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New house - no idea where to start!

As a recent first time buyer, I'm a clueless but eager gardener and would really appreciate some advice on where to start.

We went for the easy wins initially in digging up a knackered concrete path and dismantling a tired greenhouse but we've been left with a big patch of weeds and not much else. Weeds include what I believe is some kind of equisetum which is sprouting up all over the place. The ground is really solid and there are large sections full of broken bricks are rubble.

Really struggling to figure out the best way to proceed. Do I:

  • cut it all back, weed killer and then cover with plastic and leave it for a few months.
  • cut it all back, get someone in with a digger and turn over all the soil, remove as much rubble as possible and then level.
  • rotovate? This seems to be a no-no due to weeds
  • something else?
The ideal plan is to have patio at the front where the current 'lawn' is, then the rest mainly turfed with space for flowerbeds/raised beds.



  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,877
    Welcome to the Forum.
    First of all, don't panic, it's not as bad as you think it is. 
    Clear away what is obviously rubbish, ( rubble plastic bags etc ) and it'll look tons better.
    Ask a gardening friend round to point out anything which might be salvageable before hitting anything with weedkiller. 
    Nothing will grow through the new patio, and very few plants survive a lawnmower for long. 
    Gardening is a marathon, not  sprint, so don't worry.
  • Allex07Allex07 Posts: 7
    edited July 2019
    Thanks for your reply, reassuring to know! 

    How deep do we need to go in terms of clearing rubble for a lawn? We've dug a couple of pilot holes and still finding big chunks 8-10 inches down.
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    if you want to get a digger go for it but that is a fairly maintained garden that is just overgrown a bit. A bit of digging with a spade here and there would do the trick too.

    Plastic won't do anything. I hate weedkillers so won't recommend them. Rotavating is fine, yes the weeds won't like it much but not sure what your concerns are there. 

    Once you sow grass seed the weeds that do grow back can be plucked out by hand.

    I would personally extend the grass a bit and have a border area for your plants.

    A lawnmower is a must but looking at the condition of your grass I would highly recommend you get a lawn raker/scarifier as standard too. Once the weeds and gone and the grass maintained things will look better.

  • Allex07Allex07 Posts: 7
    A digger seems the nuclear option but the ground just seems to firm that it would be a big job by hand, especially with all the rubble underneath - maybe I just need to go for it.

    Concern with rotavating was that all the chopped up weeds would grow back worse. Do you think this wouldn't be a problem if there's a lawn going on top?
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,877
    edited July 2019
    Unless you're planning building works, I'd avoid a " digger " .You'll end up compacting the soil even more, uncovering all sorts of weed seeds from underneath, ruin the soil structure etc etc.
    Work out where you want the patio to go and deal with that bit. Work out where the lawn is to go, then deal with that bit. Nibble away at it a chunk at a time. That way it won't overwhelm you.
  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    Chopping up the weeds and making matters worse will depend on what the weeds are. Anything which creeps such as bindweed will be made much worse. Deep rooted ones, particularly dandelions are also persistent. If you have any like these, I'd be tempted to try and remove as much of their root system as you can. In the lower right of your second photograph is a round plant. It is Alchemilla mollis which is cultivated and very pretty but it can get out of hand. Keep some but you might want to weed some out. I would begin by clearing up as much of the rubble as possible, sort out the worst weeds so that they don't flower and set more seed. Then just concentrate on a small area so that you can see some progress. 
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 5,266
    What a lovely sized garden you have there. There is so much you could do!

    As others have said first decide what you want to do in the garden, sunbathe, sit, play games, children?
    Next plan the structure you want considering where the sun goes thought the day. To you want to bake or need some shade?
    Next would be how much time do you want to spend on up keeping the garden that would then give you an idea of how you want the beds, raised, bedding, or shrubs.
    All this will take a few years as a garden is never static and that's part of the fun, enjoy your time and take pleasure in the results.
  • mrtjformanmrtjforman Posts: 331
    whats makes weeds hard to get rid of is compacted hard soil. Pull them as much as you want the roots will always break off and grow back.

    If you rotavate your lawn then yes some will most definetely grow back... but they will be so easy to pull up while the soil is loose it won't even be an issue. Will take a couple of hours and then you will have killed them for good.

    Weeds grow back every year no matter what you do. It is best to accept this and prepare for the pesky invasion. If your soil is full of rocks then weeds will anchor themselves in those every time and you will curse every single weed. If your soil is loose and airy then pulling weeds up is like pulling them out of butter.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 12,482
    I would just add, if you don't have a "real life" gardening friend, you can post photos on here to get id's of any plants/weeds you're not sure of. Just don't post too many at any one time, number them, and leave a gap between each one.
     My advice would be to clear the site, putting any plants you want to keep in one area or maybe in pots if that's easier.  That way you can work out exactly where you want your lawn, patio, washing line (or whirligig), bins etc. Then you can start with any hard landscaping, before lawn and flowerbeds.
    If you're laying a lawn from turf or growing from seed, autumn is the best time to do it , so that gives you time to sort the rest out.
    Better to take your time and decide exactly what you want where, rather than rush it and spend time later fiddling around with it.
  • LG_LG_ Posts: 4,347
    edited July 2019
    You won't get rid of the mare's tail (if that's what it is) by pulling, but you will likely make it much worse by chopping it up, so I would avoid a rotavator / digger. 
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
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