New turf failing rapidly!

30 Jun 2008
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United Kingdom
The bottom 2'-6" of our garden when we moved in just over 2 years ago was always in the shade due to very large conifers. The landlord has now had the height cut down from about 40' to around 25' so the ground is now getting plenty of sun and rain. We have tried sowing various grass seeds, to the instructions on the packet, (35 grams per square metre, keep moist , don't walk on it etc), but they have all failed to germinate. Last weekend we turned over the top 3" or so of soil and laid 2 lengths of decent turf, again watering it to keep it moist, but it is dying already. When we turned the soil over we noticed patches of a whitish powder and are wondering if this could be the cause or is the ground simply lacking nutrients etc.
Should we dig it over a bit deeper and add some fertiliser and if so which type? Should we remove the top couple of inches and just spread some good quality top soil?
The rest of the garden is fine, (ok a few small bald patches but we are reseeding these and think they will fill in). The subsoil is clay about 92-12" down but the ground drains well.
Any suggestions would be welcome.
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Pretty sure they are conifers. If they are leylandi we are pretty stuffed as the property is rented. There is some grass growing where the end of the trees are and it is quite lush and green. A lot of twigs fell on this area over autumn/winter but the grass has sprung back up.
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