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First post, so go gentle on me!!
We moved into a house late December which was a new build, lawn was included fornt and rear. The house is built on ex farm fields so I was hoping for some reasonable soil. Sadly not, it's clay, really heavy clay.
Anyway, the real point of the post - The lawn was thrown down, pretty much second week in December, it seems to be growing and may well be not far off a cut. There are huge gaps between some of the strips of lawn and more bumps than a octagenarians birthday party. Whether I should have or not I have this last couple of weeks tried to flatten some of the bumps and close some of the gaps, I don't want my 18mth old dropping down a hole .
So I am looking for advise on what next, the lawn is very wet, squelchy underfoot. I was considering the purchase/lend of a roller and hollow tine aerator, flatten some bumps and then try and get some sand or something into maybe help the top to be a little easier draining. Question - is the addition of sand to an aerated lawn actually worse in heavy clay, or will it help. Secondly should I bother with a roller or can I do just as good a job with a pair of wellies.
I expect as the weather dries (hopefully) the gaps will start to grow, is it okay just to throw in a handful of compost to fill these and let the grass grow in to this?
Should I be thinking about feeding the lawn, I was even considering throwing some seed on to try and thicken up the bits where the weather has perhaps got the worst of it.
For information, the area is around 12m x 8m and is SW facing - 2 of the main reasons we bought the place!
Sorry to go on, thanks for reading and thank you in advance for any help.
I would stay off it for a few weeks yet until it has started growing properly. If the bumps are just a result of poor workmanship when laying the turf then you can take remedial action. I am sure a search on this site will give you some good advice like this http://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/projects/lawn-care/how-to-repair-a-lawn-patch/188.html.
However the bumps might be the result of rubbish left behind by the builders having been dumped in the garden and just turfed over. This is very common unfortunately and you may need to remove the lawn to get rid of the rubbish first otherwise you won't ever get a good lawn.
Rich, I watched good market garden land being turned into new build down the lane from me and was shocked to see the builders strip off all the top soil then sell it.They hept a bit back as they were then down to clay and put around four six inches back on front and back and roll out the lawn. Those lawn area's last year were pure bog, the only good point being they did lay down a general purpose type grass, it can take a bit of knocking about.My advice is stay off it do nothing until it is dry enough to walk on, then you will need to work on it over a couple of years. Lift high spots and level cut away the soil under the sod, lift low spots and level by adding compost mixed with sand and or grit. Go over gaps with a mixture of compost sand and seed sweeping it into the cracks as you go.I put a new lawn down just before Christmas around four years back and it took then prospered, grass is tough. A young child will love playing on a lawn but they also dig and treat it a bit on the rough side so do not expect a Bowling green.Next Spring (not the one coming) start on weed and feed twice in spring around six weeks apart then an Autumn weed and feed a much slower release type. In Autumn scarify the grass (gets rid of the moss and mat of old cuttings) then Aerate I just use a fork, good exercise and you can do it with your brain out of gear, just get a rhythm and go. Have a bucket of compost mixed with sand and sweep it into the holes. With the type of lawn you will have it will keep it tidy and possibly weed free, otherwise it is remove lawn dig down and put in drainage then good top soil and then sow, a long heavy and costly job so it will be make the best of what you have.
Rich, this may sound extreme but...
You could consider starting off from scratch and ripping the whole thing out. By that I mean strip off the lawn, dig out some of the clay, add drainage and then dump a load of new top soil ontop. This could be heavy work and may need a mini digger and a couple of skips. And would require you to be on the lookout for someone wanting rid of their top soil. But then you would be starting from the beginning with a good usable garden for the future.
If your garden is bad now, then chances are future plants might not thrive and in years to come you may end up digging it all out anyway. Obviously Ive not seen your garden and you may not need to go to such measures. Perhaps you could just dig out the clay soil in your borders and leave the rest? But I guess the lawn wont thank you in the future.
Any chance of a photo showing the whole garden?
Thanks for all the replies. Below is a photo of the garden - well lawn - taken at 9am on 30th December.
I think I will keep things as they are for now and see how the lawn fairs this year. We have given ourselves a year to see what we want to do with the garden, but I think it will stay mostly as lawn. Might put a border down the left (and maybe the right. The bottom of the garden meets at a point, was considering squaring the main area of lawn, adding a small picket fence and having veggies and a greenhouse down there (is 37 too young for a greenhouse!?! ). The 3-4m closest to the house will likely be removed and replaced with either a patio or a deck, probably not the whole width but enough to get a decent table and maybe an outdoor sofa type thing. There is room for a shed to the left of the shot but down the side of the house.
