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Sloping border - mulching help needed!

WonderfulWorldWonderfulWorld Posts: 11
edited October 2018 in Problem solving

I have a sloping border at the back of my garden and every year I pledge will be the year I plant it up but every year I lose the battle with weeds and pledge that next year will be the year! 

The issue I'm having is that it's full of weeds and grass, but as the back of our garden slopes up to the garden behind us I can't dig into it much without being worried I'll destabilise the fence at the top of it - see attached pictures. It's also quite sandy and full of rubble. My plan this autumn is to cover it in as thick a covering of top soil and bark chippings as I can afford and hope that it kills the grass and weeds under it and improves the soil so I can plant in it next year. Does this sound sensible to you or can you think of another way to do it? 

I'd also like to plant some spring bulbs under the mulch, do you think that would work?

Our garden is shallow and wide and so the back border is by far the biggest border (approx 1m X 20m) so I'd love to get some nice plants and flowers growing in if I can.

Fingers crossed 2019 is the year!

Many thanks in advance,



  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,676
    Hello Bryony,  Are the fence posts concrete and concreted into the ground? If so, I don't think just digging the weeds out will be a problem. If you just cover it with a thick mulch, then the grasses/weeds will probably just come through again in the spring. The alternative may be to spray the lot with weedkiller but the grasses are still likely to survive and weedkiller is rather frowned upon in this forum. The best solution is to dig out individual weeds a bit at a time, then you can lay your mulch on the top.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    It sounds as if you may need to improve the soil before you plant into it, removing rubble and rubbish of any kind and digging in manure or compost. I can't tell how steep the slope is but you might want to consider some sort of retaining barrier to stop the soil washing away down the slope.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,585
    Hi Bryony and welcome to the Forum. 
    IMHO you'd be best to have one , concerted effort and clear all the rubbish , rubble weeds etc once and for all. 
    You say the soil is sandy, so it shouldn't be too tricky.
    I think, if you try to take short cuts, you'll just be saving up problems for later .
    A bit ( lot ) of effort now will pay dividends later.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,016
    I'd agree with Hosta - the sandy soil will make it easier, and now is a good time to do it.
    Once you've dug the weeds and rubbish out, lay a thick layer of well rotted manure, or similar, and that will help prevent anything coming through over winter. Anything that does, will be easy to spot and pull out. Come spring, some of that manure will have broken down, and taken into the soil, and will help beef it up, ready for plants. A good mulch after you plant anything, as well as plenty of compost in the planting hole, will improve the soil too. 
    If you want to get bulbs, do that and just put them in pots to give you a display for spring.  You can then plant them into the border later, along with any new planting you get. It's good to do it at the same time, if you can, as it prevents chopping through roots of dormant plants next autumn when you try and plant bulbs. Not that I've ever done that... ;)  
    I don't think the slope looks that steep, but as Posy says - you can always add a simple retaining edge of brick or timber. That will also help when you add compost/manure to improve the soil. You need to cut a definite edge in the grass anyway, to separate it form the border. The grass will just keep encroaching as it is already  if you don't  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    personally I would terrace it using some old scaffold boards (or new boards if you want fancy looking or railway sleepers if you have money to burn) about half way down and another one at the bottom and turn them into beds, it'll reduce the slope so mulching works better as well.
  • Thanks everyone for your comments! I've taken your advice and been out there all morning taking out as much of the growth as I can - have progressed about 4m so far (see below for picture) - whew!

    I've actually found it easier than in the spring when I tried to dig the grass roots out as they were taking heavy clods of soil with them which I didn't know what to do with. Now perhaps as it's been a dry summer I'm pulling the grass out and can shake the sandy soil from the roots, much better!

    I like the sound of adding a retaining border to seperate the grass and keep the mulch from sliding into the grass. I'll look into scaffolding boards, although I've found old boards aren't that cheap, are there any other inexpensive materials I could consider?

    For the mulch I'm thinking of buying a 1m3 bag of both loam topsoil and bark to layer on which look to be £84 each in Travis Perkins does that sound sensible?

    Many thanks,

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,585
    Wonderful progress. Isn't it satisfying?
  • Thank you! It really is satisfying  :) Amazing to see the number of insects and slow worms too - looking forward to planting it up to give them their home back. 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,676
    Well done Bryony!  I always think the first bit is the worst, then you kind of get stuck in once you can see the progress you are making - but don't overdo it or you'll ache in places you didn't know you had.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • wild edgeswild edges Posts: 9,943
    Can you get hold of a load of large stones for free or cheap? Maybe try freecycle.

    I turned this:

    Into this:

    and eventually added another wall on top

    All using free stone. You can use larger stones and lay them randomly or even use loose laid breeze blocks with stone in front if you can only get small stuff. You just need some bulk to support the soil and something to pretty up the front.

    For your mulch work out what depth you want and assume a 1m3 bag covers 1m2 x the depth you want. So 1 bag at 10cm deep covers 10m2 so 2 bags would do your 20mx1m at that depth. It looks wider than 1m that though and deeper is better with mulch.
    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
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