Help with type of base for new lawn

22 Aug 2008
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United Kingdom
Hi all. I live in a very clay soil area and my lawn has always been waterlogged despite having laid drainage under a lot of it. I am having an extension built at the moment so the guy digging the footings has taken off the turf and is pulling back the top soil which I am going to use on my flower beds as these could do with some more on them.

My question is, what should I put back down to lay my lawn on? Should I seed or turf? I would like a fine but durable lawn.

My thoughts have been to lay say 3 or 4 inches of gravel, the same of sharp sand then some new top soil. Alternatively, I could do 6 inches of gravel and 6 inches of topsoil.

Would this be OK or are other options better? What about acidity of gravel, is that an issue and what should I avoid?

Any help would be gratefully received. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to get it right!
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If possible laying a blanket of 6" of gravel then a geotextile membrane then 6" of half sharp sand half topsoil would make for a great lawn. In my opinion its almost impossible to have a lawn drain too fast. Seeding is cheaper but can go wrong, you will need to spray with a selective early on to deal with weed seeding themselves. Also your watering needs to be daily and accurate. Turf can be left to its own devices and simply drowned with water once a day for a couple of weeks.

Realistically even if sown in early spring a seeded lawn will not be usable until late summer/autumn. Fine if you dont have kids using it as it will look green enough but still be very thin until then but regular playing on it will not be good for it.
Not really, pea gravel or cut stone would be fine. I dont see any problem with limestone. The ph is irrelevant under a lawn and its not getting trafficked like a driveway so will not crush. Get whatever is cheapest.
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Does it matter what size the gravel is? 10, 20 or 40 mm? It will be going over a herringbone type drainage system with 4" perforated tubes in it.

Do I need to cover the gravel with a membrane, and if so, what type/make?
I would go 10 or 20mm. You must use a good geotextille over the gravel to stop the soil above washing down into it.

Terram 1000, multitrac 1000 or equivalent. You want a very high water transfer rate.
I would go 10mm.

Out of interest what were the reasons for the advice "you cant use limestone"
It was because it will increase the pH, and also dissolves in water. I presume 10 mm lets the water through quicker?
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No it will drain a fraction slower. With a 6" blanket of it it will drain plenty quick assuming you have a decent sandy loam on top.
looks great. Bare in mind you will get settlement in the first couple of years with a bit of top dressing required here and there.
Just one other thing, we're having an extension built at the moment, which I why I've taken the opportunity to replace the lawn - the old one would have been trashed anyway - trouble is the builder offered to deliver 7 ton of pea gravel but on looking at it I see that rather than being actual round gravel it is 10mm small bits of stone, brick and different rocks, etc, of all different shapes, a bit like crushed demolition site material. Will this be OK or should I ask him to remove it and get something more like gravel?
I would avoid recycled stone like this, it will have all sorts of crap in it and most likely be unscreeded for size leaving lots of dust in there.
If your lawn isn't level (mine slopes from side to side and is a waterproof heavy clay), you could also try digging some ditches so that water collects at the edges. It will make mowing the lawn easier as you should not need a trimmer.

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