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Starting from scratch in an east facing garden - complete novice

Hi everyone, I know this is the vaguest request but I would appreciate any advice or tips people can offer.

Last autumn we moved into a 50s house with a neglected garden, the previous owner had tried something quite modern and not practical for us with two boys who like football / tennis / generally being active. We need to get someone in to finish the patio to the side of the house and I’d like to get them to lay some more patio on the left, ie where the best of the sun is in the morning by the house and (where the rabbit cage is now) in the evening.

We definitely want to get rid of the decking and keep the old apple tree. And I don’t love the path right through the middle (well just of centre)…

The garden slopes away quite steeply on the right where the shed is, I’m not sure whether keeping the slope so the shed is hidden is good or will be a pain? I’ve promised the boys a trampoline as they’ve always wanted one so def need lawn.

I know I’d like some height on the left for privacy but would plants or pergola be best? I’d like curves rather than modern, maybe somewhere to grow some veg and the soil is pretty heavy clay. My preference is more towards cottage garden / good for wildlife rather than super neat and tidy. I dug out some ragwort today and the ground was full of worms so I think that’s a good sign isn’t it? 

What would anyone recommend? I have no eye for design or creativity and the husband is desperate to get the patio laid so I can’t live with it for a year.

Thanks for any advice or tips.
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Posts

  • Harriet-Harriet- Posts: 13

  • FireFire North LondonPosts: 17,116
    Welcome Harriet. It looks like you have a lots of space to have multiple areas for multiple projects. As you moved in last autumn, it might be good to take this spring and summer to get to know your garden and what is already there, how the sun moves through the year and to envision what might happen in different spaces. It might be wise to hold off digging anything or putting hard landscaping in until next year. I guess a trampoline has the virtue of being moveable if you change your mind about siting.

    Does the apple tree fruit? Are you thinking of getting a greenhouse or compost bins to go with the veg patch? Ragwort and worms are good.

    It can be good to get to know the neighbours and talk to them about what soil they have and what they find grows easily and happily - if there are local problems like flooding, winds, ground shifting etc.  It might be worth looking your plot up on Google maps satellite view so you can see your exact orientation and how you sit among surrounding gardens.

    Maybe just enjoy what you have for the moment - a great space for the kids to play, a place for you to footle without the worry of bigs works. Get to know the trees around you.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,991
    edited March 2022
    Hi @Harriet- East facing means you'll get morning sun near the house, so I can see why you'll want the patio there, but you may want something farther away too, for late sun. I expect that's why the previous owner had one in the middle, although it looks odd because it isn't linked to anything else, other than by the path, which is a bit like having a pier leading from your house! You might not want to keep that at all. It largely depends on how you use the garden [or will use it] and whether you want to sit in heat later in the day. You can soften that with planting if you keep it. The path isn't too pretty though - I can see why you wouldn't want to keep that. 
    If you want a lawn for your children, get the patio and that done in the coming months. Hard landscaping is always the start point. A pergola on your left side will be useful, so you could put that in at the same time as the patio. Then you can take a view on where you want planting, because you'll have a better idea of the sunniest/shadiest sections. It isn't just the aspect that determines that, buildings, fences and other shrubs/trees etc make a difference. In theory, that left side will get plenty of sun, but the planting in the neighbouring garden [right hand side] might affect that a fair bit. 
    Use the back section for the trampoline and the wildlife for now - the foxes may enjoy a jump on that too  ;)
    I can't honestly see a slope. If it is- it's tiny, so won't cause any problem. If you want, a storage space and compost bins etc will be good down there, especially if you intend having lots of perennials etc - lots of material for one. You can gradually add suitable planting etc for wildlife, and you may want a pond at some stage which is beneficial. Ragwort will spread everywhere and isn't ideal in a small domestic garden, unless you're careful, although it is a food source for moths/butterflies. Plenty of suitable plants for your requirements though.
    If the soil hasn't been amended much, clay can be awkward, so adding plenty of organic matter is always a good idea, and better to do that before planting. You'll get help with all of that when you reach that stage. If there are lots of worms though, it sounds pretty decent. For now, plan where you'd like beds/borders, once you have a feel of the space, and you can decide on plants later.  :)
    Good luck with it  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,998
    I wonder if you would consider sinking the trampoline into the ground, if that's possible? 
    https://www.capitalplay.co.uk/pages/in-ground-trampolines
    (I've no connection to this company, it's just as an illustration).
    Obviously it depends on your budget and logistics, but if it's something that's going to be in use for several years it would be incorporated into the garden and not stand out when not in use.

    Especially useful if you want your garden to be a multi purpose space and not look like a young person's playground. 
    I appreciate that having the boys means that you possibly don't have the luxury of waiting too long.
     l would suggest turfing as much of the area where you know you will definitely need grass, and working out where you want the path to go. Straight paths may look boring, but most people take the direct route. Do you have a rotary washing line to consider ? A path to that is something to think about.

