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Laying lawn turf and would appreciate advice

Hi all,

First time gardener here so I will try include as much relevant information as possible.

I've recently removed all the gravel the last tenants had covering the front and back garden as I'm wanting grass everywhere for my daughter to play on, due to the time of year and relevant ease I have decided to go down the turf route, rather than seeding.

I would like it to be good grass that doesn't get waterlogged in winter seasons so my daughter can play all year round, however I'm struggling to determine the soil composition after I've removed all the gravel and what/how much I should add to this soil (sand/compost/topsoil?) to make it thrive without flooding.

Initially I thought it was predominantly clay so was going to mix in some sharp sand, however after a few tests it seem's like it might be sandy loam, I've done a few tests including a glass jar test if this helps;


I'm presuming the top white line is clay (7-10%), with the mid blackish silt (17-25%) and the bottom layer sand (65-76%), the only reason I doubt this is because of all the online articles saying really cloudy water indicates high clay.

Also I dug a one foot deep hole by 2 feet wide and filled it with water (the soil was already wet due to it raining all morning which I guess could impact some retention) and it took just under 2 hours to completely drain, also tried the ribbon test and struggled forming a ribbon without it breaking.

Advice would be greatly appreciated as I really want to get this correct the first time.



  • Doe's anyone know a rough depth of a suitable topsoil would be to put on this?  Sorry for double post, just waiting on some expert advice before ordering it. :)

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910

    If the areas have been covered in gravel for a long time, the soil will be compacted, so I would address that rather then analysing the soil type too much. What you need is good drainage and light  for grass to thrive, so actually - you might have been better digging the gravel into the soil, if it was a fairly small size.

    Be careful what type of sand you use - it needs to be gritty stuff, not builder's sand which will make things worse. If you can dig over the soil throughly, loosening it up, and then gently firming it back down, that will be the first step to take. 

    What are the surroundings of the plot like too? If there are lots of overhanging trees and shrubs, or high walls, fences and buildings nearby, that will affect grass growth, either by sucking up nutrients or causing shade - or both. 

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

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hi and thanks for the reply :)

    The gravel is more pebble size sorry, roughly between 1/2 to 1 inch, I have taken it all up but its still in bags so it can be added back if this is desirable.

    I've started digging it all up and breaking it into a crumbly soil, but as I've removed all the pebbles I now have a 4 inch drop between the paths and the soil, as this is quite sandy do I really still need to add more sand for drainage?

    I've also used on my postcode, which also confirms the soil test I did, while also indicating that my soil is acidic;


    The front garden is surrounded by a low brick wall (not more than 3 feet), the back is surrounded by large wooden fence panels.

    Last edited: 08 June 2017 18:43:26

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910

    No problem - soil sounds quite free draining then, so you probably only need a decent topsoil mixed into the existing soil you have to bring it up to the level you want. You'd have to calculate the area and depth to give you the volume of soil you'll need. If you're unsure, there are tables available to help, and usually the suppliers of soil will also have a facility to calculate it. Bear in mind that you need to level the area, firm it all down, and rake it afterwards to get the best base for your turf to go on. If you don't prep it well, you'll end up with lots of lumps and bumps which can be trickier to fix later. The soil will also settle a bit, so don't rush into getting the turf laid too quickly after preparing the site. It's a good idea to have some extra soil available to correct any bits that settle more than others. image

    I should have asked you what aspect  each garden is too. One will be shadier than the other though - as you want to do front and back gardens. The shadier one will benefit from a turf suitable for that. As it's also for your daughter to play on - I'd go for something hard wearing. Anything too fine will suffer from all the footfall!

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

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Haha well she hates football, I think it will be more practicing dance moves and picnics!

    The sun rises facing the back garden/house, which gets most of the sun, this is where she will be playing in it most too, the front garden is mostly for decoration and won't be trampled on much.

    I didn't even realise there was different kinds of grass turf (I'm a computer student so outdoorsy things really aren't my forte haha), so rather than flattening the current soil, then putting a layer of topsoil on, you would break it all up and mix in the topsoil so the 2 layers are mixed together instead before laying?

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,910

    Yes - I'd mix the new soil in with the existing stuff, to get a good balance, and to ensure the soil is well loosened up. Then do the firming down - you walk across back and forth over the soil, pressing down with your heels. Then rake it all level, and leave for a week or two to see how it settles. In theory - you could lay the turf at that point, but when the ground has been under gravel for along time, it can be quite solid and unforgiving, so it's worth taking the time to get it right.  If you get a  lot of rain for instance - that will alter it, so you may have to rake and level and fill dips at that point. The better the surface before laying turf, the better the finish will be. image

    The front garden will be fine most of the time, and you'll only need to cut it regularly. It will probably get a bit mossy, but a weed and feed product in spring will help with that. You'll get advice with that sort of thing for next year when it's about February/ March time. 

    Once your turf is laid - the most important thing is to keep it well watered - especially for the first few weeks, and in long, hot dry spells.

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

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Dig the whole garden first before you get the topsoil then spread the topsoil and dig it all again so the original soil and the new soil is well mixed. Then start the raking/levelling etc. 

    Don't believe these tables as they are too generic for soil type. I have free draining loam and the neighbours across the road have clay!! gardens are within 30 feet of each other!

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
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