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Redoing an entire flowerbed

Hi there!

So I am establishing a flowerbed from scratch in my back garden and I'm in need of a bit of guidance.

After digging out all of the sod I discovered that underneath, there was a whole tonne of sand. About 2 inches of it in some places. I thought that after digging all of this out I would be left with come pretty decent soil but that was not the case. All I am left with is some incredibly sandy and gravelly muck. It's really dense with stones and gravel.

I then thought that I could just start from scratch and dig it all out to about 12 inches deep and redo the entire thing. The workload doesn't bother me, but what would I put in there exactly? Compost, topsoil, manure? How much of each should there be? I'm totally confused and cannot seam to find a straight answer online anywhere.


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  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,655
    Hello Jessica,  welcome to the forum  :)
    Just wondering,  is your plot a new build ?  I'm just wondering if you have a naturally sandy soil, or if it's  the "builder's junk" kind of stuff.
    One of the main things you need to take into account is the drainage, if it's a natural sandy soil you can add compost etc. to bulk it up and improve the quality of it.
    One step at a time is the key, don't go mad. A photo may help us to picture it.
    You've come to the right place for advice! 
  • Hi Anni! Thanks so much for getting back to me. This isn't natural looking sandy soil, it seems to be what builders have dumped there to level it out to then fire the turf ontop. From the photos, you can see that I began digging it out to restart it all but then drainange did come to mind and I started second guessing myself. Sorry I am a total novice!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404
    I'd just add loads of manure [well rotted] topsoil and compost to that. 
    It will give you a basic medium which will suit most plants. It does depend what you want to grow, but most plants only need about a foot of decent soil to thrive.
    If you break up the bottom of the bed with a fork before adding anything, that also prevents a solid 'pan' forming, although by the look of it, that isn't very likely. 
    Manure, in particular, is brilliant as it helps open up clay soil and helps sandy stuff retain moisture. 
    If you want to grow plants which like slightly differing conditions, ie some which like moister soil and some which like really sharp drainage, you can always divide up your bed as well, by putting in a couple of extra barriers, and then they can all happily co exist.
    If you do that with timber, it's also a good idea to protect them with some plastic to help prevent any rotting, and just have them at soil level so that they're largely unseen.
    As you've done a raised edge with timber, it would be worth doing the same there. You can utilise old compost bags - you'll have plenty once you start filling the border  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • That's good to hear, the less work the better I guess. So I'm looking to bring the bed up to where the border is which is 5 inches high (so will need to add another 5 inches of matter). So if I just agitated what's already there, add manure, compost and topsoil that would be OK? I'm not looking to grow any plants with special requirements. I suppose I'm just looking to make something hospitable for most bulbs and perennials. 
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,655
    Don't woory, we all had to start somewhere ! As Fairygirl says if you loosen the "pan" at the bottom, that will help with drainage. To be honest, it doesn't look as bad as I was expecting. Compost would be fine, well rotted manure as well if you can get hold of it at the moment. I envy you the blank canvas to be honest  :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404
    It's easy to over analyse too - so, as @AnniD says, fill it with as much organic matter as you can, as it's not as straightforward as it would normally be. 
    I've had several blank canvas gardens, and it's always a case of having ideas and plans, and then they get altered as you go along. You can alter, amend, add and take away over time :)
    Most of all - enjoy it as well. It can become a chore otherwise. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • OK sounds fab, thank you both very much for the help! You've taken a weight off of my mind. I'll get to work on that tomorrow and let you know how I get on.

    Thanks, ladies ❤️
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,404
    I just had a thought too @jessicahufton. Did you have to lift turf to dig out the bed?
    If so, you can turn it upside down and leave it in a corner. Cover it with something if you can to keep the light out. 
    In a few months it will be able to be used as soil for any other beds you want to create. It'll just need broken up a bit  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Yes I lifted it all out. I've still got some of it but got rid of the majority since there was just so much! I'll keep ahold of it then to use in the future 😊
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 9,655
    No worries Jessica, look forward to seeing photos of the progress !  :)
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