    The worms are definitely a good sign ! A good start for wildlife gardening 🦔

    I know it can seem overwhelming, especially when you have already had 3 responses with so many comments and ideas, some contradicting each other !
    As l assume this will be your home for many years , there's no need to hit it all in one go, tempting though it is. I would concentrate on getting the hard landscaping in, and making sure there's plenty of grass for the boys to play on.
    I can see you getting many years of pleasure from it.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,991
    I'd do that too @AnniD. I know people love trampolines, but they're very 'invasive', especially re neighbouring gardens.
    A friend of mine [with two boys] did that. Many gardens round here are on quite severe slopes, and they had two sizeable terraces next to the house, plus a lower section that they left with the slope.  They put it into the ground on the 2nd terrace, and it was a much better solution, as it meant she could see the boys whether she was inside or out. There was also no chance of the thing disappearing into a neighbouring garden in the wind either. A common occurrence here - both wind and disappearing trampolines.  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,672
    It's probably best to get the landscaping works done before you start planting because things will get trashed, so the first thing is to decide where you want your patios and paths. It's probably better to have some kind of path down the garden along a route that will be used - it can be curved but not too much or people (particularly children) will cut across and wear a track in the grass (you already have one unless that pale strip has had something covering it, so the existing path is in most likely in the wrong place and not very inviting to walk along).
    Maybe expand the lower area so that it's big enough for the trampoline as well as the shed. That way it will be less intrusive to neighbours. Heads popping up and down over the fence can feel very intrusive, even if the children aren't really looking over.
  • Harriet-Harriet- Posts: 13
    Thanks for all the comments everyone, I’ll have a proper look through this evening but it’s all very much appreciated!
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,535
    All great advice, it’s always good to start from the house and work outwards, hard landscaping first, the rest to follow. BTW if you do sink the trampoline into the ground out the way at the back, when the boys grow out of it you are halfway to creating a wildlife pond in a perfect, sheltered location!
  • Harriet-Harriet- Posts: 13
    Fire said:
    Welcome Harriet. It looks like you have a lots of space to have multiple areas for multiple projects. As you moved in last autumn, it might be good to take this spring and summer to get to know your garden and what is already there, how the sun moves through the year and to envision what might happen in different spaces. It might be wise to hold off digging anything or putting hard landscaping in until next year. I guess a trampoline has the virtue of being moveable if you change your mind about siting.

    Does the apple tree fruit? Are you thinking of getting a greenhouse or compost bins to go with the veg patch? Ragwort and worms are good.

    It can be good to get to know the neighbours and talk to them about what soil they have and what they find grows easily and happily - if there are local problems like flooding, winds, ground shifting etc.  It might be worth looking your plot up on Google maps satellite view so you can see your exact orientation and how you sit among surrounding gardens.

    Maybe just enjoy what you have for the moment - a great space for the kids to play, a place for you to footle without the worry of bigs works. Get to know the trees around you.

    Hi Fire, I totally understand where you’re coming from but my husband is impatient to finish the patio to the right by the house and the boys struggle with the “lawn” which is VERY uneven and the great big decking in the middle drives me and them mad, it’s quite raised too so you feel even more exposed. We are keen to make some basic improvements and then live with it for a bit.

    But to answer your questions, the apple tree does fruit abundantly before we had it pruned quite heavily. Yes to compost but probably bins - we have rabbits that I’d like to get free ranging again. No greenhouse for a few years - it would never survive the boys.
  • Harriet-Harriet- Posts: 13
    Fairygirl said:
    Hi @Harriet- East facing means you'll get morning sun near the house, so I can see why you'll want the patio there, but you may want something farther away too, for late sun. I expect that's why the previous owner had one in the middle, although it looks odd because it isn't linked to anything else, other than by the path, which is a bit like having a pier leading from your house! You might not want to keep that at all. It largely depends on how you use the garden [or will use it] and whether you want to sit in heat later in the day. You can soften that with planting if you keep it. The path isn't too pretty though - I can see why you wouldn't want to keep that. 
    If you want a lawn for your children, get the patio and that done in the coming months. Hard landscaping is always the start point. A pergola on your left side will be useful, so you could put that in at the same time as the patio. Then you can take a view on where you want planting, because you'll have a better idea of the sunniest/shadiest sections. It isn't just the aspect that determines that, buildings, fences and other shrubs/trees etc make a difference. In theory, that left side will get plenty of sun, but the planting in the neighbouring garden [right hand side] might affect that a fair bit. 
    Use the back section for the trampoline and the wildlife for now - the foxes may enjoy a jump on that too  ;)
    I can't honestly see a slope. If it is- it's tiny, so won't cause any problem. If you want, a storage space and compost bins etc will be good down there, especially if you intend having lots of perennials etc - lots of material for one. You can gradually add suitable planting etc for wildlife, and you may want a pond at some stage which is beneficial. Ragwort will spread everywhere and isn't ideal in a small domestic garden, unless you're careful, although it is a food source for moths/butterflies. Plenty of suitable plants for your requirements though.
    If the soil hasn't been amended much, clay can be awkward, so adding plenty of organic matter is always a good idea, and better to do that before planting. You'll get help with all of that when you reach that stage. If there are lots of worms though, it sounds pretty decent. For now, plan where you'd like beds/borders, once you have a feel of the space, and you can decide on plants later.  :)
    Good luck with it  :)
    Hi Fairygirl, you’re right decking is just so stuck in the middle just like a pier, I do feel bad that the only things the previous owner did we're going to rip up.

    I agree that ideally I’d like some seating where the rabbit cage is as it gets the evening sun, I quite like the idea of a circular patio but that’s probably more expensive!

    i know the ragwort is good for wildlife but we have two very silly rabbits and it spreads so easily so I want to get it out as soon as possible.

    i will try and draft a rough plan of what I am thinking in terms of beds and would love feedback, in the last house our borders were far too small to leave room for the lawn and I’m so excited to have somewhere more spacious this time 😀
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