Grass Lawns and Improving Lawn Drainage
Nowadays it seems, few people can afford the luxury of selecting and buying a plot of land of their own on which to build a house and lay out a garden complete with surrounding grass lawns. Instead, the house and garden come as packages, estates, either designed and laid out by private contractors or as municipal enterprises.
Invariably the fronts of the houses bordering on roads are levelled and turfed and even planted up by the contractor leaving only a small area at the back of the house, and even this is often roughly levelled. This is at best covered with a layer of topand at worst merely smeared over with a token depth of soil which can be suspect.
In the days when a lorry was loaded by hand and the top soil taken from the top, it was usually reasonable, but now the lorry is loaded with a mechanical shovel which scoops anything in its path and tips it into the lorry to be spread as a top layer on a dozen gardens.
Turf, where it is laid, is often of the poorest quality, full of rough grass and weeds and literally rammed down to make it reasonably level. Therefore, we often have to remake a lawn rather than make it from scratch. Fortunately, grass, as the old proverb has it, will grow anywhere except on a busy street. The soil need not be rich but for preference it should be uniform in texture, and not given to water-logging.
Improving Grass Lawn Drainage
Again, nowadays, housing sites are invariably drained and roads laid out before building starts. This means that if there are any pockets of excessive wetness, particularly where a low area has been filled in, there is just nowhere that the individual who owns the plot can drain it away. However, a few days observation will soon settle if the area to be converted into a grass lawn, is in need of extra draining simply by digging a few holes 12 to 18 inches deep and observing if these fill up with water. If they do, then water is draining from somewhere else. Observation of the surface after heavy rain will also give a clue to thecapacity. If water remains on the surface after heavy rain longer than 24 hours, then something must be done about it.
If, after testing, surplus water and lawn drainage presents a problem, then, in an enclosed garden alongside others, there is often nowhere outside the garden where the excess water can be drained. This means that the only answer is a sump (see below). This can take two forms, it can either be a hole or a trench. However tempting it may be, never break into existingvia manholes as this could lead to a lot of trouble and even more expense. If you decide to make a hole it should be at the lowest part of the garden and as far away from the house as possible.
For all normal gardens attached to a house built since 1945, a hole 3 feet deep and 3 feet square will suffice. The bottom should be broken up for the simple reason that if the area isthen the sub-soil will be clay or silt.
In a new garden, there is invariably enough rubbish, brick ends, lumps of concrete or similar debris on the building site to fill the hole to within 12 inches of the surface. Place the big stuff at the bottom, small stuff at the top and if it can be topped with chippings or gravel so much the better. Fill in the top with a little of the clay mixed with soil and taper off to the best soil for the last 6 inches, fill the hole to within 12 inches of the surface.
Types of Sumps
Draining by way of a sump is very suitable if you are making a path and most people like to have a hard path. It involves excavating the full length of the path, not necessarily the full width, but about 1-1/2 ft wide and 2 ft deep. The trench is filled with rubble and the path laid on top. Any number of shallower drains can be let into this sump from other points in the garden.
The drains can be commercially available perforated plastic drainpipes which are far more convenient than the foot-long field tiles. Home-made drains can easily be made by placing two bricks on edge with one on top. Faggot drains similar to those made by the Romans are another possibility. These are made of cuttings from hedges or coppices and will last a very long time in clay.
Where the drainage is not too bad, clippings from a privet hedge or old chrysanthemum stalks laid lengthways will serve very well.
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