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Ideas for back garden design-without lawn!

Hi there

I am looking for an affordable way to give my back garden a makeover.

At the moment it has approx three feet of concrete, which I am thinking of decking over. Then it has a horrible weed covered lawn and a small raised area at the back which basically has weeds growing through it and seems to have rocks/bricks thrown is (I can't seem to dig through it to plant anything in any case).

I would like to have a one foot wide flower bed to the left of the garden along the fence and get rid of the lawn completely, perhaps paving it over?

I am also planning on paving over the raised section at the back so that I can have a barbeque area.

What I would like to know is if anyone knows of an affordable way to cover the lawn, perhaps pebbles or woodchip or something along that lines which will be affordable and easy for me to do myself.  

Also, do you know of any easy to grow, all year round, pretty climbing plants that I could put along the flower bed and up the fence?

Any advice would be very, very much appreciated! image


  • EmaEma Posts: 5

    Well... as for your lawn.. weed proof membrane is good topped with whatever you want, gravel, bark etc... But one suggestion, the border you want about a foot deep... I would say this is too narrow for most plants you can buy and potentially the fence may create a rain shadow so your border may end up dry and hard to plant up successfully. As for climbers you'd really need to know which way the fence faces (north or south) before you can select a plant.


    Try to avoid using too may different surfaces and keep the layout/materials simple and few to create a cohesive look.

  • Hi there Ema, and thanks for your suggestions.

    With regards to the border, what do you think would be the narrowest width for a successful border? I am willing to make it a little wider if necessary but I am quite limited with space unfortunately.

    I am not sure how I can figure out which way the fance faces to be honest. This probably sounds a little silly but I can tell you that my garden is completely covered in sun from sun rise to around lunch time. By around 3pm it is completely covered in shade. Does that help?!! image The soil is very clay like at the moment but I was thinking of digging it out and putting new fresh soil down.

  • In fact I think I may have worked it out! I think I may have a north facing garden. If I stand at the end of my garden facing the back of my house the sun rises to the left of me.

    This is probably the worst kind of garden to grow anything in right? image


  • EmaEma Posts: 5

    As for your fence... and I'm guessing but if your house casts the shade in the afternoon your probably north(ish) facing garden and a roughly east facing fence...image 

    As for your border try 2ft deep. Clay soil is ok if worked... you generally want to create a mixture, so adding a good top soil is really helpful and turn the soil well. Adding good compost to the hole when planting anything again will help improve the structure. If the garden has previously been uncared for... try adding chicken pellets to the surface and fork in after planting to give any new plants a boost and consider a good mulch, bark or good quality manure (well rotted so it doesn't smell) will encourage worms and other creepy crawlies to improve the soil for you. As for all year. As for plants google search any specialist nursery that sells online tell them roughly what you want and I'm sure they be happy to suggest a good plant for you. Going to a specialist will mean you should get something right for your plot. And if your not sure why not try something simple and annual like sweet peas while you decide on the final choice...


    Oh and as your lawn (if I'm right) is in the middle of the garden (and you've not got dogs or children running amock) why not plant the gravel area up..? you could leave a path through the middle of the planting (assuming that the paved areas are large enough).

  • EmaEma Posts: 5

    North facing is not bad! and looks like I was right image You just need to select the right plants.... there are plenty that look stunning and work well in shade. Ive got a south facing garden and my husband prefers to sit in the shade! So we planted lots of trees, currently in the middle is a stunning twisted willow that casts shade around... I still have a stunning garden without the stress and faff of lots of watering in the hot sun. You just need to think "Right Plant Right Place'.

  • Thanks again for getting back to me again Ema. I do have a dog actually so need a little space for him to walk about if he wants to but you have given me some ideas, I'm thinking perhaps digging up the lawn, maybe placing some planters here and there (maybe in the corners?), some decorative paving slabs and gravelling the rest of it. I am perhaps getting a little ahead of myself but you have got me thinking! 

    The garden was completely uncared for unfortunately so I have quite a bit of work to do but I am adamant that I will get it done by the end of the year!

    Thanks for the information on how to improve the soil-much appreciated. As you can tell I have no experience in gardening at all so I am very grateful for the information!

  • EmaEma Posts: 5

    No problem... we all start somewhere... and go with your ideas... we had a garge, a central lawn and borders all the way round... this picture shows some of my planting in the shade... I've chosen not to include flowering plants in this section but as you can see - plenty of choice!



  • That looks lovely. I particularly like the look of the silver coloured plant at the bottom which adds a bit of variety in terms of colour to it. I am thinking of having some flowering and not flowering plants also so that its not just green for half of the year.

    Thanks for the photo, its given me even more ideas now!

  • EmaEma Posts: 5

    That plant you like is Stachys byzantina, it likes sun (it gets sun on that part of the garden for half the day...) common name is lambs ears, small purple flowers but has a really soft touch to the plant because of all the hair it covers its surface with. Pick somewhere with sun for most of the day, generally dry and if its happy it will spread.


    Good luck with the garden!

  • Thank you image  I think I might need it!

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