Start a new thread

1 to 14 of 14 replies


Sorry if this has been asked before - I'm new to the forum.

I have just bought a new house with a garden which has artificial turf.  I want to remove the turf and create a garden.

Having taken up the turf there is a later of sand, then clay.

I don't know whether to simply rotavate the sand into the clay, to help with drainage, or should I try and remove as much sand as possible?  My fear is once the sand is dug into the clay it will be impossible to remove.

I will test the PH of the sand to check if it is builders sand.  I'm also going to use well rotted manure to try and build up the soil, then put some topsoil on top.

Any advice on whether to remove the sand or not?

thanks smokin donkey, should I take the sand up?


Thanks - really helpful.


Sand and clay sounds a good prep base for laying turf. I would add compost and feed as SD has said though manure needs to be well rooted as it will make the grass die back otherwise. i would also fork over the whole area to aerate it and stop the lawn from flooding. Should be an easy job.

blairs wrote (see)

Sand and clay sounds a good prep base for laying turf. 

Think you'd have potential drainage problems if it was compacted, as I suspect it was if it was prepared in order to lay artificial turf 


morning mark.. welcome to the forum

i would add manure to the soil as it is then trench and mix it all in together,  I would dig a trench 30 to 40 cm deep, loosen the clay at the bottom of the trench with a fork and infill with the manure, sand and clay.  when done I would add your topsoil, making sure it is good stuff, and lightl;y scratch it into your existing soil mix.  

one more word you think you have any drainage problems?  does water seem to drain away fairly well?  When you trench you will have a sense of how wet or not your soil is anyway.

good to get rid of that artificial turf.  good luck 

The garden has been compacted - my spade hardly touched it!.  The pick axe did manage to break it up OK though.  This was why I was thinking of getting a rotavator, to give the whole lot a good work over.

I've been here about 2 weeks, and there has been some heavy showers in that time.  There is no water collecting anywhere (on the artificial turf), so I don't think there are drainage problems.

Verdun - I would normally dig a veg bed over in the autumn to let it winter, but that only goes down about 9 inches or so.  Are you suggesting that the subsoil needs a bit of attention, from compaction?  I'm not sure if the rotavator will dig to 40cm - suppose I'll find out when I get it. 

Maybe I'll get the rotavator to loosen it up (using a pickaxe on the whole lot will be back breaking).  Then trench and loosen the subsoil.

I'd like to get this right first time, it'll only be harder once I've started to lay borders end grass, so best do it proper now, so to speak

Thanks for all your advice - really really helpful


Best to rotivate heavy clay soils in the winter to let the frost get at it. Once rotavated leave it to the cold to break it up more then just cover in manure/compost etc ready to dig in come the spring. Your back will thank you in the long run 


Smokin I have never double dug in my life. It destroys the soil structure.

I usually just roughly dig clay soil over and leave it to the weather.A rotovator will be easier than hand digging but same affect...ok probably better than hand digging...but just use over ground the once. The less you mess with the soil the better. Then leave nature to do the rest. The ice gets in and breaks it up but doesn't chop all the worms up. They will then come up through soil to get to manure thereby aerating and dragging it back down. 

Mark, I know it sounds daunting but I would physically dig your plot.  Use a pick axe if you have to but break up that soil to at least 30 cm.  a rotovator is useful for the top few inches but I wouldn't use one in your situation.  Just take your time.  

Apart from my runner bean trench ...where I fill with compost....I dont dig.  It's been deeply dug in the past and I now simply add compost to the surface.  I'm suggesting you dig as a once for all treatment and then you can top dress annually 

Just in case your interested....

The rotavator didn't touch the soil which had been compacted for the artificial turf.  My wife and I have just spent 2 days with a pick axe, breaking it all up.  We were absolutely shattered, so have cheated a bit.  We used the rotavator to break up the big clods of clay.

We probably went about 9 or 10 inches down.  We've levelled the soil (the clay was still clumpy with bits about 1/2 inch across) with a couple of bulk backs of top soil.  Dressed that with fertilizer.  Then we have laid the new turf on top. 

It looks amazing, so much better that the artificial stuff.  My wife is very happy.

Just the borders to do now.


Well done Mark! Hard slog but it's worth it to get the prep right. When you're sitting out next year admiring your emerald turf you'll be grateful  you made the effort 

Well done Mark

A job is always more satisfying when there's a bit of hard graft involved.  

Do the same with the borders......I mean break up not lay turf!......but choose your plants with some care.  There are some fantastic plants for,heavy,soil.

Spent the weekend doing one of the borders, used the axe to break it up.  Then added a Bulk bag of Manure, and am now half way through turning it over with a spade.  I've got a couple of Bulk bags of top soil to go on top. 

The soil is looking lots better already, it may be a bit sad, but it was very satisfying when the spade went all the way in and turned over easily.  Hoping to get the border done this week, so I can buy my first plants.  very very excited about planting taht first one..

Thank you all for your kind advice - its been amazing to have someone to get guidance from.

Sign up or log in to post a reply