Doggy Play, Chill and Workout Area from OVERGROWN MESS

marcus.millimetremarcus.millimetre WhyteleafPosts: 11

Hey All,

Thank you for popping in to read my thread.

I moved to surrey about a year and half ago and last year February we moved to a nice place with a garden.

Unfortunately, the garden was in a bad shape, me and my partner managed to weed it and get in a decent condition but neither of us are gardeners.

This is what we want:

  • Place to chill with table chairs
  • Place to do calisthenics work out and skip
  • Running space for the dog
  • Pots or flower/veggie galore (I love plants)  

The ground is really bad at the moment it looks hard and cracked

​see pic below ​

 I was told by someone to add sand to fill the biggest voids we had in the garden and this seemed good at the time but now the ground is so solid can just about dig it

where the sand has been added is solid as concrete.

In the more wet season the ground turns to a boggy mess, I am very confused where to start and what to do.

I been told to add gypsum and some top soil to sort the ground out any ideas ?

 

Thanks GW community, really appreciate this

 

Marcus

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Posts

  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 1,782
    Could you add some other pictures of your garden?  How big is it?  Is there established plantings/trees?  What is the direction and amount of sun?
    Utah, USA.
  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 ManchesterPosts: 4,234
    Hi Marcus and welcome to the forum 😊.
    Was the bit in your photo a lawn?  Looks and sounds (from your description) like you have clay soil.
    Soggy in winter, rock hard in summer.

    The best thing to add to improve clay is organic matter, compost, rotted manure etc. The worst thing you can add is fine builders sand, if that's what you used I imagine it's set like concrete. 
    Not easy to work by hand in the summer, autumn is the best time to dig it over and leave the clods to be broken down by frost.

    As Blue says, pics of the whole space and more info will help advise on the overall plan. There's no point in soil improvement in areas you might be paving over, save that for the veggie plot 🍅😁.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 2,493
    Yes a bit more info on the space overall would help if you'd like some answers re your overall plan.

    But as regards the soil, you have clay soil. That's both good news and bad news. Bad news is it is heavy to dig and, as you have found, alternates between a claggy mess and hard as concrete - there is usually a very brief window of 2 or 3 days as it transitions from one state to the other when you can get things planted. Good news is it's usually easy to build fertility and you can grow lots of really lovely plants, including fruit and veg once you get a bit of a handle on the structure.

    Gypsum is a 'clay breaker', you can also buy stuff called 'clay breaker' which is essentially the same thing. I have very heavy clay soil and haven't used either though I have tried them in other gardens in the past. Personally I think they are a waste of money. I find the most successful long term strategy is:
    1 build raised beds for your veggies. Never walk on them, use lots of compost and rotted manure to mix with your soil
    2 mulch your soil over the course of the winter months with well rotted manure, rotted garden compost, or 'soil improver'. Don't dig it in, put the thickest layer you can (at least 2 inches thick and preferably 4) over the surface and then leave it alone until the weather begins to improve in the spring. 
    3 when the soil is workable - i.e. you can get a garden fork into it and lift it out again without having to scrape the mud off like cheesecake - dig in grit - not sand - horticultural grit. I usually do this as I plant new plants. You need to get it mixed in well though, you don't want to make a hole full of grit - it'll just fill up with water. So if the clay is too sticky to do that, don't do it. Just keep mulching until you get better structure.
    4 Hard frosts over winter break down clay more effectively than anything you can buy. If you can hit the 'workable window' as the concrete softens in autumn, roughly dig it over so the soil surface is clumpy and the frost can get at as much surface as possible

    In 3 years or so you'll have good, usable soil. But it's a long term effort - hence build raised beds for some areas to solve the problem more quickly and grow things in pots for the time being, while you work on the soil. It's worth the time invested.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
    Sir Terry Pratchett
  • marcus.millimetremarcus.millimetre WhyteleafPosts: 11
    WOW thank you to everyone that popped in to give me some advice , really love you guys/girls .

    since there is so much help here i am going to do a plan of its current state but i took some pictures after i finished my skipping session , excuse the dog 


  • marcus.millimetremarcus.millimetre WhyteleafPosts: 11
    Yes a bit more info on the space overall would help if you'd like some answers re your overall plan.

    But as regards the soil, you have clay soil. That's both good news and bad news. Bad news is it is heavy to dig and, as you have found, alternates between a claggy mess and hard as concrete - there is usually a very brief window of 2 or 3 days as it transitions from one state to the other when you can get things planted. Good news is it's usually easy to build fertility and you can grow lots of really lovely plants, including fruit and veg once you get a bit of a handle on the structure.

