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Suburban garden makeover - where to begin?

Just bought a house with a garden for our 2 year old to enjoy - but stumped about how to revamp it. Every plan seems to rollercoaster out of control and budget ( I have ideas above my station thanks to Instagram, but no experience whatsoever and limited means ) so keen to hear from people who managed a stage by stage renovation successfully and economically. 

Key objectives are
- make the most of some of the nicer mature trees 
- deal with horrors like lleylandi, bamboo and tatty mixed hedging, broken fences, rotten decking, sloping ground ( side to side), shed position etc ( can you spot anything else?) 
- create a tranquil, private retreat with lots of plants, colour, sounds and scents ( being realistic on maintenance) 
- allow for some light, some shade ( south west facing) I love dappled light in particular 
- only a small amount of outside seating/dining space needed ( we rarely entertain. Plus its Scotland) 
- include spaces for children ( the swing set has to stay) 

would love to see and hear about other projects - what worked , what to avoid etc. Hope you can help. 


  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,964
    How exciting!  Keep in mine gardening is a continual process.  I can't think of anyone on here that has ever stopped.. there is always something that needs replaced or a new plant to try.  Radical change like you have planned is going to be a multi-year process if you're doing it on a budget.  No Alan Titchmarsh insta-garden for you.  

    First, chopping back anything you don't want to keep.  Then sit down and do some sketches and planning to scale.  Make lots of photocopies of your existing boundaries and structures, and then you can scribble down a variety of different ideas.  

    Having young children myself, I suggest you have the swing set close to the house so you can watch from a window easily.  Hide-away places are great fun too.. I've been growing a lilac fort for my boys.  I started when my now-seven-year-old was two.. and we've just installed some pavers and a concrete block seat in the center a few weeks ago.  He's completely hidden in the middle of the two original plants that have suckered and grown.  A large sandbox is great too.. as long as you don't have cats in the yard.  If you do, get a covered one to keep it from becoming a litter box.   A veg patch is fun.. some place for peas, carrots, tomatoes, and the sort of thing kids like.  Also, easy fruit bushes and canes.  Thornless black berries, strawberries, grapes, currents, etc.  The birds will get most, but it's fun to 'forage' as a child.  
    Utah, USA.
  • Garden noobGarden noob Posts: 260
    I think you also need to consider:
    i) how much work you're prepared to do to get the garden you want (either by yourself or others)
    ii) how much maintenance you're prepared to do once you've established the garden (not just straight away, but in 5 or 10 years)
    iii) stating your budget to keep posters' plans in check(!)

    As your garden is fairly long, you could do what my parents in law have done with their garden: Two slightly overlapping screens two thirds of the way down, so you walk through and it reveals a second "hidden" garden. They use it for their grown up retreat, somewhere a bit quiet to hideaway. The main garden is laid to lawn with nice flowerbeds.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,630
    What fun!  For your first year, I suggest you concentrate what budget you do have on replacing or mending the broken fences to make the garden secure. The shed looks fairly new so presumably you will be keeping it, but you could plant a climber by it to pretty it up. Do some research first on what kind would do well. Next, is there a path under the grass next to the border on the left hand side? if not you might like to consider putting one down (bark is fairly cheap and child friendly, unlike gravel) so that your little one can get to the play area (I wouldn't move it personally)ok if the lawn is wet. As you don't know what plants are in the border, the usual advice is to wait a year to see what you've got, make notes on what is there (post photos so that forum members can identify them for you) and whether or not you like them. Remove or cut back any that you don't like now but think carefully before you do, particularly on the boundaries whether they might be hiding something you don't want to see! Then just sit back and enjoy what you've got for this summer and think about what you really want your garden to be like.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
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  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053
    edited May 2018
    For your first year I would just fix the dangerous/beyond repair stuff like your fences and just keep it tidy ie keep the grass cut and weed any borders. During this year you can refine/define what you want out of the Garden and how much time you have to spare. 
    Get your plans down on paper and then prioritise the work depending on budget and time. A five year plan would not be unusual for a new garden. 
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Fire LilyFire Lily Posts: 296
    I would move the shed further back into the shade, it looks a bit odd where it is now. And as for the planting, don't do anything this year, some plants hide and others start to look amazing when in bloom, so wait and see what you have (money saver). And mixed hedges are good for wildlife. :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,636
    I agree - mend the broken fences and clear any rubbish and rubble but leave everything else to see how the garden grows, how the light changes, what comes up from underground and so on.  I also suggest you measure the garden carefully and draw it to scale so you can play with designs on paper before doing anything drastic.

    That will give you time to make notes and take pics of what you like each week as well as what needs to go or be re-shaped and also note what your neighbours are growing so you can decide which plants will do well.    There are ways to break up long, narrow gardens to make them seem wider and also to give separate areas - play space for kids, fruit and veg, quiet seating area for grown ups, wildlife corners and so on.

    If, as suggested, you disguise that shed with a climber you could continue a trellis panel and/or arch across the garden with more climbers to separate the spaces.   Move the swing set further up into the sunniest part and use the back half of the garden for your dappled shade project.

    Hedges shouldn't be touched now until August when any nesting birds have raised their last chicks.   Then you can think about remedial pruning to improve its shape and health and make it a valuable resource for both you and wildlife.  They make great shelter as well as food sources for a wide variety of beneficial insects, small mammals and birds.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FireFire Posts: 17,333
    As you have just moved in, I would wait a a year or two before making any major change. You've got a fine garden as is for your child to play in. There's no hurry. Get to know how the sun moves, what the soil is like, find out what would really work for you. Plants like lleylandi and bamboo might well be there for a good reason - providing screening from neighbours. Fixing sloping ground can be a very major project.

    I would say it's better to get some starter books, enjoy your summer in the garden and come off Instagram.
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  • First thing I would do is......have a wee shot on the swing and a slide down the chute. :smiley:

    I'm pretty much a noob as well, but what I would do is fix any fencing etc you want to keep and ditch the rotted broken pieces. Make it safe for the wee yin and enjoy this summer while you have a good think about what you want from your garden. 

    Someone posted a link in another thread that you might find usefull. I'm one episode in and it pretty much reiterates the advice above; get to know your garden first because it could be expensive if you don't.  Here's the link, hope it helps a wee bit. To Be A Gardener
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