Forum home Problem solving

Help needed, new garden! Total newbie!

Hi all,

This is going to be one hell of a big post! I do apologise and thank anyone in advance who takes the time to read through and even offer some advice! I am just trying to tidy this mess up and maybe even make it look nice in the future. I would like to make this a little project for myself and plan on keeping this post updated with any progression we make. 

I have recently moved into a new flat, first time at it alone! I am lucky enough to have access to both the front and the back garden and am responsible for the upkeep of both. It was a jungle when we moved in, but we have since been able to tame it some what. This was difficult as we have no access to our own transport and had no green bin. 

I am finally at the stage where I have green waste collection along with a small selection of hand tools, a lawn mower, a strimmer and, the all important, time! My budget is VERY basic. I worked as a chef so during this current Carona pandemic I have found myself rather short on funds and can't justify any luxury or big purchases at the moment. 

I have loads of questions, LOADS! I am a complete amateur and am very good at killing any house plants I have acquired, apart from my hardy Aloe, which somehow is thriving in my kitchen.

Now, first things first. The front on my flat faces East, and the rear faces West.

Here is a picture of the back garden first:

The state of the grass is patchy, lots of dandelions, nettles and a few other bits. As you can also see from this picture, we have a large tree blocking a lot of the light that comes in through the day. This is our neighbours tree, who also has a lot of his light blocked. He is speaking to the council to try and get it trimmed back a bit. It also drops a lot of twigs and sticks on the lawn (note the barrel burner which me and my neighbour share to get rid of some of the larger debris)

On both the rear right and rear left, there are 2 small, semi raised beds, surrounded by large stones. They are currently filled with nothing too desirable. 
Here are some more pictures of those beds but closer:
The grass around the borders is almost non existent now, as is the case for the majority of the border for the whole garden. 
Here are pictures of the outsides of the lawn and borders:

And finally a picture of the lawn itself.

Any advice what so ever on how to tidy this mess up is most welcome! Again, firstly I would like to tidy it all up properly before thinking about anything to add or plant. How best do I help the grass recover? What is the best way to remove unwanted plants on the lawn itself. Should I turn the dead borders into beds? How do I prevent the unwanteds from returning? 

Now moving onto the front garden. The same applies here really, I have a lawn that is covered with unwanteds, weeds growing amongst some of the brickwork and a couple of plants that I am unsure as to what are or how to tackle them. 

Here are some pictures:

Here are a couple of pictures of the unknown plant that grows amongst the grass. It seems to grow very quickly and my lawnmower doesn't like it one bit. It looks very similar to the bush thing along the footpath (also not sure about what to do with) if I leave it for a few weeks but I trim it down before it gets much bigger. 

Again, any advice on how to tame and tidy any of this would be most welcome! I can not stress enough that I have not got a clue what I am doing garden wise, and don't want to just grab a can of weed killer and start throwing it down.

I will keep this post updated with any progress I make. Thanks again for taking the time to read through.



  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,008
    Welcome Stu  :)
    So many questions,  l have just picked up on a few points for now !
    Re your question about turning the dead borders into beds, that's really up to you to decide. If you want some colour there are loads of suggestions just waiting to come your way. Preparation is the key when it comes to planting. Obviously you don't have to keep to the existing borders, you can do a complete redesign. 
    It might be worth drawing up plans of the front and back gardens (there are design programmes you can use if you prefer). Think about what you want to incorporate.  Seating areas, washing line, bin store, shed, compost bin, etc.
    Do you have children/pets to take into account  ?
    With regard to the concrete (?) section underneath the window, a bit of weeding and tidying up the grass edge where it meets the concrete will instantly tidy it and make it look better. 
    The "grass" at the front looks possibly like a form of festuca.
    I would say, don't go mad and try to do it all in one go. Tidy up the worst bits - the minute you can see even the smallest improvement,  it will act as encouragement for the next bit.
    Take your time to decide what you want.
    Hope this helps a little  :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,567
    The main question to ask is what do you want to with the garden?  Play, entertainment, colour, perfume or just neat and tidy?

    I would dig out all the stuff in those beds in the back.  It's a mix of Spanish bluebells which many think are weeds plus real weeds.  You'll need to get quite deep to make sure you get all the tap roots from the dandelions and the bulbs from the bluebells.  If you can, work in some garden compost to improve the soil, rake it level and sow some annual seeds which are quite cheap - Nigella, cornflower, nasturtiums, cosmos, marigold.   

    For other plants, try Freecycle or any other local area swap site in case someone has spare seedlings needing a home.  There's also a seed swap thread on here and someone may have seeds to spare for you.

