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Deep Tracks in Clay

Hello!  Please can someone help?!  I live in East Devon and we have heavy clay soil.  Following buildings works (diggers/tractors/telehandlers etc) which occurred during the wet  winter, we are left with deep track marks the full length of the garden.  I would like to level these tracks (with excavated earth which is clay or something else?) in the hope the grass will grow up through the additional earth.  Or, should I seed?  Thanks very much for all responses

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  • you'll need to break up the bottom of the tracks as the soil will be seriously compacted, a garden fork should do the trick. break it up as deep as you can.

    then you can top dress with pretty much any soil mix you want, however if your soil is clay I would mix some draining material (sharp sand or grit) into the mix to help with drainage. Then seed on top.

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 4,370

    I think the problem will be that those deep tracks are very compacted and grass won't like growing in it. If you put a top soil mix into the track and seed grass into that, it may germinate. However, if your garden is flat those tracks will fill up with water when it rains, so the young grass will stand in very wet soil. If your garden slopes, then rain will probably run down the tracks and wash your new soil away. If we get a long dry spell, the soil there will dry out faster than the surrounding clay. You'll keep seeing those tracks again every time the weather is very wet or very dry because those strips of grass will die first and recover last.

    If it's a fairly small area you can probably do it with a garden fork, but if it's quite a large expanse your best bet may be a rotavator along the tracks and just to either side to break up the compaction, then you can mix some compost and grit into the loosened soil and seed it. This way the new grass is growing in the same soil as the grass beside it.

    There's a very brief window with clay usually a couple of days after rain, when it's neither too dry nor too wet to work - you need to try to hit that sweet spot. Too wet and you don't want to be walking on it or you'll make it worse and too dry you'll probably break the rotavator (or at least your back).

    If you have red Devon clay soil, you should find it breaks up reasonably easily once you get into it (and is lovely and fertile when you get it workable). If you're over Coal Measure though, the blue and yellow clays over the shale is much harden to break and may take a couple of reseeds over the next couple of Springs to get it looking even (frost breaks clay more effectively than anything else but it takes a while).

    “It's not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren't doing it.” ― Terry Pratchett
  • thank you so much treehugger80 and raisingirl - I will do exactly as you say!  It is a big/long area, maybe 300 ft, but it will be worth it (if only to stop me forgetting the tracks are there and falling in to them).  I know I have my work cut out but I do have a rotavator and motivation.  Your help is much appreciated :-)

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