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Starting from scratch

Next year I need to begin redesigning the garden at my retirement home, which I moved into 4 months ago. We are at around 1000 ft in the North Pennines. It is boggy in heavy rain, with a stream at the bottom of a dip,  At the moment there is a row of large overgrown bushes along the stream which I want to remove.  I cannot afford professional help.  Ideas on how to begin, anyone?


  • Hello Warthog,

    this is the type of situation in which you'll need to work with nature rather than against it. Don't rush into putting in bedding and shrubberies, but work on finding out a bit more about the kind of plants that will naturally thrive. Winter is the perfect time for a bit of research. I've looked for some suppliers of tough plants - have a look at this link - which I hope you'll find helpful - to get you started:

    Local gardening groups, colleges and organisations will also be able to offer advice - and maybe even help. I hope you find this helpful, good luck!

    Emma team.

  • Thanks, will have a look.  But it's more how do I begin to prepare the ground for planting when it's in such a bad state?  Am removing builder's rubble, and underlying black polythene which previous owners laid down, Site is very uneven due to building work.  Clumps of rushes and horsetail both front and back.

  • Hello Warthog,

    In my veg plot I have had to remove rubble, black polythene and many perennial weeds. The previous occupiers tended to lay new soil over the weeds and plant on top. This was surprisingly successful but in the long run makes for a very messy garden. As a result I've had to spend hours during my weekend simply digging up weeds and rubbish, putting it in a wheelbarrow and taking it to a skip/ compost heap. Unfortunately, it sounds as though you might have to do the same thing. Tenacious bushes can be got rid of by cutting them down and digging up the roots but it is a long job. If you have rushes and horsetail, they are there because, as you say, your land is boggy. Short of putting in a new drainage system, it is likely to remain that way and weeds that like those conditions will return.

    Have a look at our advice on dealing with horsetail at:

    As you can see, constant cutting of the top will weaken the plant as it can't photosynthesise without leaves. This is a long term strategy  - you would need to keep coming back to it again and again.

    As before, I do recommend planting things that you like if you can find space. Willows and Alders love boggy ground and are very attractive. The theory is that they could out-compete the things you don't like.

    Please also see our list of plants suitable for boggy soil at:

    However do make sure any plants you pick will be hardy in your area.

    One thing that has made working in my veg plot more fun in difficult times is doing it with friends. I hope you can find some good company to dig and cart alongside you.

    Please do let us know how it goes.

    Emma. team.

  • you could start by drawing a plan of your plot.then think about what you might like to have in say five years time.mark on the plan compass points and work out the prevailing wind.then you'll know which areas are sheltered and sunny spots.

    then decide what to tackle.maybe you can phase it over a few years start working round the house where you will probably get most enjoyment.

    before you cut the bushes down give them a season perhaps they are useful as a windbreak or perhaps they may add to your garden in terms of blossom.sometimes it's best to see what you've got before getting the loppers out.

    it might be a good idea to think about raised beds.they don't have to be expensive infact i guess there are plenty of stones where you are. build them into bed  four foot wide easy reach without treadin on the soil. and as long as you want and perhaps a local farmer has some old manure you can have to help fill them.

    if you want to plant bulbs try low growing ones ie mini daffs not full size ones.

    i'm sure you will suceed my top tip is see what your neighbours have got.if they can grow it then you can. good luck. 

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