    For the "lawns" raise the blades on the mower to their highest position so that the grass has maximum leaf area to feed its roots and strengthen itself.  Use a sharp, narrow tool to hoik out the dandelions with as much root as possible as they regenerate from bits of root.   The nettles can be pulled out by hand (gloves!) or else forked out and then the soil raked smooth.  Any bare soil can be raked to loosen it and level it and then you can sow fresh seed after rain if you can't easily water it.

    The weeds in the concrete round the bay and in the bricks are most easily removed with a weedkiller but be careful when applying it as it will kill any green plant it lands on.  While funds are scarce, I wouldn't try and do more yet at the front.

    That should all make it look neater and tidier and give the grass a chance to recover and grow.  When you have more funds you can apply specialist lawn weed and feed products in autumn and spring and maybe next autumn you can plant some spring flowering bulbs.  

    Meanwhile, keep an eye on gardens nearby and see what you like and dislike and what grows well so you can think about adding more interest, both front and back, later on.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • berardeberarde Posts: 135
    when you come to planting you might consider the cranesbills or perennial geranium (not the pelargonium mop head type flowers). Pest free, a range of colours, some have a very long flowering season, different sizes and heights, and they are effective as groundcover to keep the weeds down. Here's alink
  • Loraine3Loraine3 Posts: 552
    You have a lot of sycamore seedlings (perhaps that's the neighbours tree!) I would get rid of those immediately before they get any bigger. I know the Spanish bluebells are classed as weeds but I would leave them for now as they do provide colour. Get chatting with neighbours who have nice gardens, they may give you some cuttings, and will be pleased to know you are wanting to improve the neighbourhood. 
  • GreenbirdGreenbird Posts: 237
    I'd have thought those conifers block far more sun than the Sycamore. Cutting back a tree of that size is very expensive.

    Redesign the borders and re-dig, removing weeds in the process. Once the lawn has some definition, you'll have motivation to sort its patches out. Remove the thatch, mow high and overseed. 

    I'd plant a handful of shrubs (Morrisons currently have a limited selection at low prices). Hydrangea, Acer, Photinia and Pieris can be purchased small at low cost, low maintenance and will all fill out to give you some structure.

    I've never had much luck sowing seeds directly into ground. And I don't own a greenhouse. So whatever I grow from seed is usually done in a little seed tray on my kitchen window. Unfortunately a handful of seedlings never go very far when planting a bed. So I always end up buying lots of potted perennials, which gets expensive. If I wanted to save money, I'd purchase self seeders or spreaders (foxgloves, anenome, crocosmia) and let them do the work. Alternatively, wait until October and bulbs are pretty inexpensive. You may want to do some research on flowering periods to ensure you have some colour throughout next summer. 

    Hang a birdfeeder near the tree. See what comes in.

  • Thanks for the speedy replies!
    We have no children to worry about and no pets, other than the neighbours cat who thinks our garden is a big litter tray. I think the aim is just so me and the missus can look outside without feeling embarrassed and actually want to go and sit on a chair in the sun for an hour.  
    For now I just want to tidy, clean and fix! I will keep mowing the lawn on the highest trim. I'l get straight to pulling out the weeds on seedlings, along with tidying the borders where grass meets concrete.
    The only reason I mentioned making more beds was because the grass looked so patchy and I wasn't sure the sides would recover. We will try and get the grass healthier before moving further with that idea. 
    If I manage to clear out the beds and dont end up planting anything for this season, what can I do to prevent more weeds and things from appearing in the mean time? Should I cover with a tarp or something like that? 
    With this dry weather I think a watering can might be a worth while investment to try and give the grass some love.

    I am guessing it would be a bit late now to get anything going from seed or bulb for this year, but by next year the aim is for a bit more colour and a herb patch of some description, bit of thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley.

    Thanks again for the replies! 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,567
    The annual seeds I mentioned can be sown now if you can get those two wee beds cleared for them.   If not, any weeds that reappear  - and they will - can be hoed off.  Bit like dusting the house - needs doing regularly.   Failing that, sheets of cardboard - minus staples and plastic tape - will cover the soil but also biodegrade over time so add to the soil structure.  Hold it down with bricks or stones.

    If you don't already have a hoe, think about the Wolf Multi head system which allows you to connect umpteen different heads to one handle so you can increase your range of tools without breaking the bank or having to store lots of different handles.  We have long, medium and short handles for different jobs and then hoe heads, rakes, cultivators, brushes, a lawn edger and so on. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
Sign In or Register to comment.