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New house, deteriorated garden

Dear fellow gardeners,

I’m hoping as a relative gardening neophyte I can pick a few brains about where to get started with my new (and first) garden. My partner and I are newly moved into a house where the garden has a long history of being neglected. My hope is to do it up with the priorities of a) being a dog friendly area for my Labrador, b) providing us with lovely views from the above balcony (see photos) and c) ideally having some productive vegetable and herb components.

We live in the midlands area of the UK. In terms of where to start the pond chronically fills with water and algae so my plan is to drain and fill with soil potentially to plant some attractive flowering shrubs. Other plans include clearing the rubble/pathing from the back right corner to provide more lawn/plant space, repairing the greenhouse, fixing up the fencing and so on. The soil is...rather boggy at present (I’m guessing a combination of rain and the adjacent pond?). The lawn looks pretty dreadful and the ground itself is very uneven. The garden is shaded intermittently throughout the day by the large (maple?) tree to the right.

Being as it is mid to late October and the weather is starting to turn I’m really looking for advice on where to start. I’d love to start getting the lawn in order but I’m wondering whether I need to address the soil first and whether it’s even worth trying to do anything before spring. I’d also greatly appreciate any advice on timings of what else can be achieved now to at least make the garden a little more attractive before waiting over winter. Recommendations for flowering plants I could consider for this climate would also be nice!

Apologies for the epic post but as I’m sure you’ve gathered I have good intentions but am probably a bit out of my depth for a first garden and could do with some guidance. Thanks a bunch!




  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,104
    edited October 2019
    Firstly welcome to the Forum.
    Please rethink losing the pond. It'll be a haven for wildlife . Needs a bit of TLC, I'll give you that .
    Great garden to get stuck into. 
    I suggest you live it for a wee while before doing anything which you might regret later.
    Is the whole house yours , or is the lowest part a separate "flat"? 
    I think I might sacrifice the tree/ shrub by the pond as it blocks the view and is too close to the house

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 39,456
    Hi @andrew.j.mcwilliam- I'm inclined to agree with @Hostafan1 about the tree right at the edge of the patio. It's not going to be of much benefit,and blocks a view of what will be, a very nice space. That could be removed in the coming weeks. I'd concentrate mainly on tidying up obvious rubbish etc, and generally get a feel for the space. 
    I think that pond may have been a more formal one, possibly with fish, and I'd also agree that it could be delightful if you can make it suitable for wildlife. You'll get huge enjoyment from it, especially sitting on that balcony  ;)
    You'll also get a lot of help with it from the forum if you decide to do that. Many of us are very keen on our ponds  :)
    The maple will cast a lot of shade, and that makes it difficult to get grass growing well, so you'd need to decide which is more important to you. Maples get a lot of bad press, but I had one in a previous garden  nearby, and I loved it, especially at this time of year. We had the advantage of it being north west of the house, so it affected nothing, other than some shade below. What's the big black 'bins' over by the maple? 
    This is a good time of year to ponder and plan, so yes- don't rush into anything major just now. There could be all sorts of lovely things which might appear in spring. Check where the sun rises and tracks through the day too. That will tell you which areas get the most sun, and which ones don't,and makes it easier to pick suitable planting   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 18,461
    I think with a big Labrador I would fill the pond in, he’ll be taking a swim in the summer. 
    I love the veranda, gorgeous place to sit and look at the garden.
    I wouldn’t put shrubs in there, they grow big and could make your garden top heavy, stick to perennials for flowers and put the shrubs further down. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,104
    Lyn said:
    I think with a big Labrador I would fill the pond in, he’ll be taking a swim in the summer. 

    I thought labradors could be trained?  ;)
  • edited October 2019
    I can confirm when it comes to jumping into ponds they’re not supposed to training is impossible! I’m pretty keen to lose the pond, if I didn’t have a dog I would be happy keeping it but it keeps filling with blue-green algae which can be quite toxic to dogs
  • And in response to some of the other posts (many thanks by the way for such prompt and thoughtful advice!) the whole house is ours but we are renting. We have a fair bit of scope as in the words of the landlord ‘it’d be hard to do something to the garden to make it worse’ but anything major eg cutting down that smaller tree would need to be cleared with them
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,104
    If you're "improving " the garden, I reckon he'd go along with it, but always check.
    Good to keep on good terms with the landlord .
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,246
    Labrador + pond = carnage !
    If you want to get rid of the pond, there are plenty of other things that you can do to attract wildlife into the garden. I see what looks like some old chimney pots? 
    If the landlord agrees,  l would also get rid of the tree as apart from anything else it obstructs the view. As others have said, winter is a good time for planning and working out the sunny/shady areas.
    If you're planning on growing veg, a sunny spot is best, and if you're going to be digging out beds, etc. I wouldn't worry too much about the lawn at present.
    What l would do is get a fork and go over the lawn, giving the fork a good wiggle to open up the ground and improve the drainage. Have a look here
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 39,456
    Apologies - I sort of missed the bit about the lab  ;)
    That's fair enough. If, in future, you would like one, it would be easy enough to make a small one and have a basic fence round it  :)
    I'd also be wary of spending too much money. I know you want to improve, and have a nice space to use and enjoy, and I completely understand that, but you won't get a financial return, and if the landlord suddenly decides he no longer wants to rent the property out, it's a bit soul destroying if you've spent a lot of dosh  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 ManchesterPosts: 5,150
    edited October 2019
    Hello @andrew.j.mcwilliam and welcome to the forum 😀.  If you can take some close up photos of the tree/shrub in front of the balcony, showing a clearer view of the leaves someone might be able to identify it for you and give you correct pruning advice. I do think it's a shame that it blocks the view of the rest of the garden.
    I think the two shrubs down by the greenhouse look like buddliea, which are pretty much bombproof and generally bounce back from hard pruning if you wanted to reduce the height.

    Have you investigated how deep the pond is yet?
    If it's only shallow you could consider turning it into a bog garden. I don't have a pond but there are plenty of folk here who can give you great advice whatever your plans for it.
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