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15

I've seen this many times in new subdivisions. The worst was a house with heavy clay soil where a year after the builder left you could still roll up the grass. As you have found grass finds it hard to get roots into a compacted clay subsoil. I assume that you are not able to remove the existing grass and add two to six inches of topsoil. That would ...


14

Who knows? There could be lots of reasons. It might have been to help drainage (although proper rounded gravel probably does this better), but it might be just builder's fill - and a bulldozer leveled it out before the final top soil was added. A large number (majority?) of urban backyards in the US are made of varying degrees of builder's fill. All they ...


12

I have a similar problem in my garden. The clay soil is at least six feet deep and can only be broken up with a pickaxe or power machinery. Why? as the glaciers melted in Ontario about 14,000 to 10,000 years ago they dropped the silt (clay) in huge moraines and drifts. Post ice age plants started building soil and took thousands of years to do so. then, as ...


12

I live in the St Louis area so my soil is also very clayey. I make 5 gallons of compost tea each week (from late Spring to earlier Autumn "Fall") and apply the 5 gallon batch to the front garden one week, then the following week apply a new fresh 5 gallon batch to the back garden. I repeat that cycle for the period given previously. I have been doing this ...


12

This sounds like a lot of work. The picture you show of the backyard looks nicer than some other lawns I have seen where people have a maintenance firm do the fertilizing and cutting. Just some points to note: if you raise the grade anything more than an inch or two this will kill any trees inside the raised area. Trees don't take grade changes well. to ...


10

Just to round off the sterling advice already given: if it is available, I would definitely add plenty of well-rotted horse manure (not farmyard or cattle manure, which is more suitable for amending light soils). Over time, horse or stable manure - preferably one that contains plenty of straw, rather than wood shavings - will open up the soil structure, and ...


9

Below is what I would consider a "Rolls-Royce" job, all of it might not need to be done if water doesn't puddle on the surface of the lawn... French drains on the back face/side of the upper and lower retaining walls: Dig 300 to 450mm (12 to 18inches) wide trenches. The trenches should run the length of the retaining walls. The trenches should bottom out ...


8

Compost sounds like the main thing you want. This will primarily add nutritional value to the soil (to be fair clay minerals can hold all sorts of mineral ions - but no humus or water holding ability) but also improve drainage, digging, and it will be easier for roots to penetrate. Over time the compost will break down so you will probably always adding it, ...


8

The direct answer to the question you asked is a hesitant "yes". I hesitate because you may have other issues that prevent you from getting a good crop. But a short variety can help you get a usable crop if you don't want to go to a lot of effort improving your soil. In my opinion, improving the soil is a worthwhile effort, so here's my recipe for getting a ...


8

I have the same situation. For garden beds, I've had the best luck with lasagna gardening. I leave the grass in place, and cover it with several layers of cardboard and/or newspaper. I think I am well known at the grocery store as the lady who asks to raid the bin where they dump the broken-down boxes. If I have enough compostable material, I'll add that ...


8

One should always address the soil before tackling weed and plant issues. I'm a firm believer that good soil = healthy plants = few diseases and little need for chemicals. Every plant has a place in which it likes to grow, due to soil composition and climate. Once we understand and accept this principle, its a matter of deciding how to modify conditions ...


8

Not sure where you're from but in the USA you can send a soil sample to your local university extension office and for a nominal fee they will give you a report on the soil that you can use to improve it for your intended purpose. Two key things to look for is the existing organic matter content and cation exchange capacity. This is always a good thing to do ...


8

You will want 3-4" diameter perforated pipes in the stone layer (also sloped 1"/10ft), and you will probably also want filter fabric on both sides of the stone layer, or it will become a layer of clay with rocks embedded in it soon enough. You might also want some much deeper "french drains" to deal with the water, rather than only having drainage 1-1.5 ...


7

If you're lucky then gypsum will work on your clay, helping the clay break up. Put a bit of the clay in a glass of water for a few hours. If the water becomes milky, i.e. the clay disperses (without any human intervention such as shaking), then gypsum will work. Spread generous amounts of gypsum when the clay is moist or even additionally spike the clay ...


7

Probably from the builders, as winwaed and LarsTech already point out, and previous structures that were built there. Though our backyard sounds much smaller than yours, it sounds like you've been just as unlucky. Our house is on land near a city centre that has undergone an "urban renewal" project, transforming from really shabby houses to slightly larger ...


