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Please help with the design of our garden

Hello all. This is my first post here. I am looking for some help with our garden please. Ideally, I'd love it if we could do as much as possible ourselves. We have recently renovated our house and therefore don't really have the money to throw at the garden at the moment - however, I really want to create a space I love!

The photos below are from the original estate agent listing. We have thrown away most of the pots and now have a shed in front of one of the tiers. The tiers get a lot of sunshine and so does the back half of the bottom tier (seems it is getting less as the year goes on though). I've drawn a plan of what I imagine but totally open to ideas of course!

Here are some of my thoughts/ideas:

- We have taken the slabs up off the first tier. Underneath is hardcore. We were thinking of removing a good amount of it and then adding topsoil and using them as garden beds. We have quite a few wooden sleepers that I think would look quite nice as an edge.

- I really think we need a seating area at the back half of the bottom tier as that is where the sun hits. However, I think we should have something other than grass by the house. 

- I really really want some grass to make the whole garden feel softer and more like a garden! My dog would also love that too.

I'm wondering how many people have done their own landscaping? Patio etc. I would love to try and do it ourselves but I'm concerned about messing up drainage etc.

Hopefully you lovely people can help me come up with some ideas :)

Thanks in advance.





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Posts

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,148
    Hi @jessicalouisewillis - it's an interesting site, and it's the type that can cause a lot of work  :)
    One of the forum members has an excellent terraced garden - @KeenOnGreen. If he sees my tag, he might offer a few ideas and some photos etc. You can certainly click on his name and you'll see his posts and photos - there's  a lot though!

    It's certainly possible to lift slabs and  create beds, but it's likely that the ground will be desperately poor. That means a lot of digging, and a lot of organic matter added to it, in order to have soil that's viable for planting. If you take short cuts, it can lead to plants failing, so it's always worth spending some time and effort on it. This is a good time of year to do it, and if you have plenty of muscle power, you can get that done quite easily. 
    Ditto if you want grass. You can lift the slabs - and often there are online outlets for getting rid of them if you want. Again- it's about the prep. If you haven't got a good, workable, well draining soil mix, grass will fail. The aspect is also important for grass - it's much harder if it's a shady site, although you can get grass seed which is more suited to that. Prep would be best done now, so that the ground has time to settle over winter, ready for turfing or seeding in spring. For seed - your location and climate are factors. 
    I'd definitely keep a hard surface area near your house for sitting/dining. Take a bit of time to see where the sun is at different times of day - and times of year. The incline will make a big difference to the amount of sunlight you get  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Thanks @Fairygirl  @jessicalouisewillis your garden has lots of similarities to ours.  This gives a rough idea (can you spot the dog?).


    Patio - I would keep any patio around the house.  You don't want to mess with drainage or foundations.  Our patio is fake stone (but is actually concrete).  We keep it clean, and break it up using pots and troughs, and it looks perfectly fine. See below and above for ideas.


    Seating - If possible, have as many seating areas as you can.  This means you can follow the sun/shade as needed, and it makes the garden more interesting.  We have Arbours and patio/table chairs, on 3 different levels/terraces.  Example below.


    Creating beds - Retaining walls are best avoided IMO, as they often move/disintegrate and require repairs.  As you already have many, I wouldn't add sleepers to the mix.  We have them, and they have rotted quite quickly.  You would be better to dig as much depth for your beds on each terrace, and add as much manure/compost as possible, but try to keep the bed level with the surface of the terrace.  Raised beds also need more watering, so a level bed is better from that perspective.

    Dogs/Grass - We have no grass in our garden.  We have lots of (pea) gravel, and our dog doesn't mind that at all.  It is easier to maintain than a lawn, and doesn't need regular watering.  Dog pee on grass will leave scorch marks, so think carefully before you go down the grass route.  

    With the right pots/troughs and planting, you can easily soften your patio.  Go big on the pots and troughs, and include shrubs in them.  We have found two things were essential in breaking up the hardness of our terracing;

    1) Height - Get as much height with the plants as you can.  Consider small trees, or tall shrubs/perennials/grasses.

    2) Grasses - These are fantastic at softening any garden, and add movement and drama.  We have lots of them.

    I have thousands of photos that I could share, but if you have some specific questions, then perhaps I can share photos with some solutions.  Don't despair, you will have a dramatic garden when you have finished!
  • You dont identify North, which will help us.

