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Design query

Hi, this is my terrace house backyard. I have been growing in pots for three years but now I want to landscape it more. Do I need to dig up all the concrete in order to grow borders, small trees or can I build over the top? Sorry about the upside down picture- not sure how that happened!
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  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 4,037
    edited February 2021
  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 4,037
    edited February 2021
    I would think that digging up the concrete would be a huge undertaking, especially if the rubble has to be moved out through the house.

    My inclination would be to grow small trees in very large black plastic pots. You can get 100 litre one for about £20 - the equivalent in terracotta would be multiple 00s of £s. Filled with John Innes #3 you could then grow shrubs and small trees.

    On the left hand pebbledash wall I would cut back the neighbour’s invading ivy and put up something more interesting. You could maybe have a bank of shelves growing geraniums all of the same colour (deep red, pink or lilac for me, definitely not orange/red) and next to it have a clematis in a coordinating colour.

    The trellis at the back looks underused though there does look like there is a young espaliered tree growing there. The wall pots look very odd - pink, red, white and randomly positioned. I would try for more uniformity rather than looking like shopping that has just been unpacked.

    Similarly, I would keep all pots in the same colour. I see black, brown, green, lilac, terracotta, red, white, grey and, for good measure, a yellow plastic duck and an ornamental sculpture made of reconstituted stone. The effect is a lack of cohesion and a look of ‘bittiness’. Now some like a random hotch potch: I don’t but it’s your garden and what you say goes.

    I simply do not know what to suggest about the concrete. It is no thing of beauty but I am not sure what is best. Maybe you could cover it with gravel or bark mulch but there would have to be a means of retaining it to stop it spreading and such surfaces are not a good idea if neighbourhood cats think you have just built them a de luxe litter tray. Maybe you could put down paving slabs on top of the concrete but I am not technically aware enough to know if it’s feasible. Or maybe leave the concrete as it is and hope adjustments elsewhere in the garden draw the eye away.

    One final suggestion I would make is to buy a proper table that matches the two chairs. Tables made out of plastic footstools are for student digs! 

    Please do come back to the forum at a later date with an ‘after’ picture.
  • Wow Karen I love all your pots of flowers, I am just trying pots this years, cannot put anymore in the garden as I do not know what is already there so have to wait and see what comes up.  Have loads seeds planted, mostly herbs (first time) got a load of bulbs and ?plug plants coming.  Been gardening a few years, still learning and still making mistakes, will follow your posts and hopefully will be able to ask for your opinion
    Ben I wish I could have contacted you a few years ago. Garden with perfect soil.  I had a blank canvas after digging everything up, new patio, new fence and turfing. Made loads mistakes.  Patio too big, wrong plants that grew so quick and took over and had to give them away on facebook if they came and dug up.  Still getting it wrong now, got an olive tree which is thriving but in wrong place, too many plants in borders (which are straight and uniform, not attractive) I now depend on this forum more so hopefully my garden will improve and maybe I can seek your advice
  • Hi @karenj39, welcome to the forum :)

    I am not the best to advise, as I have only had my own garden for a year and haven't done much in the way of landscaping at all, but I would imagine that building beds directly over solid concrete could potentially give issues with drainage. Possibly planting in troughs or beds raised up on feet would work, as then you could add crocks and drainage to the bottoms to make sure that plants didn't become waterlogged? Depending on your available resources and how much money you want to spend you could probably get some quite nice biggish beds done this way along the walls. Buying pre-made ones could be very expensive, as they tend not to come cheap, but if you are handy with tools you might be able to make your own for a bit less.

    Trees can be quite happily planted in large containers (50-60cm diameter) if they are grafted onto dwarfing rootstock; I have an eating apple, a crab apple, a damson, and a plum that are planted this way in big plastic tubs with drainage holes drilled in the bottom, as my garden is only slightly larger than yours with a patio and path taking up about half of it and a square of lawn and a flowerbed taking up the other half. I think the RHS have a webpage about planting trees in containers if you wanted to look up some advice.

    If you wanted more "normal" borders (for lack of a better word) then I think you would probably have to take at least some of the concrete up and dig down a bit, but that could be a tricky task depending on access points to move rubble off your property - unless maybe you wanted to use rubble to make a kind of urban rockery, perhaps, with alpine plants and things that don't need much soil?

    Hope this helps a bit. Fingers crossed other members will contribute other options, and you will have various ideas to choose from.

