I do have access to machines like mini diggers, dumpers and trucks

Sincerely, thank you for any help, I really need it

Bernie

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Posts

  • NatbatNatbat Posts: 62

    Hey Bernie, is the plan to lay grass or create planting beds? 

    To me the soil forming clumps looks like clay soil to me. Did the grass there previously get quite boggy or puddly? 

  • sanjy67sanjy67 Posts: 1,007

    if the clumps feel like heavy clay, i would tip in some grit (i used builder sharp sand in my borders) to break up the clay and rotavate that in if you still have the rotavator, it's hard to see how big the stones are in comparison to anything around in the pics but if they are small i wouldn't worry to much. Once all the rotavating has been done, i would level it and you can then rake the top layer to get rid of any stony material, so you are left with a nice crumbly top layer. i live by the beach and my oils was sooo stony i had to sieve it to get all the stones out, i had buckets of them and it too ages, i seem to remember my husband made a large sieve out of a wood frame and stapled some wire into it but that would take you forever, i personally would use an adjustable fan rake then you can control what size stones you want to remove image

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,234

    If your soil was clayey then that's what most of the lumps will be. When clay dries out it goes hard and solid....think pots!!

    While you have the rotavator you could do as sanjy says and get some stuff mixed in there to improve the texture. When we did ours we cleaned the local riding stables out of matured horse muck. Unless you beat every little bit with a hammer you will be left with lumps but most of these can be incorporated or raked off the top. 

    I didn't mind all that bit, it was the flattening that did my head in. We marched up and down like penguins for days..... image

  • Bernie3kBernie3k Posts: 14

    Natbat, the plan is to plant a new lawn entirely, it would be too expensive to turf, I don't recall any puddles or it being boggy.

    Sanjy67, I did have a bit of sharp sand left over from a previous project, how much are we talking? I probably only had a wheel barrow full and tipped it in with some gravel

    Unfortunately the rotavator has to go back tomorrow and all the builders merchants are shut today.

    How much of a problem will the clumps cause if they are left as they are when planting a lawn?

  • Bernie3kBernie3k Posts: 14
    plant pauper says:

    When we did ours we cleaned the local riding stables out of matured horse muck. Unless you beat every little bit with a hammer you will be left with lumps but most of these can be incorporated or raked off the top. 

    I didn't mind all that bit, it was the flattening that did my head in. We marched up and down like penguins for days..... image

    See original post
    I can get access to mature horse manure. Will this improve the texture of the soil and remove the lumps?

     

    Last edited: 15 May 2016 11:37:00

  • Bernie3kBernie3k Posts: 14

    I can get access to mature horse manure. Will this improve the texture of the soil and remove the lumps?

    *Edit- Sorry for double post, quoting went wrong for some reason 

    Last edited: 15 May 2016 11:46:28

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,234

    Nothing will remove the lumps except a hammer. image With all growing areas I tend to try to incorporate as much organic matter as possible while I can. It'll keep the clayey bits from forming such big lumps in future and help to aerarte the soil. It's not vital with a lawn but if you have it bung it in. Picture a fruit scone. It always breaks at the fruit. That's your organic matter in this case. More fruit, more breaking apart. That's a very simplistic way of describing it but you get the idea.

  • sanjy67sanjy67 Posts: 1,007

    if the garden gets boggy because of the clay, i would break it up with sharp sand, it's difficult to say how much as dependes how much clay you have, i just kept adding it with manure also and mixing/chopping up clay until i had a nice broken up texture, the sharp sand will help with the drainage and stop the clay forming clumps again. If it's dry where you are i would use the rotavator to break up the clumps if you haven't already and you can use a fork to work the sand/manure in when the builders merchants open, the manure and sharp sand will definitely help with improving the soil & stop the clumping but really the clumps need to be broken up first as like (the big clumps not little bits) as plant pauper says then flatten & rake off any large stones/clumps 

    Last edited: 15 May 2016 11:59:09

  • Bernie3kBernie3k Posts: 14

    Thank you for all your replies. I will go and try to remove or break up the bigger lumps while raking and firming. I will come back with a progress report later image

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