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Wildlife friendly gardening / hard landscaping/ clay soil/ new build

Hello, I'm after some advice please.  I live in a new build and I'm on clay soil. Around the edges of paths, near the roads and house I have noticed there is a lot of builders rubble and aggregate spilling under the soil so the ground dries out quickly as the soil is very shallow.  Everyone's grass on the estate looks similar and I try to be green and don't want to waste water on it. (I already put the washing up water out on flower beds).  I have this small 'lawn' (182cm x 116 cm) outside the front of the house, south west facing - it looks pretty awful. A contractor comes round and mows the whole estate once every 6 weeks or so. Even when we have rain and in the winter, the edges are still all dried up and dead. I try and choose plants good for wildlife and pollinators and this definitely does not have any wildlife value. I thought about something like creeping thyme instead, but the soil is very shallow there and I think I would have a similar problem.   I'm considering just taking out the grass and laying a weed barrier and filling it with red gravel and putting some planters on it instead with some plants for pollinators.  I'm not an experienced gardener and don't know who else to ask.  Any design / style suggestions I would be grateful for please.  Thanks 


  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,406
    Welcome to the forum  :)
    I would definitely get rid of the "grass" and turn the whole of that area into one large bed. The idea of gravel is a good one, with maybe one of 2 stepping stones so that you can get access.
    The main thing is preparation before you start.
    There are some ideas here to begin with, l'm sure others will have plenty more.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze I garden in South Notts on an improved clay soil Posts: 2,020
    edited 17 July
    @KitMiller I would also get rid of the grass. I might also use the rubble to my advantage. With plenty of sun creeping thyme would be perfect and it would be happy with the rubble. Lots of other plants will also love these conditions too.Which way does it face? I can see Verbenas are doing well perhaps some stepping stones through the area lots of tall grasses mixed with Verbena seedlings and then flowers. With the right grasses you will also have winter interest as many are not cut back until February. Oh of course your Linarias too
    One thing I would add is be aware of pipes etc 
  • Hi, we had 2 similar patches of grass in our front garden. It's very dry sandy soil filled with builders rubble. I removed the turf and have put in creeping thymes, winter savory and lavender. Aslong as your rubble clay doesn't get very wet in winter, I should think they would cope. You could always add some more stones. 
    The larger patch I filled with stipa gigantea, verbena, yellow scabious, teasels, globe thistles, lavender, blue festuca, cornflowers and a row of hedge germander. 
    Its needs hardly any maintenance and I barely water it now it's settled in a year later. The larger area still needs thickening up, but there's cosmos to fill the gaps. 

    Hope this inspires you to find some plants to suit your soil. I will say I did find a buried drain cover that the previous owners had turfed over! We put a few pots on top to hide it amongst all the wavy plants. We also found buried Internet cables and lots of builders rubble. So dig carefully. Good luck. 

  • CDouchCDouch South Devon Posts: 70
    Hi when we moved to our house a couple of years ago I changed a boring border into a gravel garden and wanted it to be wildlife friendly.  I’ve attached 2 photos taken in October when I planted it and the following July.  I’m so pleased with it and it’s constantly buzzing and humming with insects, bees and birds.  I planted lots of alliums which the bees absolutely love, also some grasses, nepeta, lavender, salvias and geranium Roxanne.  It provides year round interest and is easy to maintain.  Good luck with you venture. 
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze I garden in South Notts on an improved clay soil Posts: 2,020
    @Magical Meerkat I love your Stipa gigantea grasses they have loved the heat, a beautiful garden with as you say little maintenance. Height in a small space always looks good. I grow Calamagrostis Overdam in a similar situation stands well all winter and creates a home for tiny insects.
    @CDouch Lovely plant combinations, these gardens are standing up well at the moment. 
  • KitMillerKitMiller Posts: 42
    I'm inspired now - will these plants literally grow is whatever soil is there and I just put gravel round them?

  • Hi Kit, I didn't add anything to the soil, just dug it over and chose plants that liked sandy dry soil. I didn't add any gravel on top I'm just letting the plants cover the soil, which is pretty stony anyway. But you could add gravel to keep down weeds and keep moisture in. 
    Do you know if you soil gets wet over winter ? That might chnage what you plant. 
  • KitMillerKitMiller Posts: 42
    It can do as its clay.  But that bit of dying lawn is no where near as boggy as the rest of the garden...
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,406
    edited 17 July
    Lol l have absolutely no idea why l welcomed you to the forum when you've been here for a while !
    I blame lack of sleep and not enough Yorkshire tea. Sorry about that.

    If you're worried about any underground service cables you can get details here

    But bear in mind that even with the best will in the world they are not always accurate. 

    I would skim off the grass using a spade and dig over to a spade's depth, although others may give different advice. I would definitely use weed supressing membrane if you can.

    I must say that if this weather becomes a regular event l am seriously considering doing the same with the beds in my front garden.
  • CDouchCDouch South Devon Posts: 70
    Hi Kit, with my gravel garden (pictured above) I dug a deep trench as our soil is clay and filled it with a good quality compost, then laid a membrane over, then gravel on top. When I planted the plants I cleared away the gravel from that spot, then cut a hole in the membrane to plant them.  It’s been very trouble free, very few weeds at all and it’s two and a half years old now. 
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