Going to concentrate on lifting the low bits rather than lowering the high bits. There is some debris under there, although my wife was once looking round the place whilst they had a guy picking stones from the garden prior to lawn. We are told the builder scraped off the top soil and then replaced this before turfing, I doubt that very much. When I have walked on the lawn to date there have been a few grating sounds like stone on stone, so might have to get out there and lift those. When I get round to beds I will put some time/effort in getting the soil to a good condition, if it takes me a couple of years to get the lawn good then so be it.
Any manual work is going to have to produce as little waste as possible, there is no vehicular access to the front of the property and no way of getting a truck/van to the rear, Going to have to rely on rubble bags and trips to the tip.
Anyway, thanks again for your help, must make a point of having a nose around elsewhere now you have been so helpful.
I fill the gaps between rolls of lawn with compost and by June the grass will have grown into that and you no longer see it. Using a lawn roller to flatten the lanw in May will help. It really looks fine.
I'm going to have to look for a more recent photo, the ground has settled in places, I don't recall it looking that good as it does on the photos.
I'd definately leave for a year and see how it fairs, your main points to look out for will be gaping between the rolls, and also dips and crests. If the dips are greater than a couple of inches, then lifting the turf in the areas and adding bagged top soil until level is the way to go. For the gaps between rolls (and do this in next few weeks), I'd mix up 2 or 3 parts sharp sand to 1 part topsoil in a barrow then fill the gaps. I'd consider buying a box of hard wearing grass seed (lots of rye in the mix) and sprinkle it all over the lawn, not just in the gaps, then put the soil/sand mix over the top. Use a bessom or similar to 'sweep' the mix into the gaps. I wouldn't use compost in the gaps otherwise you will likely get crazy lines where the grass grows twice as quick. The final point would be to watch for drainage, if it buckets down, note where the water goes and stays. Also in drought conditions note where the grass browns first again will give you an idea of what's underneath. In place the drainage is poor, stick a fork in to 5 -6 inches and give it a wiggle to loosen the grass. Throw a nice 3 to 1 sand soil mix over the top and bessom it into the holes. Repeat until correct drainage is happening. Good luck, lawns are stunning when looking their best, but require a good deal of work to maintain, a point worth remembering.
Realawnexpert wrote (see)
Aerate, aerate and aerate....hollow tine during spring, autumn and even winter. Newly turfed lawns consist of dwarf ryegrass which is a grass that likes food. keep it well fed....don't roll.....but aerate....now!
Thanks for the tips. most helpful, looks like I need to buy me a hollow tine aerator. Would you recommend something to fill said holes? If so what? Sand/topsoil? A bit of food in there too?
BBen and Lawn expert's advice spot on I think. Sand/soil mix as Ben says to brush in holes. Grass is great when kids are small Rich but they can do a fair bit of damage to it so I wouldn't worry too much about trying to have a putting green finish!! Builders are often notorious for the rubble dumping thing as I found in my first garden but live with it a while and see what happens. When the weather improves you'll get a clearer picture. A blank canvas is always quite exciting so good luck!
Bought a hollow tine aerator and plan to get out there as soon as the weather stands a chance of staying above freezing for a day or 2. Will buy some sand in the coming days, bought a hard wearing lawn seed to add into the mix to fill the gaps with.
Looks like there is quite a lot of stone under the lawn, tried to get the aerator into a couple of points and struck rock!
Unfortunately, it's common on new builds for the builders to dispose of their waste (scalpings, broken brick, even bits of wood etc) by dumping it in the gardens and just bulldozing it flat, covering with a couple of inches of topsoil and then laying a lawn on top. If you are planning on having any flower borders or other planting areas, I would be tempted to get started on those now and digging down to see what is underneath the grass.
After trying a couple of spots to get the aerator in I decided there is far too much stone under it, in fact there are patches browning already where I have discovered large stones close to the surface.
Plannign now to lift the lawn back and level using some top soil/John Innes 3 mix.
Upon rolling back the lawn in a few spots to see the stones I found a few little critters - see attached images - garden centre suggests the smaller ones are leather backs, anyone know how to treat them. What is the larger one?
Gonna be a long job rolling back all of the turf, but the amount of stone and crap from the 2-3 bits I have seen so far should make the effort worth it once I can have a nice lawn. Sorry knees!