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Starting from scratch, garden is like a tip!

(19 Posts)
MeIAm Tue 24-May-16 19:12:39


Am hoping some kind people will be able to help me as I am completely out of my depth!

Recently moved into a new property but the garden is a complete eyesore. Has not been maintained for at least 10 years that I know of. I have managed to hack the grass to a suitable level which leads to the main issue - the whole garden is completely uneven and bumpy and has what looks like a rectangular concrete base right in the middle of it, sunken maybe 6 inches. I would like to get rid of the grass altogether and lay paving stones all over.

How hard is this going to be?
How would I do it?
Can I do it?
How much will it cost?

I will obviously leave the laying of the paving stones to the professionals but can I prepare it myself? Get it level? I'm not a gardener!

Liara Tue 24-May-16 19:59:25

How big is it?

MeIAm Tue 24-May-16 20:03:44

Oops missed out an important bit of information blush. It's roughly 25 feet by 20 feet (only measured it really quickly earlier on).

Liara Tue 24-May-16 20:53:15

Ah, then not so hard! Although a degree of heavy lifting will be required. What is your access like? Can you get things out and in easily or is it likely to be a pain (i.e. do you have to go through the house?)

I would just rip out all the grass, rake over as much as you can, and then lay a decent base of sand to lay your paving stones on. Given the size it should be totally doable by yourself. If it was me (but I am plant crazy, so any excuse for more planting is welcome) I would build a raised bed somewhere and chuck in all the turf and soil I take off in there, mix with some fertilizer and top with some decent soil and have a decent planting place, as well as avoiding having to get rid of it some other way.

To level, best way is to get a couple of decently long woods and do it by stretches not more than a metre wide. So you lay the two woods parallel to each other and ensure they are level with themselves and each other, then fill in between with sand (or whatever you are levelling with). Move the first one over to the other side of the second and repeat until you have done the whole thing.

MeIAm Tue 24-May-16 21:10:16

Have a side gate leading off the driveway so access is quite good.

Sounds a lot easier than I thought! So, I just dig the grass out? For the levelling part do I level up or down? The huge concrete base type thing I just put sand in it until it's level with the rest? Or do I dig out loads of soil from the rest of the garden to meet the concrete?

MeIAm Tue 24-May-16 22:02:31

Could I use a Rotavator to level the soil? Have spent the last few hours on YouTube and using one looks like it gets good results.

shovetheholly Wed 25-May-16 10:03:01

It sounds very much like my garden when I moved in! It was basically a bramble patch with a lot of concrete.

Provided you don't mind putting in some work, it's actually OK to sort out:

1. Put down weedsheeting over all the exposed bits of earth to kill everything underneath without using chemicals. (Alternatively, if you have access to large amounts of cardboard, that's even better - dump it down, then put loads and loads of compost and manure on top).

2. Get yourself a mattock and a pair of goggles and go at the concrete. You will need a skip or two (or in my case 7 -though this included dismantling a brick shed) to dump the stuff and a strong wheelbarrow to get it to and from the skip (or you can use trugs). Make sure you get it all out, and any hardcore that is underneath. Alternatively, you can hire a pneumatic drill for the weekend. NB. You will not need a gym membership while you do this.

3. The earth underneath concrete will be horrible and compacted, so cardboard and mulch over it. Then wait for everything to die. (If, like me, you are too impatient to wait, you can just drag out all the weeds by hand and bin them - this is heavy work but means you can get cracking straight away).

4. Do your hard landscaping for your new design - lay patios, make paths, do anything that involves brick and stone.

5. Plant! Don't just go mad in the garden centre buying anything you like! Find out your soil's pH, your aspect and the kind of soil you have (clay, sand, chalk) and do your research. This saves £££ in the long run. Then choose a colour scheme, and make sure you have something that is interesting every month of the year - so you want a balance of evergreens, winter and spring bulbs, feature plants and hardy perennials. If you're on a budget, be prepared to put small things in and weed around them - within 2-3 years, you will have plants that are the same size as the expensive ones in the garden centre. Also, try to buy small and middle sized things in clumps of at least 3 if not more - this helps to produce satisfying clumps and stops it being too 'bitty'.

It might sound like loads of work, but doing the basics properly really makes a difference long term!

shovetheholly Wed 25-May-16 10:06:40

Oh and rotavators are really good for turning soil - they do lighten the load a lot. But I am very skeptical about rotavating weed-infested ground without removing the weeds first. The council did this at my allotment and all they did was chop the weeds into thousands of pieces, many of which germinated.

Once you've rotavated, you can use a spade/rake to redistribute the soil where you want it. This is a surprisingly important, detailed and timeconsuming job to get right! But it's also quite fun because you can really see your new space come together.

