Very large garden - where to start

My husband and I have moved to a house with a very large garden. We've spent a couple of years sorting the house out, now we need to sort out the very overgrown garden.

It's big, next to the sea, and mostly steeply sloping. At the back there is lawn that looks like a field ( ain't pretty), some large shrubs, a jungle (a wasteland of messy weeds), some conifers, a growing expanse of raspberries, and a patio with small beds enclosed by low walls. At the front there are more trees round the outside, and a feature with two raised leaky ponds, small lawn and more shrubs....and my cherished herb patch which my friend tells has couch grass and needs to be scrapped.

I've sprayed the jungle a couple of times now, and it's still looking messy but the nettles and brambles are being replaced by scrubby grass. we took all the old carpets out of the house and covered what we could with them. It's very untidy but better than chest high nettles. I feel I can start to do something with it now.

I've never done much gardening before and now I'm looking forward to doing some good stuff, there certainly is the scope to improve! I've joined the forum to learn and to become part of the gardening community.

I think my initial question should be: I would like to design my own garden, but I don't have the knowledge to even attempt that now. What should I plant in the jungle to keep it from reverting to jungle while I work on the more amenable bits of the garden? (The jungle is on a steep slope, next to the sea, west facing (although there is some shelter from the prevailing south westerly wind) some good sun, and some shadow. The soil is very shallow and stony - difficult to get a spade through. It appears to be very fertile judging from the height of the weeds, and the magnificent giant pumpkin vines we grew two years ago.

I thought about planting Vinca minor all over it and digging it up later when I have the time (and ability) to do something nicer. Maybe I could do something a bit more adventurous now?

It's exciting, but daunting. 



  • blackestblackest Posts: 623

    Hi Blueboots welcome to the forum, there are a friendly bunch of people here with varying levels of knowledge and expertise so you will find help readily available. I'm more enthusiasm than knowledge so I can't help in detail.

    It's going to take a while to get the garden sorted, so the easiest thing to do is find a place to start and do something with that bit.  and then as that comes together you will be gathering idea's for what you want to do in other area's.

    The jungle needs clearing as soon as possible the last thing you want is it going to seed and dumping fresh weeds all over.    

    Maybe that is your starting point. Shouldn't be long before other people will contribute. In the mean time photo's would be useful to see and also good for you too as you get to see your progress.

    Sometimes you need a little inspiration image

    have fun with it


  • Just ask questions as you need to, as you go along.  Blackest has made a good point, about dividing the garden into 'sections' and doing it bit by bit.  It's a bit like eating an orange, very difficult to do in one go, but lovely if you split it up into segments and do it bit by bit.

    If it's steeply sloping, have you thought about putting in a series of terraces?  You could then have a different theme in each terrace, one for types of flowers, another with grasses, another with trees, maybe a veg and herb garden, an area for wildlife, the list is endless.

    You do need to concentrate on those areas with weeds, you don't want them spreading.  I don't know how effective it is, but you could try roundup gel on your couch grass, you'll never get rid of it by digging, a friend has it on his allotment, it will regenerate from the tiniest bit of root, and it sends runners across and down miles (I think I read somewhere that it can go down 16 feet if conditions are right).  If you keep at it, eventually will give up, as it will be a lot weaker.

    If you have specific problems, people have lots and lots of different ways of dealing with things, I recently posted a question about bindweed, and have had lots of very useful advice.  Take lots of photos as you go along, and when you're feeling fed up and overwhelmed, you can look back at what you've achieved, and it will make you feel a lot better!  Also, don't expect something like 'ground force', that is achieved in a small time with a massive budget as it makes good TV, most of us not only cultivate plants, but patience, too.  Great if you've got lots of money to splurge at the garden centre, most of us have wish lists of plants that just seem to get longer!!

  • Matty2Matty2 Posts: 4,820

    I took on a large garden and have tackled it in areas. One of the first things we did as a family was make a list of what we wanted form the garden, then looked carefully at it and divided it into areas that matched the uses we envisaged in the garden.

    We then prioritised the areas - what can we live with what is essnetial to do first. We made a shrub area and a fruit tree area first as these take longer to mature

    Then we sorted out a basic veg area. this year that has been increased.