    Also, I think you need to block the view of that conservatory both ways.
    “Rivers know this ... we will get there in the end.”
  • You dont identify North, which will help us.

    Also, I think you need to block the view of that conservatory both ways.
    Sorry! The garden faces North East. I thought I had included that but maybe not, sorry.

    Agreed! We will definitely be redoing the fence, probably a 6 foot feather edge. 
  • Jac19Jac19 Worthing, South Coast of EnglandPosts: 496
    edited September 2021
    Lots of tiled patio means lots of large pots, and large pots are expensive.  They need some maintenance, too. 

    I would lift off some of the slabs in strategic areas and plant directly into the soil if it were my garden.  You can plant the best perennial ones you love and forget about it -- i.e. enjoy them for decades with only a little bit of maintenance every year.  You could do with like a cherry blossom tree or some flowering tree at the back of the garden giving natural shade.

    If you are on a budget, the thing to do is bring up the plants from seeds -- you spend like £1 - £3 for like 200 seeds instead of £2.50 - £30 per plant in a pot.  You can buy mixes as well as seeds of a specific plant.  I buy seeds from local gardening centres or online.

    I LOVE bees and butterflies in my garden.  So, I head straight to the Plants for Pollinators section, and look for the RHS PLANTS FOR POLLINATORS badge.


  • Thanks @Fairygirl  @jessicalouisewillis your garden has lots of similarities to ours.  This gives a rough idea (can you spot the dog?).


    Patio - I would keep any patio around the house.  You don't want to mess with drainage or foundations.  Our patio is fake stone (but is actually concrete).  We keep it clean, and break it up using pots and troughs, and it looks perfectly fine. See below and above for ideas.


    Seating - If possible, have as many seating areas as you can.  This means you can follow the sun/shade as needed, and it makes the garden more interesting.  We have Arbours and patio/table chairs, on 3 different levels/terraces.  Example below.


    Creating beds - Retaining walls are best avoided IMO, as they often move/disintegrate and require repairs.  As you already have many, I wouldn't add sleepers to the mix.  We have them, and they have rotted quite quickly.  You would be better to dig as much depth for your beds on each terrace, and add as much manure/compost as possible, but try to keep the bed level with the surface of the terrace.  Raised beds also need more watering, so a level bed is better from that perspective.

    Dogs/Grass - We have no grass in our garden.  We have lots of (pea) gravel, and our dog doesn't mind that at all.  It is easier to maintain than a lawn, and doesn't need regular watering.  Dog pee on grass will leave scorch marks, so think carefully before you go down the grass route.  

    With the right pots/troughs and planting, you can easily soften your patio.  Go big on the pots and troughs, and include shrubs in them.  We have found two things were essential in breaking up the hardness of our terracing;

    1) Height - Get as much height with the plants as you can.  Consider small trees, or tall shrubs/perennials/grasses.

    2) Grasses - These are fantastic at softening any garden, and add movement and drama.  We have lots of them.

    I have thousands of photos that I could share, but if you have some specific questions, then perhaps I can share photos with some solutions.  Don't despair, you will have a dramatic garden when you have finished!
    Hey - thank you so much for your reply. Your garden is lovely and i would love to chat more!

    We already have quite a few sleepers in the garden (someone in our family gave them to us) so will want to use them somewhere. I’m so glad to hear you think I can make the terraces into beds though. I think that will make a big difference. The reason I thought about adding an edge is that behind the wall is bigger blocks which means plants couldn’t be planted too close to the edge. I’m not really sure how to explain it I just thought it might look better with some sort of edge. Perhaps I can get a pic. We have already started digging them a bit - basically my partner wanted to show me what was under the slabs to persuade me we will need a skip haha - he was right! When do you think would be the best time of year to plant them? 

    In terms of grass - I have a sausage dog who has had spinal problems and finds it hard to walk on gravel. Tbh I think he’s just not wanting to hurt his precious feet and being dramatic but I want him to love the garden too! He’s happy to do his business on patio though. 

    Do you think you’d remove/replace slabs anywhere? 

    We would love to create some sort of private seating area at the top of the garden but not really sure how to do that🤔 it also doesn’t feel hugely safe with no sort of barrier at the edge. 

