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How do we overhaul our garden?

(9 Posts)
Pointlessfan Mon 03-Aug-15 14:08:14

I really hope there are some gardeners out there who can help me!
We have a smallish garden with a very boggy and uneven lawn. There is a patio along the back of the house with a low wall separating it from the lawn and 2 steps up to a raised patio. There are flower beds along the back of the garden and down one side with a few successful plants e.g. lavender but the garden doesn't get much light so I don't really know what else to grow.
We would like to give the garden an overhaul as it could be lovely but we don't really have a clue! I have seen lots of ideas on Pinterest but I wouldn't know where to start. Ideally we want it to be a safe place for our toddler to play with places for her to plant things as she gets older. I would like to grow some veggies but also introduce some colour. I quite like some of the vertical gardening ideas I have seen. I also love to feed the birds and would like to attract more wildlife. We get the occasional frog.
We don't especially like the lawn but I think we will have to keep it as it is the only place to put our tent up to air if it gets wet when we go camping!
We also need it to be fairly low maintenance although I suspect that if it were nicer we would spend more time in it and the weeding etc would get done more often!
Any ideas please?

shovetheholly Tue 04-Aug-15 12:41:40

I would start by taking a look at that lawn! When you say 'boggy', what do you mean? Are there pools of water, or can it be sorted by scarifying, aerating and evening out with sand/topsoil, and resowing?

Then maybe think about reshaping the flower beds to give you more space to plant and more colour. Think about some larger shrubs or small trees to give structure, and shade planting - things like ferns are low maintenance and if your soil is moist, you can put in some lovely big-leaf plants like darmera, rodgersia, fatsia etc. Filling the garden densely cuts down massively on work and weeding.

You may find that fruit like raspberries and rhubarb does better than a lot of veggies if there isn't much light.

Pointlessfan Tue 04-Aug-15 13:14:21

Thank you, yes we have some rhubarb, it's the one thing that grows well!
The lawn is very uneven and full of clover. No pools of water but it's very soft and squidgy. Will research more about how we could sort it.
Thank you for the suggestions.

shovetheholly Tue 04-Aug-15 13:58:58

If it's all spongy, it could just be really thatched. It may just need a good rake and aeration, resowing and a feed.

A lot of people on the forum swear by those companies that do lawn care three or four times a year. I've never used them, but I gather that they are relatively inexpensive and produce really good results. But it is also a job you can do yourself if you're game! I wonder if part of the problem is that it can be hard to grow lawn in shade? You may find that resowing with special shade lawn seed helps.

Oh, and we had a big conversation about clover in lawns recently, and I think the majority decided it was A Good Thing because a. pretty and b. bees! I don't think we are the pristine lawn kind of gardeners on the whole!!

Maybe post some pictures both of your garden and the kinds of things you like on Pinterest and I am sure you'll get lots of practical suggestions! I am passionate about shady planting and regularly bore everyone here to tears waxing lyrical about shade plants. grin

Pointlessfan Tue 04-Aug-15 15:38:00

To be honest I like the clover and the bees and I wouldn't want a manicured lawn but a drier, less lumpy one would be nice! DH is more bothered about it than me. We also have rubbish shallow beds with lots of rubble in. I would like to build raised beds, is that hard to do?
I will try and take some pics.
I have made a start today by hacking down the triffid that grows over the fence from next door!

shovetheholly Tue 04-Aug-15 16:29:15

Hmmmmm, are you thinking of using the raised beds around the periphery, to deal with the poor soil? The trouble you have is that you'll need to make 'em really quite deep for things like shrubs to raise the whole root ball above the rubble, and then you face a lot of expense in terms of both materials to build them and soil to fill them. You'll have to think about how they are 'backed' and how they work with existing fences, hedges etc. Wood, even pressure-treated wood, will rot eventually when in contact with soil, so the only durable way to do it is to use brick or stone. And don't underestimate how much topsoil you need to fill even a 30cm deep bed - it can be £££ across a whole garden!

Another thing - unless you're going for a very formal, symmetrical look in your garden (which is actually one of the hardest things to achieve - the quality of landscaping tends to be very 'exposed'), putting even-width rectangular raised beds all around the edges can look just a bit 1970s! (Think: carpet bedding planted in neat lines). They do work brilliantly if they are evenly spaced across a larger area and used for veg gardening, but this is often a more functional and less ornamental way of growing than some people might want in a back garden. If you pinterest something like 'shade garden', you'll probably get loads of images of curvy paths for this reason.

I know it sounds like a lot of work, but in the long run it might be easier to work in sections and dig the rubble out to a depth of two spade heads. You can then improve the soil you already have by adding grit, manure, and compost. It will be considerably cheaper this way, and you can choose whatever shape you want for your beds, including curves which can be really useful as a way of breaking up a standard rectangular back garden! You'd be surprised how much you can get done if you go at it together as a family and tackle a bit each day.

Pointlessfan Tue 04-Aug-15 18:01:09

That actually sounds like a good idea and I def don't want to spend too much! I'd only looked at small garden ideas on pinterest. Will have another look for ideas, I don't want anything formal!

shovetheholly Wed 05-Aug-15 07:31:04

It's what I did in my garden - mine had concrete everywhere (someone had just gone mad with a concrete mixer and poured all kinds of paths everywhere. Think of a renaissance knot garden in concrete instead of box!) Underneath the concrete was loads of rubble. I just pulled the lot out by hand and dumped loads of manure (free from a local stables) and compost (cheapo stuff from the garden centre) over the soil.

You can now be inducted into The Mumsnet Sorority of the Mattock. Basically, a mattock is a kind of pickaxe with a pointy end and a blunter end. It is an awesome tool for getting through heavy soil and breaking it up and lots and lots of people on here have one. When I use it, I feel like a proper 1950s land girl. I actually look like Derek Zoolander in the mine though:

Pointlessfan Wed 05-Aug-15 08:09:34

Ooh that looks exciting! Thank you.

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