    This year is the first year, after years of buying and storing plants and generally planning  , after putting in hard landscaping, digging and shaping flower beds, keeping them weed free is the first time (apart from the shrubs) I have planted properly.

    To fill in beds I have used cheap easy to grow annuals - anything to fill the spaces

    Even now I use note books for ideas etc and constantly refer to my notes. 
    REMEMBER  a garden is a long term thing and it is not something that can be done as a quick fix

  • chickychicky SurreyPosts: 7,198

    How exciting - a project !

    I agree with all the others above, but would also add that it is sometimes a good idea to look at what is doing well in neighbours' gardens.  I am forever peering over fences (in the nicest possible wayimage) and often see things that make me think - "I'll try some of that!".  They will mostly have the same soil and conditions as you, so are a good trial ground.

    The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stones ......
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 43,727

    Totally agree - visiting other gardens is invaluable when planning your own image

    No-one knows if you've done your housework, but everyone knows if you've done your gardening !
  • Lovely ideas above, tackling in sections, trying themed terraces, peeping over fences...I mean getting inspiration from other gardens.... And figuring out what you want from your garden.

    Can I also suggest figuring out what you would like to try the most, or what you're best at, and starting there? For example, if you're keen on flowers, why not clear a patch and get some going. Or, if you're big on veg, find space for a veg plot. It's always nice to dive in with something you're really keen on, rather than floundering on with a job you hate (even if it does need doing eventually) especially to start with.

    Once you've found your feet, and feeling more adventurous, you can crack on with the jobs you're less familiar with.

    Folks here are brilliant at offering encouragement and ideas image
  • BluebootsBlueboots Posts: 100

    Thanks guys, that's a great start. I will post some pictures soon, probably tomorrow as it's supposed to be sunny and I can get some good ones.

    I like the terrace idea, but I'll have to look into that, I have no idea how to do it, and the land is very difficult to dig. We can't get a digger in there either as the only access is down steps. I do like the idea of terraces for different things, I hadn't thought of that. I'll have a search through the site.

    I never thought of just planting a load of annuals for now - I like that idea, and it will look great

    Weeds first though. Everything's just starting to take off again and I'm going to get out there with the sprayer. The areas with carpet have been covered for over a year now so I should uncover them and dig out any remaining roots.

    My herb patch is a small area on top of patio, and that's where I have the couch grass. It's quite shallow, and It won't be too difficult to to dig it all out and throw the soil away, but I don't want to lose all my nice plants. Do you think it would be best to throw them away so the grass doesn't cling to the roots and come back?

  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 24,244

    If I have nice plants that are over-run by weeds I dig up, split and pot up some nice bits and chuck the rest. That way you can pull out any weed roots, twitch is very obvious then quarentine them in the pots and if nothing nasty has appeared by autumn you can replant. In the meantime the glyphosate can deal with what's left.

  • Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

    Blueboots, you are going to have so much fun!  We were in the same position ten years ago - moved to a big (2 acre) garden for the first time and learned from scratch. Ours is also on steep hill, very rocky soil (can't dig holes with anything except a pick-axe or mattock) and north facing.

    I'd agree with everything that everyone else has said - especially the bit about this being a long term project.  A couple of things I'd add.  

    First, we got fixed in our heads that each year we would 'develop' one bit of the garden (that is, turn it from wasteland to garden!);  'improve' another bit (usually the bit we'd 'developed' the previous year) and 'maintain' the rest (which is a big enough task on its own, and it is just depressing if it gets out of hand.  Dividing it up like this kept us sane and meant we could feel happier about having messy bits because we knew that we'd do it next year.... or the year after....

    Second, spend what it takes to get the right tools for the job.  Don't try to do big jobs with rubbish equipment, you will just get frustrated and miserable.  Much better to buy one thing right than have lots of rubbish tools.

    Third, I learned a lot from hearing Alan Titchmarsh saying that the most valuable tool a gardener has it 'the blind eye'!   There are always going to be bits of your garden that don't look how you want them....learn to turn a blind eye to them and focus on the bits you are really proud of!!!

    We gone from being complete novices to absolute fanatics madly in love with our garden.  I'm jealous of you - enjoy the journey!


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