Total novice, with mainly a big hole for a garden, no money.(13 Posts)
There’s more hole than garden, and I’m required to fill it fast, to a reasonable level. (I’m not allowed a sunken swimming pool!)
Filling it is the biggest issue, but I'd like to end up with some sort of garden later.
I know very little so apologies if the questions are stupid.
1) Can I mix bags of (currently fresh) horse manure, sand, some clay soil, and possibly well rotted shredded Christmas tree together and ever hope for anything to grow there afterwards if I do?
The material I have access to most of is the manure. The sand and soil, about 1 large builders sack of each. Rotted shredded tree either none, or 8 to 10 builders sacks.
I’m told if I leave the manure bagged for eight weeks it will have rotted down. The plan would be to do that then mix with the rest.
2) Is rotted manure going to smell horrendous when de bagged (worried about close neighbours) if so would a layer of sand on top help at all?
3) If this is going to create something no plant likes, could I later add bagged soil on top of it allow stuff to grow?
'Builders sand' isn't ideal for gardens, and there is horticultural sand available.
I guess you could probably mix those ingredients for a bottom layer, but I think GOOD quality top-soil should go on top.
But hopefully others will come along with better advice than I can give.
I have no idea but on the grounds of economy and availability would say use what you have
Put the rotted tree down first then the manure then the sand with some cardboard then the soil on top
Christmas tree stuff makes the soil good for ericaceous plants like lilies pieris magnolias camellias etc
Horse manure is fantastic and you can dump it straight on - it'll rot down in situ. However, the bad news is that as it does so it will occupy less and less volume, ditto for bits of trees (though the process may be slower). I would be really concerned that if you're filling a hole with stuff that decomposes, you'll just get the hole reappearing over time. I'd also second what Ferguson says about sand - some sand is good, but you don't want too much. Also sand + clay can set in summer and cause problems.
You say you have builders' sacks of various things - does this mean you have access to a vehicle that can transport these? If so, then I think your best bet would be to get on Freecycle and find someone close by who is getting rid of a load of topsoil because they're laying a path or landscaping their garden. You can then pick up trugs and trugs of the stuff for free to fill the hole. As funny says, you want your top foot or so to be the best soil you have, and you can mix manure in with that.
A creative approach to the problem might be to fill only some of the hole and to even out the rest, line with sand, and create a pond.
I own a gardening company in Aberdeen
It all depends how deep your hole is. If you bury decomposable material deeper than about 0.3-0.5m then it will not decompose properly and release methane gas that can hinder plant growth.
the ground is made up of 3 layers- Parent material, Subsoil and Topsoil.
Ideally your topsoil is the top 30cm, Your subsoil is at least your top 1-2m and your parent material is the bedrock underneath.
Small plants grow just in topsoil, and trees grow in 70% in the topsoil and 30% in the subsoil (this is a largely disputed figure, but its just to give you an idea)
Your topsoil needs to be rich in nutrients and a good loam, for this reason the following stuff is good:
-loam/ imported topsoil
-Manure/ garden compost (don't waste your money on peat based garden centre compost)
-sharp sand (not builders sand)
-xmas tree clippings
The subsoil on the other hand (under 30cm depth) is a very different story. It needs to be free from nutrients and basically can include anything as long as it's not toxic or degradable. Be warned though that large boulders need to be buried at least 50-100cm deep and that anything over 40% sand will drain out all nutrients from the topsoil or 80% heavy clay will cause drainage issues. I would contact building contractors, ask if they have any heavy clay soil you can get off them cheap and mix it 50/50 with your builders sand- You'll get perfect subsoil.
Note for the topsoil: If you're using a lot of natural matter (manure/tree clippings), make sure the area is really heaped above the natural ground level as over the next 1-3 years the natural matter will decompose and will flatten off. If you don't you'll be left with a dip.
All the best
Wow, thank you all so much, that's really helpful. The manure turns out to be more horse bedding than manure, but hopefully it will still do the job.
Apologies for not being able to come back any earlier.
Aarron - would you mind my asking how you came by all that knowledge? Did you learn that on a horticulture course? I'm a botanist but I'm constantly frustrated by my lack of practical experience and knowledge in actual gardening situations. The gardening programmes never seem to go into very much depth (Pardon the pun.)
Horse bedding - do you mean straw? If so, it will rot down in not time at all. It will literally go away to almost nothing and your hole will reappear.
Info on subsoil, topsoil, and what not to do, and that this stuff will all rot down quickly, and the problem return, are all very helpful.
Have found some possible soil from building works, but it's all in large sacks and they're not keen on me shovelling it into smaller one's that could actually be lifted!
My 'manure' seems to be mainly wood chip bedding with some actual manure.
I've also been offered some chopped cardboard, and a few sacks of shredded paper, but it does look like most of the materials I can get hold off will soon leave me with a hole again.
Unfortunately I'm not allowed a pond.
The rest of the garden is actually only a few inches of soil on top of rubble and clay, so not a great start, but I do have a large successful wormery on the go.
I do have a vehicle but I'm disabled. Can do lots but have to do it all in smaller lighter more complicated ways than most people, and it's very time consuming which makes people reluctant to let me get on.
Actual topsoil here is hard to find. What gets offered and called topsoil is either heavy clay or roughly 70% builders rubble 30% earth/clay mix generally.
I think this may be a bit of a long term project, but thank you all for giving me a better idea of what it is.
I think with any big project it's always best to cut it up into pieces and do one at a time - so overwhelming otherwise, psychologically as much as physically.
Having looked at your new list, I think Aaron's idea of dividing this into subsoil (below 30cm) and topsoil (last 30cm before the surface) is a good one. In your head, you can chop the project in half.
First half: you say you can access very heavy clay soil and as someone said upthread, you can mix this with sand for subsoil. This will fill the deepest parts of the hole.
Second half: That then leaves you with the last foot to sort out at a later point. Perhaps by the time you've got to that stage, it'll be spring/summer and people will be doing up their gardens, resulting in more high quality topsoil being available. This is often simply dumped in skips by the side of the road, so I can't imagine people would be so worried about you taking your time to shovel it into trugs as you wouldn't be on their building site or in their garden! You can mix this with some horse manure (freely available at any stables - they will love you for taking it!) and bingo - you have a great basis for a garden!
Oh, and I'm really surprised that you've been left with a garden in this state. You say you're not 'allowed' a pond - does that mean you are renting? I am no expert, and perhaps I am being naive, but I would have thought a landlord (private or social) would have some responsibility to ensure that an outdoor space was safe and usable. A massive hole sounds neither of those things.
Thank you Shovetheholly.
You're not naïve, generally you’d be right, but it depends on if it's a standard tenancy or not. Most are, but with some kinds landlord’s have very little responsibility to maintain or repair anything other than to stop the building actually collapsing, the roof, exterior decoration, and a gas certificate. (often for tenant owned appliances)
It’s very one sided in comparison to most, but there are plus points.
I’m taken aback that top soil is supposed to be nearly a foot deep. Much deeper than I thought, but yes the advice to look at it as two parts is good.
I now have a big compost heap cooking away, and tomorrow I’ll start laying clay and sand.
My house is on a slope, just up the road from an old quarry. There is rock quite close to the surface in the front garden. It is about 30cm down, and it really does cause the area to be incredibly free draining. I have to put on barrowloads of manure and compost each year to help the plants hang on to nutrients. So from personal experience, I would definitely say you want at least 30cm topsoil!! (Obviously, if you have subsoil too, it won't be nearly as bad!)
I find it horrifying that you are left with this issue, especially given that you say that you are disabled. It can't be right that people are allowed to let properties where the garden is a hole!!
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