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Clay soil and novice gardener

(13 Posts)
SuzyLucy Sat 24-Sep-16 07:24:14

We are fortunate to have a large 120m long garden but not so fortunate its a clay soil. We dont have any lawn to speak of, just mud patches interspersed with areas of grass. We also have several trees which shade much of the garden. We bought the house a year ago when the garden was a neglected jungle and just cut it all back and removed all the bushes whilst we worked on the house. We are novoce gardeners and need to do the work ourselves.

How do I grow a lawn on a shady clay soil? One site said I should turn the soil now and add loads of sharp sand to break it up and then sow grass in spring.I dont want to wait that long as the children need to be able to play out the coming months. Its a hideous mud pit in the winter as it is.


Footle Sat 24-Sep-16 07:54:15

I know very little , but Monty Don on BBC last night was rescuing patches of worn out grass by raking, hoeing ( basically two ways of scraping the soil ) and then treading in a mixture of sharp sand and grass seed. He advised buying a grass seed mix for hard wear, which will be mostly rye grass. Then if it hasn't rained by the evening, water it with a gentle spray so you don't spray the seeds away.
It was only last night so I haven't had time to forget it yet. Hope this helps.

Footle Sat 24-Sep-16 07:56:14

Ps that was advice about what to do in the garden right now - not waiting till Spring.

shovetheholly Sat 24-Sep-16 09:32:00

It's really difficult to grow a good lawn on heavy clay. I have a north-facing garden in the north of England and have the same problem. I use a special kind of shade turf, but it's got a very fine blade and is more delicate than an ordinary lawn -not exactly robust enough for a football game.

I think you either have to dig in mountainfulls of sand and grit (and I mean literally tons and tons for an area that big) and returf, or accept that a lawn is just not going to work and go for something else instead. I'm afraid that in the first case, the lawn is unlikely to be very usable the winter long.

Footle Sat 24-Sep-16 09:35:42

Our northern 'lawn' is mostly moss. It's quite nice, very green.

Trethew Sat 24-Sep-16 09:45:08

You've got to decide whether you want to go with what will grow in a clay soil, or try to improve it, but either way you aren't going to get a decent lawn in a hurry. It takes years of digging in sand and grit and organic material (compost) to get a better draining soil which will support a lawn, and digging clay is bloody hard work. Turf is risky if you haven't got the soil sorted underneath. On the positive side, put in some plants which will like your soil, esp roses, so at least you have something nice growing while you improve the areas you want to grass

Trethew Sat 24-Sep-16 09:47:22


Titsywoo Sat 24-Sep-16 09:50:58

Hmm well we have a south east facing garden and heavy clay soil but our lawn looks great. We dug it up, let it settle for about 4 months then raked it over in April when it had dried out a bit and lay the new turf. From Oct to March we don't walk on it (we put it stepping stones so we could get to the shed) as it turns into a bog. Thats the only way to keep it looking nice I'm afraid unless you spend loads putting in drainage etc or digging it out and replacing with better soil.

If you want your kids to be able to play out all year round you might want to consider something else. My neighbour has artificial grass and it works well.

SuzyLucy Sat 24-Sep-16 19:38:48

Thank you all. Having spent a fortune on the house we really can't afford astroturf.

Kr1stina Sun 25-Sep-16 04:51:55

You can't have a lawn on clay soil in shade that your kids can play out on in the winter in the uk .

So either put down something else instead - hard landscaping or AstroTurf on part or all of it .

Or spend a lot of time and money putting in drainage, improving the soil and reducing the shade

Or stay off it in the winter .

If it were my garden I'd put down some hard landscaping for kids, put in lots of lovely planst that love the conditions and thin and lift the crowns of trees to reduce shade .

If you still want lawn you can have it in a less shaded part of garden but don't walk on it in the winter .

But that takes time and knowledge and some money .its like the house I'm afraid, you can't get a beautiful garden quickly, easily and cheaply .

Qwebec Sun 25-Sep-16 05:16:57

Don't add sand: it will turn your garden into concrete. You need to amend it with lots of compost. But is is hard work, what I did is add a thick layer of top soil. I transformed my garden from nothing groing to lush grass and a great vegetable garden in a flash (or almost). The link below explains how to do it.

dodobookends Sun 25-Sep-16 23:17:51

You can raise the cutting height on the lawn mower a bit at this time of year, and aerating the lawn might help a lot to break up the heavy clay. Plenty of info on Google. You can hire aerating/spiking machines to do it. or you can go all over the grass with a garden fork, push in about 2/3 of the way, and then wiggle about to open up the soil and let some air in. Then sprinkle new seed over the existing grass (you can buy seed specially for shady lawns), then top-dress with a mixture of fresh topsoil and grit over the top. Then leave for a few weeks before walking on it, and try and keep kids off when the ground is very wet.

CotswoldStrife Mon 26-Sep-16 00:03:30

I have no advice, but share your pain with the winter mudfest. Prior to relocating we had free-draining soil, so the first plants we tried died a death very quickly.

DH did reseed a bit of a patch in the spring, but often threatens to dig it all up and roll it flat before turfing/reseeding.

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