    Also, as a fellow flowerpot gardener, please could I ask what the big pinky purple flowers are under the middle of the washing line near the wall? They look gorgeous and I am always looking for new things to add to my pots! Thanks x

  • You really face two options, neither of them particularly cheap. Option 1: pave over the concrete with something much more attractive, and buy or build some large planters that would allow you to grow a few shrubs and perhaps even a small tree. This will all need lots of watering, e.g. when you go on holiday. Option 2: dig up the concrete. This is slow, noisy and expensive. Once it's dug up and removed (also rather costly) you'll still need to import topsoil, as what's under your concrete will not be suitable for planting. Either option can be done if you have some help: for option 1, see here: https://homesteadandchill.com/build-raised-garden-bed-on-concrete/
    https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-cover-a-concrete-patio-with-pavers/

    Option 2: you can hire a mechanical jackhammer from larger DIY stores, and a skip for the bits. Topsoil can be bought from landscape suppliers. 
  • BenCotto said:
    I would think that digging up the concrete would be a huge undertaking, especially if the rubble has to be moved out through the house.

    My inclination would be to grow small trees in very large black plastic pots. You can get 100 litre one for about £20 - the equivalent in terracotta would be multiple 00s of £s. Filled with John Innes #3 you could then grow shrubs and small trees.

    On the left hand pebbledash wall I would cut back the neighbour’s invading ivy and put up something more interesting. You could maybe have a bank of shelves growing geraniums all of the same colour (deep red, pink or lilac for me, definitely not orange/red) and next to it have a clematis in a coordinating colour.

    The trellis at the back looks underused though there does look like there is a young espaliered tree growing there. The wall pots look very odd - pink, red, white and randomly positioned. I would try for more uniformity rather than looking like shopping that has just been unpacked.

    Similarly, I would keep all pots in the same colour. I see black, brown, green, lilac, terracotta, red, white, grey and, for good measure, a yellow plastic duck and an ornamental sculpture made of reconstituted stone. The effect is a lack of cohesion and a look of ‘bittiness’. Now some like a random hotch potch: I don’t but it’s your garden and what you say goes.

    I simply do not know what to suggest about the concrete. It is no thing of beauty but I am not sure what is best. Maybe you could cover it with gravel or bark mulch but there would have to be a means of retaining it to stop it spreading and such surfaces are not a good idea if neighbourhood cats think you have just built them a de luxe litter tray. Maybe you could put down paving slabs on top of the concrete but I am not technically aware enough to know if it’s feasible. Or maybe leave the concrete as it is and hope adjustments elsewhere in the garden draw the eye away.

    One final suggestion I would make is to buy a proper table that matches the two chairs. Tables made out of plastic footstools are for student digs! 

    Please do come back to the forum at a later date with an ‘after’ picture.
    Hi Ben, thank you for getting back to me. There are some great ideas here - I do have a few fruit trees and I think I will get some much bigger pots - they dry out really quickly and despite living in the north-west, in Morecambe, we have quite a dry sunny climate. The olive tree in the corner loves it! Every house on the street seems to have a cat or cats so you are correct about adding soil or bark - that wouldn't be good. I tend to have a mixture of colours as I tend to pick up containers when I find them, not having a great amount of cash to spend. I do have a proper table - its out of the picture lol! I have shifted about 300 bricks recently so hoping to build some narrow raised beds along the wall. Just a bit worried about drainage - perhaps I could break up the concrete there so there is better drainage within the raised beds. I will be doing it all myself anyway and I don't have a car so it's a great challenge! However, I will post some pictures once I decide. Thank you so much for your advice - overwhelmed at the amount of comments about this. 😊
  • Wow Karen I love all your pots of flowers, I am just trying pots this years, cannot put anymore in the garden as I do not know what is already there so have to wait and see what comes up.  Have loads seeds planted, mostly herbs (first time) got a load of bulbs and ?plug plants coming.  Been gardening a few years, still learning and still making mistakes, will follow your posts and hopefully will be able to ask for your opinion
    Ben I wish I could have contacted you a few years ago. Garden with perfect soil.  I had a blank canvas after digging everything up, new patio, new fence and turfing. Made loads mistakes.  Patio too big, wrong plants that grew so quick and took over and had to give them away on facebook if they came and dug up.  Still getting it wrong now, got an olive tree which is thriving but in wrong place, too many plants in borders (which are straight and uniform, not attractive) I now depend on this forum more so hopefully my garden will improve and maybe I can seek your advice
    Hi, thank you for your encouragement! I do love pots and I have collected so many! A lot of plants have come back which is encouraging but they need a lot of watering. I am very much like you, a great mixture of plants, veg, herbs and fruit. I pretty much pick them up in the sales - and give them a go to see if they survive. Despite being up in the north, I have a very sunny spot and they all love the heat along the back wall - I too have an Olive who thrives up in the top left hand corner - such a warm spot against the high wall. Well good luck with your pots - if we have as good weather as we did last year, its going to be great growing in the garden! I'm going to attempt to grow more veg this year. 😊
  • Hi @karenj39, welcome to the forum :)

