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What to do before laying turf?

I've finally managed to remove a huge amount of rubble from my garden and am now unsure what to do before laying turf. The soil is clay and not great. My original plan was to dig in a lot of compost and some grit, before laying turf on top. The garden is sloped and I will need to attempt to lay this turf on the same slope as the rest of the lawn. Do I need to remove some more of this earth before doing this? I'm unsure how much I should dig in. It looks as though I wouldn't be able to apply much before the level is too high.

The second photo shows an area where there was a bordear cutting into the existing lawn (where the bird feeder is sitting) which has been emptied, and the patchy lawn above and below this where I have removed moss. I was going to use grass seed on the patchy areas but lay turf in the now empty border. Does this sound ok?

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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 19,988

    I suggest you have a good read of the info and advice on this link - https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=410  It covers soil preparation as well as laying turf when the site is prepped.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SplandySplandy Posts: 125

    Thanks for that, I've had a read but don't think I can entirely follow those recommendations now. I started preparing the ground in February and thats when I discovered that the previous owner had used the garden as her own personal dump. Highlights included two butler sinks filled with cement, a seat from a car, various carpets and tarpaulins laid out a few feet underground and literally thousands of shards of glass, rusty nails and house bricks! It's taken me this long to remove it all. Would digging in compost be ok as a way of improving the soil? I want to get the turf laid this month, which is obviously not recommended in that article, but I don't have much of a choice now. Would you recommend removing more earth so that I can dig in a greater volume of stuff? The ground has been dug over quite deep all over, which I suppose is the same as using a rotovator. I won't be able to leave it to settle for six weeks. Will this result in it being very uneven and can this be remedied in future? I don't need it to be perfect, I just want normal lawn for the children to play on. And does anybody have any tips on how I can get the slope the same as the rest of the garden? Will doing it without following all of the recommendations in that article mean that I am wasting my time and the lawn won't take?

    Thanks and sorry for all the questions ?

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 19,988

    It is nigh on impossible to get a lawn level once turf has been laid and started to grow.  As with most things worth doing, preparation is key to success.

    Digging in compost will certainly help improve the soil and make for better grass.  After that rake it as evenly as you can then there is a technique of shuffling along with your weight on your heels so you cover and trample the whole surface to compact it and then rake again.

    Lay your turf, water well and again if there is no rain until it knits with the soil below.   See this too - http://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/maintain-the-garden/how-to-prepare-ground-for-a-new-lawn/

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SplandySplandy Posts: 125

    Ok, thanks. I have sharp sand to improve drainage, but it seems to me that if I attempt to mix that in to my clay soil I will be creating a sort of cement. Would very small pebbles be better? I'm hoping that drainage will already be improved now I've removed the plastic sheets underground, but it's still one of my main concerns. I assume I will need to regularly water it since I'm not laying it at the best time. The garden is south facing and I often have to water pots twice a day. I only have a watering can so will have  to look into a hose which can fit onto the kitchen tap.

    What amount of compost should be dug in? Should I be looking at getting bulk bags delivered?

  • Dave HedgehogDave Hedgehog Posts: 377

    The info Obelixx posted is very useful info on how to do it properly!

    At present the non-grassy areas of your lawn looks to be on diffenent levels to the adjecent grass, which may require a lot of material to even it out.

    Pic 1 - how much lower does the ground sit in comparison the the adjacent grass?  P.S. You should fork out that tuft of tall grass btw as it will always look usightly.

    Pic 2 - the dip needs to be evened out as much as possible (even removing some existing grass) otherwise you may end up with scalped areas of turf when mowing and subsequent thatch and moss issues.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 19,988

    Spandy - as much compost as you can afford and mix the sharp sand in at the same time.  Spread it and fork it on then level as described above.   The more patient and effective you are now, the less grief later.

    Yes, you will definitely need a hose and a sprinkler to water it adequately.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • SplandySplandy Posts: 125

    Thanks for those replies! The ground is currently a few inches lower in some areas, but higher in others. I feel that if I was to even out all of the bumps into the dips, it would be roughly level but not leave me much room for adding compost. Should I remove more earth? It has only been very roughly sloped at the moment, the ground had been made into a few levels with greenhouse and shed on top so we're trying to brush it down back into a slope, which is why there is currently such a big difference. I didn't think it was worth doing too much levelling yet when I want to dig in compost. The tuft of grass contains a miniature rose which I still need to move! And then I will remove it ? The dip in picture 2 isn't as severe in real life as it looks in the photo- I haven't done anything to that ground yet, just removed the plants yesterday. The garden does naturally flatten out at the bottom there. Will try to get it smoother.

    How much compost are we talking? I can afford however much I need but am clueless. Floundering with it all now, knew what I was doing with the digging and rubble removal but it's come to a standstill.

  • SplandySplandy Posts: 125

    And should I be adding topsoil to the top? I keep reading a few inches of topsoil but I don't feel like I have room for it without removing more earth.

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414

    Splandy, you have done some hard  work getting rid of the rubbish so why waste the effort in putting down something you will not be able to alter later when a bit more work will make a better job. I would remove the stepping stones then cut the grass back to where they were, (Actually I would remove all that grass and start again) but time it seems is not something you have. Start to rake it to a reasonable level and level it best you can now as once down the grass will remain at the level you put it. Cover with as much compost, washed sand and fine grit mix as you can afford then again level it best you can. The usual would be six inches, once you have the best level you can get tread it down into a pan by shuffling up and down, the neighbours will think you have lost it but we have all had to do that, rake again very lightly removing any lumps or stones if there are any. Now lay you rolls, get a general purpose type and make sure the edges are hard up against each other, now WATER and that means soak it then do that every day for at least ten days but keep it damp until the roots have time to set. Do not cut for six weeks then with the blades up, (I used shears on my knees) that is up to you, you will see the new growth when it starts. It will never be a lawn though with children that would not happen anyway, you will have a playground but treat it with feed and weed in the Autumn then again in Spring you will have a reasonable area. I have relaid my lawns over time, as the children grew away then grandchildren come back, it is always better to take the time and effort at the very beginning. Hope you can get some use from this, nothing comes easy in gardening.

    Frank.

  • Dave HedgehogDave Hedgehog Posts: 377

    Splandy - there have been some great responses here. 

    Compost should be added into the soil by digging it in. NEVER lay turf directly on it as it will forever be springy: the turf will root quickly but your feet will sink in for years to come!!  

    Sand will help with drainage and I'd also recommend buying topsoil to lay the turf directly upon. You will need to get a measurement of the width, length and average depth of the areas combined to get an idea of the volume of material required. If you need any help with calculations, please ask in here for advice.

    Getting rid of the stones and getting the ground level by adding sand, soil etc is of the utmost importance if your turf is going to get a head start.

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