If you don't want to hire a rotavator, you can just dig it! (This is what I did) or mulch and leave it for some months and let the earthworms do the work for you!..

Liara Wed 25-May-16 20:21:56

Shovetheholly is absolutely right if you are planning to get a really good planting area going. I took it from your post that you were planning to pave the whole lot over (other than perhaps some borders around the edges?).

If that is your plan, then digging out the concrete is overkill! Very, very hard work and quite expensive by the time you have rented the kit, got a skip and so on.

The level you dig out to/up from depends on what you want the ultimate level to be. Ideally lower than the house, so water drains away rather than too the house, but if you make it too deep relative to all around you may get water sitting when it is wet, which is not what you want either.

If you are getting someone else to lay the flagstones do check what surface they would want to lay on before putting a whole load of sand in - I like to lay on sand as it is more easily reversible if you change your mind down the line (something I am prone to!) but not everyone would be happy with that.

shovetheholly Wed 25-May-16 21:24:40

Oooh yes, that's true liara!

However, I suspect that with that amount of paving, to get it level you'll need to level and then use something like compacted crusher run where you have bare soil! And I mean really compacted if you have been moving soil about and resettling it- you might want to hire a tamping machine to whomp it down. The compacted crusher run will need to be absolutely level with the existing concrete, or it'll be uneven. If you're using terribly expensive paving or going for a really fine Chelsea-standard effect, I would get rid of the concrete too and start over.

MeIAm Wed 25-May-16 23:11:08

Will just be paving the whole lot, am pleased to hear I won't really have to go at the concrete, I'd rather move grin
I may leave a bedding bit down one side and put edging down the full length just so it's not completely paved and find some hardy plants that will hopefully spread and brighten it up a bit.
My thinking is that anything I do to it will make a huge difference because at the moment we just don't use it.

I am so glad I posted this, am getting lots of helpful advice. Thank you, I really have no clue blush am hoping back breaking hard work will get me through.

Liara Thu 26-May-16 20:36:16

Oh do leave a bit of space for planting around the edges, it will make a huge difference!

MeIAm Thu 26-May-16 20:49:33

I've had the idea that I'd quite like a small planting area right down one length of the garden to have a tiny bit of year round greenery in what is otherwise going to be a very bland yard in winter. I want it walled in if that makes sense (only a few bricks/ other material high).

Have arranged for a couple of quotes for someone to come in a do the whole lot and quotes for just paving if I level it, just to see if the price difference would be worth me levelling it. I'm almost certain it'll be well worth me doing as much as I can.

Liara Fri 27-May-16 20:30:54

Do you mean a raised bed? They are lovely, I have loads in my garden and plants do very well there.

MeIAm Tue 31-May-16 21:52:50

Sorry for late reply! Yes, a raised bed area right down one side. How do I make one? Before paving has been put it but after garden is levelled? confused I'm clueless blush

Out2pasture Tue 31-May-16 21:57:30

lots of great ideas to get you started smile
we were able to find a hardscaping and landscaping company that will work with us to fix a horrid back yard issue.
they are willing to guide us as to what we can do alone, provide laborers to help with things we can't do on our own or simply take the job over and do it all.
first things first we requested a design

MeIAm Tue 31-May-16 22:04:58

That sounds like someone I need! How/where did you find them?

Out2pasture Tue 31-May-16 22:26:35

i'm in Canada otherwise I would recommend but I did my search online called met with the hardscape designer and he was the one that said they could "walk us through", help out with "20 year olds who love to throw bricks around all day" or "just show up and do it all". the horticulturalist will swing by and tell us if any of the plants are worth saving or could be reused.
no harm in calling around asking what services are provided etc.

MeIAm Wed 01-Jun-16 20:26:33

Don't think there's such a service here for a one off type of job, would be fantastic though!

So, got a few quotes for my garden today, ranging from £3,900 to £6,200 shock
Most said things about drainage and other complicated sounding stuff. This is not going to be a job I can do alone but the company that filled me with the most confidence was surprise, surprise, the most expensive quote! So, looks like I'm doing the garden but not how I had originally intended!

Made a good start this afternoon and unearthed what looks like a lovely little pathway which grass has been laid over! I will still have paved, patio bit that I'll get the professionals in to do but the rest is going to have to be levelled and re-grassed? (Really don't want!) Levelled and gravel? (Not sure I want bits of gravel everywhere!) Levelled and decking? (Am sure rats live underneath it!)

Well I have a gorgeous pathway to start me off anyway smile

Skip is coming tomorrow because I've already shifted lots of weeds and bricks from a half dismantled bedding area and am collecting quite a mound of soil.

Really enjoyed myself today, may be the start of a hobby! grin

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