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How close to a neighbour's house can you dig & plant?

So... finally ready to get started on our new garden, but I need some help (as ever!).

The plan is to get rid of the pebbles and turn most of this shady corner into a shade garden (it never sees any sunlight, as far as I can work out). I've got plans for a sort of ferns and foliage planting theme. We've got a shed elsewhere, so didn't particularly want to go down the route of having solid structures on this patch, so I thought that planting this up would soften an otherwise unloved and unused part of the garden.

But, as you can see the neighbours' house forms part of the boundary (the houses round here are staggered). I've never had this before, so not sure of the legalities, and also common polite etiquette of dealing with this. We like our neighbours (and we're very new to the neighbourhood!), so don't want to do anything that would cause problems in the future.

My questions are:
  • How close can I dig and plant next to their house without it causing problems like damp etc? I know not to obstruct a damp proof course, but wasn't sure if I need to leave a proper gap between planting and their wall. 
  • If I were to build any form of structure in this section to give height (was considering something like a post and wire trellis a little way out from the wall), how far away should I ideally be keeping any structure like that? Still undecided about the effort of this, anyway, though.
  • Are there any legal ramifications I should know about?
PS ignore the crappy pile of ex-wardrobe, that is being moved to the tip today.


  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,594
    If you dig down and find the footings of the wall, move further out. Other than that, I think you'll be fine as long as you don't breach the damp course or attach anything to the wall, and avoid self-clinging climbers like ivy and hydrangea petiolaris.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645
    I would place any post and wire structure a minimum 60cms out from their wall so that you can get round it more easily to train and prune and it will definitely avoid having anything encroach on your neighbours' damp proofing and foundations.    If you make it L shaped you'll increase the potential growing area and there are plenty of clematis and one or two climbing roses that grow in shade and will give a lovely backdrop to plants like ferns.

    You could probably plant a small Japanese maple in there for a bit of height and airy structure and fabulous foliage colour and there's a variegated persicaria that would be a good foil for a purple maple and for ferns -   
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • K67K67 Posts: 2,507
    Have you been in your house a year yet?
    I ask as I planted up a shady spot only to find it had full sun late afternoon in the summer and my shade loving plants really suffered!

  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    edited February 2021
    Thank you all, this is really helpful, as I hadn't thought about most of the above. @JennyJ - I have been wondering about how far foundations of houses go out, so that's actually answered another question I had in a roundabout way - to stop when I get to the footings!

    @Obelixx - Nice idea with the L shape. I had just been thinking a straight line, and hadn't even considered a different shape, so more for me to mull over. And I was going to write another post down the line for planting suggestions, so again that's given me a head start.

    @K67, noted! Our first viewing of the house was last summer, and I remember thinking there was a patch still in the shade so I'll have to have a shade patch, but I guess I should consider that the size of the shady patch now will still shrink come summer.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645
    Doing an L climbing support will give dappled shade.   

    Maybe a good idea to erect your posts and wires and get the clematis/rose/whatever planted then just plant annuals this year while you watch what the sun does thru summer.  Take regular pictures and remember that as a climber matures it will create its own shade.

    Then you can safely select more expensive permanent plants when you know exactly how much light they'll be getting.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I agree with the need to view it at midsummer too. The other thing to be aware of is that, even in shade, plants butting up against a wall will often suffer seriously from drought because of the wall's rain shadow. So leaving a gap of around 45 cm for shrubs/climbers, and slightly less for perennial plants, is an excellent idea. 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,656
    It strikes me that the gravelled area may be there  for a reason,  maybe a drain  cover or something like that or it may be that it is the only shady bit in the garden in high summer so may wish to wait to see!
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645
    It could certainly be recycled as a shady seating area if the soil beneath is not suitable for planting or there are drain accesses hidden below.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 316
    Well, I've had a quick peak under some of the pebbles, and they're sat on a membrane underneath which is just soil. Compacted soil, yes, but then I'd feel a bit squished if I'd been sat under a layer of pebbles for a few years...!

    I have a real loathing of gravels/pebbles in a garden, taking up such a space (just a personal opinion, no judgement on anyone else), so they have to go. The area just to the north-west of this patch seems to pool up when it rains, so I was thinking that the pebbles had been put there because that part of the garden gets so wet in winter, but I still feel that a well dug soil with plants in would be a better sump for rainwater than a barren heap of rocks.

    I have a LOT of work in terms of digging up compacted soil and digging in compost/manure etc to improve the whole area next to the house ready for planting, so maybe that will take me long enough for midsummer to hit, so I can see how much/little shade there is then!

    My mind is brimming over with planting ideas, but I will be holding back until it's dug over and settled in for a bit, however all the responses above have been tremendous, so thank you!
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