7

I find that raised beds are best for: early spring production drainage square foot garden (limited space) older people And I have also found that I can grow more per plant in the ground beds, but they start a bit later. If you have the time and energy to heavily amend a ground bed, I think you will like the reults better. That is just my experience. I ...


7

You need to incorporate as much humus rich material into the soil as you possibly can, so that means things like composted animal manures, good garden compost you've made yourself, leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, anything organic like that. If its really solid clay, bad enough to make pots with, then the addition of plenty of horticultural sharp grit (...


6

We caught our builder burying crumbled concrete below our garage floor when building. They were bringing it from other job sites to save on dump costs. Since our house was the next to have concrete poured they thought they could hide it all below our garage floor. My husband, a concrete/materials inspector for over 16 years, just happened to show up while ...


6

It sounds like your soil is the main problem. You should avoid stoney soil or clay soil. Clay could probably fixed by digging in other material (but not manure which is too rich for root vegetables). You may want to consider using raised beds or containers as an easier soil fix. For poor soil conditions, the shorter more rounded varieties are indeed ...


6

I agree with the lasagne gardening/sheet composting replies above in that adding organic matter is the very best thing you can do for clay soil. We have heavy clay soil here and we compost leaves every fall in black garbage bags (mix a bit of dirt in and make sure there are holes for air circulation and that it stays moist but not wet) and till those bags ...


6

In this case, because you already decided what you will put down, if you don't want to do two tests, test after. The reason? You will know what your soils current condition is, whether you need to apply lime, and what the nutrient concentrations are. All this is outdated when you add that big of a load of amendments. Also, if you mix them in properly, you ...


6

The advantages of raised bed vs. ground bed are pretty much the same regardless of your native ground soil, so you can take any of the comparison lists that pop up from your favourite search engine. This UGA extension page discusses some of them. In particular with a clay soil, you'll want to keep in mind that compaction, slower warming and decreased ...


5

The clay itself isn't going to break down due to decomposition because it is made up primarily of inorganic material - minerals and such. If you plan on doing the lazy compost method, where you pile organic material up and forget about it, then it won't much matter if there's clay other than the fact that you'll have a lot of clay in that pile. Eventually, ...


5

I would add 1" "a bunch"* of compost and dig it into the topsoil, but I wouldn't mix it into the subsoil. The benefit of double-digging is that you can break up the subsoil. But you don't want to mix your soil layers, and adding compost to your subsoil isn't helpful. I'm somewhat skeptical of importing worms: if you have poor soil, you won't have worms. ...


5

In your comment to kevinsky's answer you mentiond you're more into veggies so you might want to consider growing things like diakon radishes and red potatoes in the areas you want to loosen. These plants will push into and break up the clay. I've heard of Asian gardeners planting fields of diakon crop and not havesting the roots, just letting them rot then ...


5

Is mulch or topsoil better for new lawn in clay soil? Assuming the new topsoil is decent topsoil, the topsoil is "better". Even if you had outstanding topsoil now, additional topsoil would still be better because it would be a thicker layer of good topsoil. You simply can't have too much topsoil. I'm trying to imagine what you have now and I'm picturing ...


5

This is similar to what I did a few years ago. I needed dirt for the back of a building foundation I was constructing, so I dug up the hard clay from 10ft down and used it to level the foundation which sat on a bit of a hill. At the end, I was left with a fairly steep slope of ground on which nothing would grow except some ragweed, pokeweed, and some ...


5

I'd dearly love to know what part of the world you're in, because that looks remarkably like London clay, but then I guess clay looks the same most everywhere. I'm sorry to say your plan won't work terribly well - unless you compact them, the layer of stones will move and you'll end up with a bumpy lawn which still doesn't drain well in very wet weather. If ...


5

If your looking to make sure the grass actually performs well, you should be sure to amend the soil with a decent amount of compost. I'd recommend at least 1 inch, but if it was me and I was making such a large investment in time and money with the other aspects of the project, I would go with 2 or even 3 inches . At 1 inches depth, simply multiply the ...


5

I'll add in to the fine answer above that the unwanted plants can do a rather good job at loosening up the soil, so don't look at them as enemies, but as limited term employees that will help in your efforts and eventually can be let go when the desired species are taking off. Instead of fighting with these invaders, prune them, coppice them, use their ...


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