I am building up my lawn as current one was messy and home to rice and rats crossing from the neighbour with the help of some videos here, here and I have taken out some old turf and still in process. Attached is the image. My question if we can separate soil from grass/turf as shown in the heap and reuse the soil before putting compost and new turf or should I throw that away. Edit: I have dug and clean the soul. Here are new photos. What is the light colored soil? after digging and cleaning sojl after digging light soil. What is that?

Taken out old turf Old Lawn Heap of turf and soil

  • do you mean the pale stuff in the third picture when you say light coloured soil? If so, looks like a sandy/aggregate mix, probably associated with what's under the line of brickwork/paving there, its not really soil.
    – Bamboo
    Jul 26, 2020 at 23:13
  • :@Bamboo yes. While it was at 2inches. I thought to ask before taking it out or something as it should be reused or be part of the compost, Does picture 1 shows the need of topsoil as we cleaned it as much as possible (still I can see few rocks).
    – localhost
    Jul 27, 2020 at 10:24
  • You need to remove larger pebbles/stones so there aren't any sticking up or on the surface (small ones, under half an inch, can be left) before laying turf. You only need topsoil IF you can't get the levels right - meaning its too low where it meets paving or other structures and you don't have enough soil to correct that. You will need a small amount of soil to fill in any gaps between turves after they're laid as well - I think it mentions that in the 'how to turf' section of the book.
    – Bamboo
    Jul 27, 2020 at 11:48
  • @Bamboo Can we use compost on base for it to hold better
    – localhost
    Jul 28, 2020 at 16:04
  • Only if you dig it in (assuming you mean compost as in composted materials) don't put a layer over the top and lay turf on it. You just need a nice, friable, non stony surface of soil to lay the turf onto, so its able to penetrate and root into the soil easily.
    – Bamboo
    Jul 28, 2020 at 17:12

2 Answers 2


You can reuse some of the soil, if you have the time to shake it off the roots of the weeds and grass; dispose of the weeds completely,but any grass can be stacked up, face down, somewhere out of the way. This will eventually compost down and you can then use the resulting composted, soil like material on the garden, in beds or wherever you need it.

You do need to dig over the area and remove weed roots after you've scraped off the top layer of grass and roots, otherwise they will simply grow back through your new lawn. Once dug over, rake it over so it looks flat, then walk over it closely on your heels to get out soft spots, re rake and re-level. You may need to do this more than once; alternatively, if you can, leave it a few days to settle without walking on it prior to turfing and re check the levels just before laying the turf. Use a board to work off when laying the turf to spread your weight so as not to compress areas you're kneeling or standing on whilst doing the job.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say 'building up' the lawn; it suggests you might mean you want to change the levels by adding or removing soil. If you do want to do that, use topsoil, not compost.


Following on from your comments below, you do need to remove the grass and weed roots from the ground; you want the top 3 or 4 inches of the soil to be friable and fairly loose in order for turf to root into it properly. Digging over deeper than that and properly first also means you can remove any debris you can't see currently, such as buried bricks or rubble, so now that you've scraped off the top of the grass, you will need to dig it all over and take out root material - its particularly important to get out deep roots like those of the dandelions as well. Do it with a full sized garden fork rather than a spade it's easier. When you've done that, rake it more or less level, then you'll need to work out how much topsoil you need to make the turf level with the paving - bear in mind that turves are usually somewhere around 2 inches deep. Make sure you use topsoil, not compost - if you need a lot, you can have it delivered, usually in very, very large bags, otherwise, it's available at garden centres in 20 or 40 litre bags. As for the grass you've scraped off, bin it or add to your compost heap (excluding the weed roots, don't add those to the compost) after shaking off any excess soil.

  • By 'build up' I mean I am doing the lawn as it has been messy and had been hotspot for mice and rats. I have one quarter as shown in picture and if the current weather allow, will do more or it has to wait for next week. What u mean the grass can be stacked up and down? will grass grow back if there r left in soil that I rake?
    – localhost
    Jul 13, 2020 at 9:53
  • I can't see what you've removed, but its usual to remove a lawn by cutting down to about 1-2 inches deep all round existing grass (in manageable sections) with a turf cutter or a half moon edging tool, then lever up the sections of grass, which should look almost like a turf that you buy in, though smaller sections. Have you just been scuffing or scraping off the top of the grass, not lifting it out by the roots?
    – Bamboo
    Jul 13, 2020 at 9:58
  • I think it must have been 0.5 inch, the reason was that we might be throwing off too much soil and need to put a lot of compost to level in up the pavement to match the height
    – localhost
    Jul 13, 2020 at 10:19
  • See updated answer
    – Bamboo
    Jul 13, 2020 at 10:28
  • so bascaly dig 4 inch deep, 2 inches to fill topsoil and above that 2 inches for turf? I been thinking of getting turf cutter but the weather isn't reliable here in Manchester. do I get it sunny or none rainy?
    – localhost
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:17

I would keep the soil well below the face brick, about 3 " at least as the sod will bring about 1 " of soil. I would also keep the soil level 3" below the sidewalk or the grass will be growing on it in a couple years unless you aggressively edge.

  • The grass is best laid level with the hard surfacing - its much easier to mow that way. Yes the grass will encroach over the hard surface, ,and will need to be edged in spring to stop that happening, but that's still easier than having to clip or shear the parts the mower can't reach every time its mown if the lawn is lower than a hard surface.
    – Bamboo
    Aug 8, 2020 at 9:36

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