Looking to sow a new lawn but have clay soil and worried if the grass will even grow? Then this article is for you!
Will Grass Grow In Clay Soil?
Yes, grass can in fact do really well in clay soil due to its high mineral content, however, there are a couple of drawbacks.
Let’s have a look at some of those potential problems and then what we can do to fix it.
In very hot dry weather clay soils will go rock hard, and they will probably also crack. This obviously isn’t good for the health of your lawn and is very unsightly.
It also isn’t good if you want small children to be able to play on the lawn. In the middle of summer, it can end up feeling as hard as concrete.
So we know that summer can be a problem for lawns sown onto clay soil, but what about winter? well, I’m afraid it doesn’t get any better.
Clay holds onto water and doesn’t like to let go. What this means for us in the UK where winter rainfall is plentiful is that your lawn will soon descend into a boggy mess.
You will often end up with water sitting on the surface of your soil and if you try and use it for anything, even if it is not raining at the time, it will just turn into a mudbath.
How To Fix It?
This depends entirely on your budget and how much time and effort you want to put into fixing your lawn.
I had really heavy clay soil under my front lawn at my old house, in the middle of winter it turned into a mudbath and was only really useable in the dry summer months.
To fix it I went for the extreme option, which I will talk about now. Now, this doesn’t always need to be expensive, I did everything myself to save money. I also used good old human power rather than machinery to save money, so all I spent money on was some soil and some stone.
What I Did
I dug the entire lawn up by hand, down to a depth of around 20cm. With a spade. This is obviously not easy, nor is it quick.
Once dug up I put down a layer of stone at the bottom, cheap MOT stone to be precise which is used as a base layer in garden landscaping.
Then onto the stone went a layer of sand and then finally a thick layer of multipurpose compost to bring the soil back up to a normal level. Then into the compost, I seeded a brand new lawn.
Now, this resulted in a perfect lawn which was the envy of the street, but it was dammed hard work. And if you don’t do it yourself then it will be dammed expensive.
The Cheaper Option
A cheaper way to improve your soil before sowing a lawn or indeed to do on top of an existing lawn is to add a mix of compost and sand.
On an existing lawn just scatter this out onto the grass and then spread with a rake.
This will improve the drainage but not drastically as you will still have that layer of heavy clay just under the surface.
You can keep coming back and doing the above step every year and over time you will obviously end up with a much deeper layer of really good soil.
How To Improve Clay Soils
Everyone will always tell you to dig in some compost or add some sand or grit or maybe even a combination of these things and act like that will solve all your problems.
The simple answer is it won’t. If you have ever gardened on clay soil then you will know that digging anything into it is incredibly tough.
You cant simply add some compost and turn it over, you can’t easily mix anything into clay.
What does work is adding organic matter on top of clay, and either improving through the use of raised beds or just building the soil level up.
You essentially need to start gardening on a layer above the clay that is rich in organic matter and hummus, all of which you will need to provide.
If your soil isn’t too bad but maybe a little on the heavy side then you can add gravel to the bottom of planting holes to aid drainage, and this may be enough for you.