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Planning a garden from scratch

(15 Posts)
SpecialStains Mon 22-Feb-16 15:26:14


I was wondering if some wiser and more experienced gardeners could please give me some advice on my garden plans? We've just moved house, and the back garden is a 13x10 metre mud pit.

It is south-west facing and currently has clay soil, hence why I'm only intending to plant in raised beds. I'd like to keep an area of lawn for kids to play on.

Many thanks.

shovetheholly Mon 22-Feb-16 15:32:43

Hang on - I feel like I missed something - why are you only planting in raised beds? Clay soil is brilliant - give it a bit of organic matter and you're away. You definitely don't have to build beds unless you want to, or unless you're intending to do a particularly intensive form of vegetable-growing!

SpecialStains Mon 22-Feb-16 15:40:56

I've attached a picture of the garden (affectionately named the swamp) from an upstairs window. The soil here is awful and waterlogged. I've had a nose in neighbours gardens and noone seems to be growing much.

We are getting new, sandy topsoil added and mixed in. Do you think it'll still support some form of plant life? If I don't need raised beds it would save a lot of effort!

shovetheholly Mon 22-Feb-16 15:56:34

Gosh YES - that is wet, wet, wet! Are you in a new build? The reason I ask is that if builders have only recently stopped trampling all over it, it may look worse than it is because the lower levels may be very compacted. If you can bear the mud, have a poke around with a garden fork and see if there's a hard layer underneath that top slurry. If this is the case, waiting for it to dry out (it's been SO wet this winter), rotavating and adding loads of organic matter and horticultural grit may solve the problem.

Alternatively, the nuclear option is to install drainage now, while it's a bit of a state. Again, if it's a new build you might be able to get the company to sort out the problem for you if you complain to them - especially if others are having the same set of issues.

The problem is definitely sortable, so don't worry - you WILL have a garden!

SpecialStains Mon 22-Feb-16 16:13:01

We are in a new build. Before we moved in they tried to rotovate the ground for us. However, because it was so wet the workmen and equipment kept on sinking and so they're 'waiting for it to dry out' (read have forgotten about us now we've moved in). They have agreed to remove the top layer of soil and use a sandier sort which they'll mix in for us. I'll get my trowel out and have a dig in a minute.

Can you suggest drainage options? There have been some people living on the site for 18 months now, but no one seems to have done much to their gardens (which all seem to have a bit of water pooling).

I'm hoping it will sort itself out. I am in NW so it has been a very bad year for rain and there was nearby flooding (thankfully unlikely to actually flood here). I'm currently pregnant and so would like to have it mostly sorted by June/July so I can have a few weeks sat outside before baby arrives - too ambitious?!

TheFogsGettingThicker Sun 28-Feb-16 19:55:35

I'm in the NW too and got lots of heavy clay - there was a clay quarry for bricks in the village in the 30's and you can tell...

I'm starting from scratch too, I've had a landscaping job done on my garden and I'm at the stage of (drastically) improving the border soil before any planting can happen (hasn't stopped me buying plants I can't put in yet unfortunately.)

I've dug some of it over and added a load of grit and farmyard manure. I bought some sacks of ready rotted stuff and also been lucky enough to have several sacks of horse manure to dig in (from last autumn). I'm going to need a LOT more than I first thought, probably always the way!

LMGTFY Sun 28-Feb-16 20:00:41

My family home had clay soil and my mum made it beautiful and inspired my love of gardening. Lots of people don't have the time or inclination to do anything other than mow the lawn (certainly the people we've just bought this house off didn't, no borders at all!) so I wouldn't worry what other people are doing too much.

Titsywoo Sun 28-Feb-16 20:05:14

Make sure you put a path in if you plan to walk on it at all in the winter or anytime it is wet - we haven't yet and the turf gets destroyed quickly when we go back and forth to the shed.

Titsywoo Sun 28-Feb-16 20:08:20

Oh and yes to drainage but DO NOT put in a soakaway - in clay soil they fill and the water has nowhere to go. We had to have one for building control and it has been a nightmare.

shovetheholly Mon 29-Feb-16 08:33:35

Special - I'm relieved that they have agreed to sort this for you. I would ring and check that they are definitely coming back, BUT I do think it's probably still early for sorting it. It's only really in the last 10 days or so that the incessant rain has let up, and the soil takes a while to drain after that. I had to move some trees in my garden this weekend so was digging down 3 feet or so and it is absolutely sodden here right the way down. Give it another month or so and you will see a difference. You still have loads and loads of time to get turf down - even if you have to do it as late as April/May, you can easily get it through the summer with a bit of water in any dry spells.

I would ask the builders about whether a more permanent drainage solution is needed, and get it in writing that they will sort it if you do require one in a year or so. Then I'd risk their suggested solution because it may very well be that a sandier topsoil with plenty of grit is enough to allow the water to soak away, provided that any compaction underneath is sorted out.

LikeASoulWithoutAMind Tue 01-Mar-16 22:48:11

Not sure about your drainage issues, it's not an area I know much about although when we had our garden landscaped the shady corner was really squelchy until the grass took and we planted up the fairly deep bed. After that it was fine but it perhaps wasn't as extreme as yours.

I've gardened very successfully on clay - we dug in bags and bags and bags of compost and composted bark and by the time we'd finished we had amazing soil.

SpecialStains Sun 06-Mar-16 15:15:04

Right, builders have agreed top remove our back fence and remove the current topsoil, and replace it with a better suited soil for the area. They've also agreed to lay the patio for us as a good will gesture. I'll send another email asking about hard drainage options.

So once they've done their bit, I'll have a look at the soil and dig in organic matter if necessary. I still think it'll always be a bit wet here, so could anyone please recommended some very thirsty plants?!

Thanks all for the advice. I appreciate it!

shovetheholly Mon 07-Mar-16 11:33:04

That is brilliant news! Well done you for getting it all sorted.

Have a look at the dryer end of bog garden plants. (I know the word 'bog' isn't the most glamorous term but there are some lovely, lovely things that like to keep their feet wet!) Things like ligularia, primula japonica 'Millers Crimson', Rodgersia, Darmera, astilbes, flag irises are all absolutely gorgeous and will thrive in damp soil.

SpecialStains Sat 12-Mar-16 17:48:50

Thanks shovetheholly, those are some lovely suggestions, and I've come across some pictures of a couple of those examples looking gorgeous planted together. I'll be back with pictures when I've got the garden in progress. I'm desperate to get started!

Fedupofallthemud Sat 12-Mar-16 18:47:53

Reading with interest as we are moving to new house at Easter and I suspect we will face similar challenges with our garden which looks like a quagmire at the moment. I think our soil is clay as well. Our plan is to seed rather than turf as we have quite a bit of garden. We are also going to have section for climbing frame, and veg and herbs. It's going to be a LOT of work and will take a few years to get it looking good I think

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