Forum home Garden design

Plant Selection Planning

Appologies for the long post but saves me typing several small ones.

After killing off the extensive collection of weeds last summer with glyphosphate I am now left with a blank canvas. I have removed the top layer of soil and dug over witha  fork to remove any residual roots but I have some questions and would appreciate some advice/oppinion with regards to my plan and any suitable plants I could add for impact/depth.






 I have removed three tonnes of soil/root so my garden is finally level with neighbours, no idea whi we had so much excess soil. I remove this in an attempt to limit ivy/weed regrowth. I will leave what remains to see if any persists before applying more glyphosphate.

Soil Quality Drainage

What is the best way to make the soil lighter? I have patches of heavy clay. Planned to rotavate once I was clear of most of the weed growth.

I will probably also dig several oles to fill with gravel before turfing, is this effective at improving drainage?

As shown in the attached images there are two narrow channels one between the house and the patio and the other between the garage and the concrete path. Will these be intended for drainage as I would like to remove the path to increase lawn space and reduce paving costs. I paln to keep the channel between the house and the patio to maintain a degree of water clearance.




 Distinguishing between roots

The plot had several trees and out of control ivy, I have removed as much of the rooting as possible, when aproaching the remaining tree I was concerned that some of the "ivy" roots which I had pulled out may have belonged to the tree. Will cutting a few 1cm diamiter roots from a well established tree damage its health? the roots in question were about 2" under the soil about 6 foot from its base.


As its a blank canvas could anyone suggest good shrubs/plants to add. I am looking for a mixture of heights, colours and preferably some winter colour.

I like dogwood and hostas for colour and contrast and they seem well sized when mature.


 I would like to plant apply or greengage trees against the garage walls, are should I be ok with a general tree from a garden centre or do I need a speciality tree for espalier type planting?






  • The best way to improve your clay soil is by adding organic matter. You probably removed a fair amount of top soil along with your roots etc. Sharp sand or grit can also help but don't improve the soil as much as garden compost, leafmould or farmyard manure. You can also use mushroom compost, if you have a local source, but it tends to make soil more alkaline, so whether it's suitable depends on what your soil's current PH is and whether you want to grow acid loving plants. You might be able to buy municipal compost fairly cheaply if your local has a green waste scheme.

    The tree should not suffer too much provided they were only small roots, especially if you give it a layer of mulch over the root area (but don't bury the trunk). The fruit trees can be bought ready trained from specialist nurseries but they are pricey. Type in fruit trees and have a look online. The cheaper option, if you fancy the challenge and are prepared to wait a year or two, is to start with a 'maiden' (sometimes called a 'cordon') and train your own. You can find details how online. Good Luck!

  • Thanks for the quick replies.

    Most of the soil is clay, I will be adding organic & sand to this or just buying fresh topsoil in time.

    I know it doesn't drain well as medium intensity rain leaves puddles all over and it hangs about for some time.

    The patio is 18 m2 and the garden beyond is roughly 42 m2, not the biggest but it will do for a start.

    Thanks for the advice on adding grit, sounds promising.


  • Mrs GMrs G Posts: 336

    I don't think you should rotivate as it brings loads of weed seedlings to the surface and chops up any perennial roots, spreading them everywhere, which will undo all the hard work you've done weeding already.  It's also a bit pointless if you're going to buy in topsoil.

  • Beaus MumBeaus Mum Posts: 3,550

    Hi Anderson, I bet you are excited to make your garden now all that hard work has been done image

    I don't know the answer to the drainage questions but I do know I have gardened on very heavy clay for seven years and have added bags and bags and bags of compost and clay buster products to no avail and finally come to the conclusion to just grow what likes the clay! I have a cottage garden and it was full to the brim so there is plenty of choice image I find all hydrangeas,astrantias, hardy fuschias grow beautifully and roses image


  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Pea gravel by the ton is relatively cheap, I used it on my heavy clay plus sharp sand and several tons of manure (free from farmers round here). I now have a free draining garden with plenty of loamy soil. Grit in bulk is very expensive and for the area you have a few tons of pea gravel will work out cheaper.

  • Thanks for the responses, yes I am excited but eager to get it right first time.

    How about if after rotavating I left the bare soil for several weeks to monitor any residual weed growth and gloyphosphate anything that pops up. The soil is heavily compacted and areas were prone to moss growth, improving structure drainage is my main concern.

    I have abandoned plans to buy in new topsoil due to cost. I will try to work in some organic matter / gravel to improve soil quality. But at the moment its like cutting giant solid slabs of cheese.

    I am not shy of the work but both money and time are tight. Its getting harder to confine my toddler to the drive.

  • I dug several holes arorund the garden including 3 post holes for my new fence to the left side.

    The clay seems to occour in patches with areas of decent soil inbetween. I lack the mean of disposing of the clay and replacing it with decent soil.

    An elderly chap in the local pub told me to dig 12 holes filled with gravel before turfing on the top to aid drainage.

  • There are no streams ponds in my immediate vicinity.

    The lowest point of the garden was the patio area, but I have tried to level the rest by digging out the excess soil from the back.

  • Mrs GMrs G Posts: 336

    Yes you could rotivate gravel/organic material in and then wait to see what annual weeds germinate which would be easy to hoe off but do check you haven't got perennial weed roots in there as that will be aright pain when they are all chopped up and will delay your plans as you wait around to glyphosate, possibly several times for perennial nasties.  You will want to avoid the area round your tree as well as you will damage the roots or rotivator.  I have actually read that using a rotivator does more damage to soil structure but I can't remember why.  I am also on clay! 

Sign In or Register to comment.