    I am not the best to advise, as I have only had my own garden for a year and haven't done much in the way of landscaping at all, but I would imagine that building beds directly over solid concrete could potentially give issues with drainage. Possibly planting in troughs or beds raised up on feet would work, as then you could add crocks and drainage to the bottoms to make sure that plants didn't become waterlogged? Depending on your available resources and how much money you want to spend you could probably get some quite nice biggish beds done this way along the walls. Buying pre-made ones could be very expensive, as they tend not to come cheap, but if you are handy with tools you might be able to make your own for a bit less.

    Trees can be quite happily planted in large containers (50-60cm diameter) if they are grafted onto dwarfing rootstock; I have an eating apple, a crab apple, a damson, and a plum that are planted this way in big plastic tubs with drainage holes drilled in the bottom, as my garden is only slightly larger than yours with a patio and path taking up about half of it and a square of lawn and a flowerbed taking up the other half. I think the RHS have a webpage about planting trees in containers if you wanted to look up some advice.

    If you wanted more "normal" borders (for lack of a better word) then I think you would probably have to take at least some of the concrete up and dig down a bit, but that could be a tricky task depending on access points to move rubble off your property - unless maybe you wanted to use rubble to make a kind of urban rockery, perhaps, with alpine plants and things that don't need much soil?

    Hope this helps a bit. Fingers crossed other members will contribute other options, and you will have various ideas to choose from.

    Also, as a fellow flowerpot gardener, please could I ask what the big pinky purple flowers are under the middle of the washing line near the wall? They look gorgeous and I am always looking for new things to add to my pots! Thanks x

    Hi! Thank you for responding so quickly! I did pick up about 300 bricks to build some low beds and have made a few wooden planters. As you say, its the drainage that I am worried about but perhaps I could dig out the concrete just where the beds will be along the wall. I love the size of the garden but have real 'soil' envy! I love pots but they need an awful lot of watering too. I am encouraged that you have fruit  trees in big pots. I have an apricot, pear, which I am experiment training, a cherry, fig, lemon  - all growing but definitely need bigger pots. I grew peas in a disused fire pit last summer - they grew well! I do like experimenting but feel the garden is lacking in some sort of structure. I have big dreams but very little landscaping 'knowledge'. I think I will definitely try to build some wooden beds. That lovely perennial which was given to me a couple of years back as a leaving present is a geranium called 'cynthia'. It's a bit 'pink' for my liking but cheers up the grey concrete. Take care and thanks for getting in touch!
  • You really face two options, neither of them particularly cheap. Option 1: pave over the concrete with something much more attractive, and buy or build some large planters that would allow you to grow a few shrubs and perhaps even a small tree. This will all need lots of watering, e.g. when you go on holiday. Option 2: dig up the concrete. This is slow, noisy and expensive. Once it's dug up and removed (also rather costly) you'll still need to import topsoil, as what's under your concrete will not be suitable for planting. Either option can be done if you have some help: for option 1, see here: https://homesteadandchill.com/build-raised-garden-bed-on-concrete/
    https://www.familyhandyman.com/project/how-to-cover-a-concrete-patio-with-pavers/

    Option 2: you can hire a mechanical jackhammer from larger DIY stores, and a skip for the bits. Topsoil can be bought from landscape suppliers. 
    Hi, thank you very much for your helpful response - I'm very interested in the article you sent about laving pavers over the concrete although I would have to think carefully about drainage. I didn't realise you could use adhesive which I will certainly look into. I don't have great amounts to spend but am pretty nifty at picking up materials from local selling sites. This has been a great help, thank you.
  • LoxleyLoxley NottinghamPosts: 4,961
    If you want to avoid removing the concrete, make raised beds about a foot deep (deeper if possible!) You could use brick or sleepers. How you interface with the wall depends on what is going on on the other side... obviously don't build up levels against any buildings. There needs to be drainage so leave spaces at the bottom for water to seep out and put a drainage layer of clean gravel in the bottom.

    And cover the remaining concrete with 20mm slate chippings, they lie flat and work better than other types of gravel on existing surfaces. You can (and should) lay slate very shallow, so you can get them up to buildings without affecting the DPC.
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