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Putting down gravel or better ideas?

I said to my friend that I'll try and help her with her front garden.
It's a new build and as you can see the weeds have taken over!


I don't know that much about gardening but the ground below the turf seems poor and can't tell if it's sod or fine rubble! I don't think all areas are the same. You can't really shove a spade deeper than the turf in most areas.

Our ideas and imagination are fairly limited which is why for easy maintenance's sake we decided gravel should go down instead and then work out what plants, rocks, features to put in afterwards. Probably the typical 10mm pea shingle will be used unless anyone has better options?

So my basic plan is to:
  1. Spray the area with strong weed killer (maybe not essential but just to make it easier when the time comes).
  2. Remove the turf and compact the ground a bit. I think the garden is at a slight slant but would that cause any problems putting down gravel?
  3. Whack in a border around the tree.
  4. Put down weed membrane.
  5. Split the gravel bags open and spread it around.
Is that basically it or am I heading towards a disaster?
Does there need to be some kind of separation between the paving slabs and gravel? They'll be level with each other.

That all said, if you can think of better alternative that doesn't require anything technical and around the same budget then please let me know.

Thanks very much.


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,243
    That will work fine.  :)
    You could just scalp the area with a lawnmower rather than using weedkiller. Much quicker and more friendly.
     Try and take out a reasonable depth of turf - about 3 inches if you can, to make sure you get a good depth of gravel. Use a good membrane too -the cheap stuff breaks up.  :)
    It would also be worth getting some decent compost into the area round the tree, which will help it as it establishes. It will need plenty of watering during dry spells too, especially if you're in a drier area of the country. 
    I'd use a chunkier gravel. Pea gravel is like a giant litter tray.....
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Gn0meGn0me Posts: 61
    Thank you!

    Really helpful advice....certainly don't want any cats getting the wrong idea :)

    Once it's all down do you think Buxus balls will work?

    She has ideas about putting expensive plants in big pots but I think that they will probably disappear since it's the front garden without any walls or gate!

    Thank you again.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 4,452
    I would go with glyphosate to make sure the weeds are dead down to the roots.

    Don't compact the ground if you intend to plant the area! The ground is probably already too compacted.

    Not sure what you mean by 'wack in a border around the tree' - you may as well gravel right up to it, you can plant into the gravel around the tree if you want.

    I would go with angular gravel rather than pea shingle, it doesn't roll around as much. Especially important on a slight slope.

    If you plant Box balls I think you will need to improve the soil where you are planting them, they don't grow well in very poor soil. 
  • GreenbirdGreenbird Posts: 237
    Gn0me said:
    Thank you!

    Really helpful advice....certainly don't want any cats getting the wrong idea :)

    Once it's all down do you think Buxus balls will work?

    She has ideas about putting expensive plants in big pots but I think that they will probably disappear since it's the front garden without any walls or gate!

    Thank you again.

    Depends on how big of a pot.

    Most thieves are opportunistic cowards. I can't imagine them struggling down the road with a large pot with little to no sell on value.

    The type of thieves who would turn up with a couple of mates and a transit van wouldn't be after potted plants.

    Never had an issue with potted plants on front gardens. I've had hanging baskets disappear though.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,243
    I wouldn't plant expensive plants in pots. Too risky.
    Many areas are plagued by thieves pinching stuff, even large containers, so it's better to plant directly if she wants anything else ornamental. 
    I'd agree with @Loxley - if you want to plant, the ground will need a bit of effort put in. It pays dividends, as plants will establish more quickly, and thrive better. 

    Box has problems in many parts of the country because of the box caterpillar, so it's wise to do a bit of research with that  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • rachelQrtJHBjbrachelQrtJHBjb South BucksPosts: 805
    I know it looks like cow parsley in the picture but I think it might be hemlock given its size. If it is you need to be extremely careful as it is poisonous.

    There are numerous web pages that can help you with identification on site. Garden Organic offers ways of tackling it without chemicals but you may prefer to spray with glyphosate.

    Look in the wider area to see if it's endemic. I would have hoped the developer's advisors would have noted its presence on the site - I doubt it's just in your friend's garden.
  • Gn0meGn0me Posts: 61
    Thanks for all your help and advice noted.
    I think I'll have to investigate just what's under the turf (what's left of it) that might govern what can be planted....other than weeds!
  • I’m going to suggest a different approach, both for environmental reasons and because of the circumstances. Both microplastics and weedkiller are proving to be much greater problems than we first appreciated, and it would be good to have a solution to this area that doesn’t require either. But it depends on three questions.

    1. how much sun does the bed get? Any other info such as how moist it is, soil pH?

    2. How much time does your friend have to work on it? Is it just intended to look good while left to its own devices (beyond the first year or two where regular watering will be needed for the young plants)?

    3. what kind of effect does your friend like? More formal, more flowery?
  • Gn0meGn0me Posts: 61
    I imagine the area does get a decent amount of sun as the building is facing north.
    The soil seems quite dry and crumbly but no idea about the PH levels. Is that worth looking in to although I'd guess it would depend on what is compatible?

    I don't think she has much time at all which is why we thought just putting gravel down was the best route.

    Ideally, I think she would love a flowery layout but we're assuming that requires a lot of maintenance.

    In short and I know this is vague, but I believe she would like something that does look nice but requires little maintenance.

    Thank you.
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 6,983
    I have an area about the same size as that. It faces due south so gets lots of sun. We live in a very low rainfall area so it's also very dry. It's under a huge ash tree and next to a mature hedge so the soil is full of roots and contains little in the way of nutrients.

    A couple of years ago I planted it up as a sort of beach-style border. I weeded, incorporated a bit of pea shingle to ensure good drainage, laid membrane and planted through the membrane with plants that cope with hot, dry, poor soil - eryngium, lavender, euphorbia, helianthemum, aubretia, dianthus and sempervivums. 

    The whole area was top dressed with shingle and then some larger pebbles and cobbles were added to make it resemble a shingley / pebble beach. Looks quite nice and just needs an occasional weed because bindweed and bittercress still make a home there🤬

    The larger boulders are to stop nobs driving over it when they reverse in. 

    This was taken when it was first done - the plants have filled out since then!
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
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