Forum home Garden design

New build border ideas

Hello, we’re thinking of having our new build garden landscaped and ideally would like to have borders along some of the fences.

It’s failrly square, flat garden with quite a lot of clay / poor drainage when it rains. We think the developer did put top soil underneath the turf. 

One idea is a raised bed along the back fence and then a ground level border along one of the others.

We want to make it lush and green with planting and also have a contemporary feel too. 

We just wondered what other people’s experience is? Would block work and rendered raised borders potentially last longer than timber raised beds such as larch or oak? We’re hoping that whatever we choose will last a long time.

For the ground level border, to have the best chance of the plants thriving, what options are there for helping drainage and soil quality? Could a landscape contractor dig deep and use some kind of aggregate to help the soil then fill with fresh topsoil? We’ve heard about manure but don’t really think this would be practical for the whole garden for us as a family.

I guess an advantage of raised borders is the soil can be improved easily. But can the soil improvement be achieved quite easily with ground level borders too?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated as we want to try to make choices that will last a long time


  • Anything in the garden will need constant maintenance, whatever you choose.
    Ground level beds will need digging out, as invariably they are full of building materials,  and replacing with top soil. At this time a soak away would be a good idea to put in, as if you have a tendency to become soggy, this would take it away ( you will have to work out where the garden drains to) Curved beds will help with the shape and make it look bigger, as would any diagonal bed/path.
    Raised beds would take less effort. Bricks would be the longest lasting, but decking planks can last well too. Just remember to line the inside with plastic ( compost bags/ thick black bags) and outside you could paint them any colour you wished. 
    As for manure put it in before filling the beds and it will do its job unseen.
    Hope this all helps @cmlawrence come back with any other questions 😁
  • Hello, thanks for all the tips, they are really helpful. We’re leaning towards block and render raised beds and then having some smaller ground level planting areas too. 
    Out of interest just wondering how deep the ‘foundation’ for the blockwork raised bed would be? Would it be good to have blockwork against the back to protect the fence too? 
    For the ground level planting, how deep a layer of topsoil would be good? We’d ideally like to do the job properly so that it can last many years and allow the planting to mature too. Putting manure under the beds is a great idea too.
  • Any block work would need to be at least half a block deep ( that doesn't include the depth of mortar), and yes it would need to be four sided.
    The trouble with ground level beds for you is that anything you dig out and fill may well become a sump, draining all the gardens water into it. To stop this would mean putting drainage across all the garden ( even under the turf) as new house gardens are always compacted and full of builders rubble. ( also depends what the area was used for before being built on)  We had a house that was built on an old airfield, we found the back garden had a spade depth of topsoil with a runway underneath! 

  • Thanks, that’s great information.

    I guess that’s the main thing is working out the drainage so that the whole garden and turf will drain well (at least better). 

    We may take the turf up and start again too. I think it was a field as far as I know but very clay based soil. I think they but a little bit of topsoil on but the ground feels very uneven (lumpy) when walked on. Possibly the topsoil was clumped together when the turf was laid. 

    Wow - to the runway!

    We we were to start from scratch what would be the ideal drainage? The garden is fairly flat but just clay under there.
  • If you are going back to the start, remove grass, and have a dig around to  find out just what the builders have hidden. Unfortunately all the heavy equipment will have compacted the soil, but if you improve your soil you may risk draining your neighbours garden into yours so be careful. Not cheap but a way to help is gravel beds with soakaway hose buried below bed levels are one option. 
  • Thank you, yes I guess it’s finding a balance isn’t it, improving our drainage but not encouraging the neighbours’ gardens to drain into ours. Good point. 

    Gravel and soakaways are something that we’ve wondered about and will look into them too. Thanks
Sign In or Register to comment.