    Gypsum is a 'clay breaker', you can also buy stuff called 'clay breaker' which is essentially the same thing. I have very heavy clay soil and haven't used either though I have tried them in other gardens in the past. Personally I think they are a waste of money. I find the most successful long term strategy is:
    1 build raised beds for your veggies. Never walk on them, use lots of compost and rotted manure to mix with your soil
    2 mulch your soil over the course of the winter months with well rotted manure, rotted garden compost, or 'soil improver'. Don't dig it in, put the thickest layer you can (at least 2 inches thick and preferably 4) over the surface and then leave it alone until the weather begins to improve in the spring. 
    3 when the soil is workable - i.e. you can get a garden fork into it and lift it out again without having to scrape the mud off like cheesecake - dig in grit - not sand - horticultural grit. I usually do this as I plant new plants. You need to get it mixed in well though, you don't want to make a hole full of grit - it'll just fill up with water. So if the clay is too sticky to do that, don't do it. Just keep mulching until you get better structure.
    4 Hard frosts over winter break down clay more effectively than anything you can buy. If you can hit the 'workable window' as the concrete softens in autumn, roughly dig it over so the soil surface is clumpy and the frost can get at as much surface as possible

    In 3 years or so you'll have good, usable soil. But it's a long term effort - hence build raised beds for some areas to solve the problem more quickly and grow things in pots for the time being, while you work on the soil. It's worth the time invested.

    thank you so much , i am thinking is the long term solution my best bet now. 

    1 still thinking of flower beds and cost etc 
    2 i herd some mulches can harm your dog depending on type etc is that true ? 
    3 so after all the mulching/soil improve etc add grit not sand to help the aeration , will be a while i assume before i can do this but thanks ima put this on my calendar for next year so i don't forget 
    4 so before the major winter sets in October ? turn everything over and leave for winter ? 

    thanks again for your help and advice 

    Marcus 


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 46,975
    Hi Marcus  :)   Let's deal with the important stuff first ... What's the very handsome dog's name  <3 ?

    If you stop taking chances, you'll stay where you sit. You won't live any longer, but it'll feel like it.” 
  • marcus.millimetremarcus.millimetre WhyteleafPosts: 11
    Could you add some other pictures of your garden?  How big is it?  Is there established plantings/trees?  What is the direction and amount of sun?
    hey Blue ,

    I added a few just now but will do a proper measure tonight and rubbish sketch 

    I dont know how to tell you sun direction and all that , how can i measure this ?

    thank for checking the post out 

    Marcus 
  • Dave HumbyDave Humby Posts: 770
    Could you add some other pictures of your garden?  How big is it?  Is there established plantings/trees?  What is the direction and amount of sun?
    hey Blue ,

    I added a few just now but will do a proper measure tonight and rubbish sketch 

    I dont know how to tell you sun direction and all that , how can i measure this ?

    thank for checking the post out 

    Marcus 
    Ref the sun Marcus. If looking at the end of the garden where the gate is behind the trampoline (I assume that's the far end of your garden?) which direction does the sun rise from and set i.e. does it rise from the left and set to the right or rise from behind you and set over the back? etc
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 2,493
    edited 14 June
    marcus.millimetre said:

    thank you so much , i am thinking is the long term solution my best bet now. 

    1 still thinking of flower beds and cost etc 
    2 i herd some mulches can harm your dog depending on type etc is that true ? 
    3 so after all the mulching/soil improve etc add grit not sand to help the aeration , will be a while i assume before i can do this but thanks ima put this on my calendar for next year so i don't forget 
    4 so before the major winter sets in October ? turn everything over and leave for winter ? 

    to answer point 2 - the main one I know of is there are decorative bark products made from cocoa bark which is poisonous to dogs (and very attractive to them - smells like chocolate).I tend to use pine bark on mine - still smells nice but won't harm the dogs if they eat it (they generally don't - poo on it yes, eat it no).

    I'd concentrate for now on deciding where you want to put raised beds for your vegetables and research how you want to build them and how big. When you've made them, put a double layer of cardboard in the bottom and fill them with a mix of topsoil, compost and grit. 

    If you want to mark out your flower beds with string you'll have to wait until you can get a few small posts in the ground, then mark the areas out. If you can keep the dog off then after the next decent heavy rainfall you could put a thick layer of mulch over the places where your beds (or one of them - I'd take this a bit at a time if it was me) will be. By about Christmas you may be able to dig it over and then leave it again until sometime usually in March or April when the weather begins to dry up a bit (it was well into May this year before I could get onto my garden - it does vary quite a lot year to year). Then you can dig it over properly and take stock of what you have. You may be able to get planting then, it may take another year of mulch and wait.
    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time
    Sir Terry Pratchett
  • marcus.millimetremarcus.millimetre WhyteleafPosts: 11
    Hi Marcus  :)   Let's deal with the important stuff first ... What's the very handsome dog's name  <3 ?

    hey His name is Fergus , its mostly his garden LOL 
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