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I'd like to start over with growing lawn and some plants on a small patch of garden (20-25 m2 at most). I removed the weeds/existing grass from the top by digging through it and noticed that the topsoil is a bit of a mess. There's some construction site rubble (small pieces of bricks/cement) and all kinds of things that don't belong there (pieces of plastic foil, shards, etc).

I understand that lawn may not be too needy in terms of soil quality, but I thought I'd try to improve its quality anyway; also to grow a few other plants such as vegetables and flowers. I could clean up the soil (sift? and remove obvious rubbish) and enrich it by adding mulch, or, alternatively, remove the whole topsoil and get completely new one?

My question is what are common ways to go about preparing such kind of soil for growing lawn (should I remove it entirely)?

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Farmers have been dealing with the problem of stones and chunks of debris in fields for centuries. Mostly the problem presents problems for tools - breakage, wear and so on that slow production down at a busy time of year. It is counter productive to go looking for such problems which are more often dealt with as and when they appear on the surface by hand/machine picking. When it comes to small objects the issue is more controversial - some feel that they improve drainage, others say they displace better soil. As you note, since the area is for grass the displacement of soil is less of an issue.

A radical approach to the issue of soil quality might be to take a leaf from the farmer's radish book. Some large radishes (Daikon and others) punch a deep tap root in the soil creating drainage holes, improving aeration and recycling organic matter, all of which would be beneficial for grass. So grow radishes, let them go to seed (bees will thank you for that), collect the seed or just let them drop and seed themselves, allow the leaves to rot in place and after a year or two stand back, admire your achievement, oversow with grass seed (or just let native grasses. appear) and start mowing.

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    I've never heard of the radish solution. Interesting. I think the OP will still need to sift out the obvious rubbish ("pieces of plastic foil, shards"), though. That will be a recurring task, especially if there are children playing on the lawn (wouldn't want a bare foot to step on a sharp shard). Eventually, this stuff will stop rising, at least. This must be a relatively new build/lawn from a lazy/disreputable builder, which is too bad. We have the same jerks installing lawns here in Wisconsin (one idiot also thinks that crabgrass = lawngrass. Hey, they're both green, right?). – Jurp Feb 13 at 22:13
  • Interesting idea, thanks for the suggestion - I'll try and and also remove the obvious rubbish (thanks @Jurp for confirming). – orange Feb 14 at 5:49

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