    Happy to send over more pics - really appreciate your advice. 


  • Fairygirl said:
    Hi @jessicalouisewillis - it's an interesting site, and it's the type that can cause a lot of work  :)
    One of the forum members has an excellent terraced garden - @KeenOnGreen. If he sees my tag, he might offer a few ideas and some photos etc. You can certainly click on his name and you'll see his posts and photos - there's  a lot though!

    It's certainly possible to lift slabs and  create beds, but it's likely that the ground will be desperately poor. That means a lot of digging, and a lot of organic matter added to it, in order to have soil that's viable for planting. If you take short cuts, it can lead to plants failing, so it's always worth spending some time and effort on it. This is a good time of year to do it, and if you have plenty of muscle power, you can get that done quite easily. 
    Ditto if you want grass. You can lift the slabs - and often there are online outlets for getting rid of them if you want. Again- it's about the prep. If you haven't got a good, workable, well draining soil mix, grass will fail. The aspect is also important for grass - it's much harder if it's a shady site, although you can get grass seed which is more suited to that. Prep would be best done now, so that the ground has time to settle over winter, ready for turfing or seeding in spring. For seed - your location and climate are factors. 
    I'd definitely keep a hard surface area near your house for sitting/dining. Take a bit of time to see where the sun is at different times of day - and times of year. The incline will make a big difference to the amount of sunlight you get  :)
    Thank you for your comment :) He has provided lots of helpful advice! My partner was looking into grass seed and found one that does well in shade. I can’t really imagine not having grass in my garden I think! 
  • Jac19Jac19 Worthing, South Coast of EnglandPosts: 496
    edited September 2021
    There can be a patio area and a grass area.  Patio is less maintenance whereas you have to mow grass at least once a month spring through autumn to keep the lawn tidy.  The good thing about grass over patio is that it allows rainwater to seep into the deeper ground much better and therefore make the ground a good area for roots to grow down to.  The water that seeps down carries nutrients from rotten organic matter down.  Better aeriation underground, too. So, it serves your plants better and keeps them healthier.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,148
    Hi again @jessicalouisewillis - when you reply, you don't need to quote a whole post, just do the '@' symbol, and the first few letters of a name and you'll get options for tagging the person you want to reply to, and just click on the one you want. It saves a lot of room on the thread pages  ;)
    You can also highlight and delete any bits you don't need for a reply  :)
    It's not too difficult to get a barrier in place for a seating place higher up, and your sleepers would do a good job, but you'd need to fix them with steel rods. You'll get help with doing that if you decide to opt for that route. Alternatively, a decking handrail or something similar, or you can do one yourself to save money. A few posts and some roofing battens or trellis is all you need. You can also have more than one seating area, so that you can make use of sun or shade depending on your preferences. Try and keep landscaping materials to a maximum of around 3 different types, to keep the plot more harmonious.  :)
    Remember that you can lift slabs, and prep the ground well, and then plant into the gaps. You don't need to have all paving, or all beds/borders, and it stops the garden looking like a municipal car park  ;)   
    Before you get to that stage - it's vital that you excavate properly. Then you'll need to add lots of organic matter, because the soil will be terrible. Taking short cuts at that stage is counter productive. That goes for the grass too. Slabs are generally set on hardcore and sand, and can be mortared into place too, so you'll need to just lift some and see. It might vary in different parts as well. Don't be in a hurry to do that bit, but if you get enough slabs lifted over the next month, you can just stick a load of manure down and leave it over winter. The soil could be very solid and compacted, and that will help. Equally, if it's light and sandy, that will improve the moisture retention. 
    The blocks behind your wall might have been an older structure, and someone's put a facing brick on that. If you can get a couple of pix of that at some point, that'll make it clearer.
    A simple pergola or screen will block the conservatory no bother, and a few climbers will give privacy. You'll get help with that too if you want ideas. That also doesn't need to be expensive.   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • How big will the lawn be,? Our garden faces north, but its big, unoverlooked or shaded by buildings,it's a bungalow. There is always some sun somewhere in the summer. In winter,under trees,we have given up attempts at grass,both turf and seed, always used specific shade grass. It's now a raised bed. How long and wide is the whole garden? Difficult to tell from Estate agent photos,they have magic cameras, the 11 by 11foot lounge in our last House looked absolutely huge
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