Clay Soil Garden Drainage

Discussion in 'NEW Gardeners !' started by Brian McDonagh, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. Brian McDonagh

    Brian McDonagh Apprentice Gardener

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    Hi guys,

    I'm brand new to the forum and quite a new gardener. I need help significantly improving the drainage in my clay-ridden front lawn.

    I have been in my house for around 5 years and I reckon the previous occupants (also here for around 5 years prior to me) were not gardeners so the front garden really hasn't had any attention for at least 10 years!

    Last year i decided to have a go at sorting the lawn. It was around 75% moss and thatch and didn't require much cutting! That said, it looked awful so.....

    I put down weed/moss killer, raked it up, then used the scarifier around 3 times! I bought a hollow-tined aerator and had a go (I managed it but it killed my back)! Just when i put down seeds and covered with topsoil - we had the most incredible heat wave (you will all remember it i'm sure!) and the soil baked hard and cracked (even though i thoroughly watered it every evening)! That's when i realised just re-seeding and aerating was not going to be enough!

    Now, when it rains heavily or for long periods, my garden path floods. There is a small (toughly 1.5m x 1m) but significant sloping grass area between me and my next door neighbour (i'm the middle of a 3 terrace) and this doesn't help I'm sure. The remainder of the lawn is roughly 9m2.

    I have previously used liquid aeration (but i think the ground was still too hard and probably too far gone for that to work on it's own?

    My next problem is that i have a bad back and, just mowing the lawn (with a Flymo!) hurts so i really want to avoid digging up and working loads or lumpy, clay soil if i can.

    I also bought 'Clay Breaker' (2.5 kg) and 'Calcified Seaweed' (2.5 kg) but didn't get the chance to use them so not sure if either (or both) are options too?

    Anyway, I'm looking for advice on improving the drainage significantly without ripping up the entire lawn and starting again. That said, if that's the only way, i'll need to get help or pay someone to help!

    Finally, last year when mowing the lawn, i left the cuttings on on it to 'mulch' thinking that would help however, i was wondering what the best advice would be for then removing this grass before the next mowing as i understand that you need to remove the old mulch before leaving the new stuff on? Sometimes, the grass grows really quickly and it will become very difficult to rake it before cutting again.

    Sorry for the long-winded explanation here but i thought it was worth explaining what i've done so far to the lawn.

    Oh, also, i heard introducing worms would be a good idea but i figured digging it up, etc would be best done first?!

    Thanks in advance.
     
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    • Marley Farley

      Marley Farley Affable Admin! Staff Member

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      Hi @Brian McDonagh and Welcome to GC.. You know if you have a bad back and mowing and digging are out of the question why have a lawn.?There are alternatives. You could do a one off and have it paved... With positioned pots.. Or you could get some edging put down, some weed membrane in the space inside and then fill with gravel or wood chips and plunge pots into it with flowers and shrubs which you could alter with the seasons.. Have a think is a-lawn necessary..? :SUNsmile:
       
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      • CarolineL

        CarolineL Super Gardener

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        Hi @Brian McDonagh welcome! I'd agree with @Marley Farley, particularly as it is a front lawn, rather than a back one which could be fun for children etc. The solution of putting down weed membrane and then gravel is relatively cheap. To stop the garden path flooding, you might need to dig a small soakaway - a ditch next to the path, and then fill with gravel to take the excess water. I know that is tough with back trouble, but do it a little at a time...
         
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        • Brian McDonagh

          Brian McDonagh Apprentice Gardener

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          Hi guys,

          Thanks for the reply @Marley Farley and @CarolineL

          I had considered hard landscaping, particularly as the front only gets a few hours of sun in the morning.

          The soakaway is a good idea - I guess this would work, even if I stick with grass (maybe edge the grass with the gravel filled soakaway?).

          I’ll give it more thought.....

          Thanks again for your thoughts so far.

           
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          • Marley Farley

            Marley Farley Affable Admin! Staff Member

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            @Brian McDonagh it is certainly worth a try and if it doesn’t work I would advise getting rid of said grass a lot easier on the back so you can channel your energies into other parts of your garden.. :SUNsmile:
             
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            • Selleri

              Selleri Gardener

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              Hi @Brian McDonagh, welcome!

              I'm following this with interest as I also have heavy clay soil and bad back. Not a great combination! :sad: Here's my moan with plenty of very helpful advise from the forum.

              A soakaway is a good idea. I dug a small circular gravel bed around the bird feeder, and it has improved the drainage around it a lot. Mine is a small one, one spade deep with weed- suppressing membrane and plastic lawn edging finishing at grass root level. The bed is filled with gravel and pebbles on top and there is a Sarococca and an evergreen Lonicera planted through the membrane.

              Let us know what you decide to do and how it goes. Good luck! :)
               
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