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Children's play area - help please!

My daughter has just moved into a new house.  She is not a gardener!  Half the garden is a lawn with shrub beds around it - fairly low maintenance thank goodness, and I'm sure I can get them to do enough to keep it OK.  The other half of the garden (separated by a hedge) has been a very productive vegetable patch - the soil is fantastic, someone has taken a lot of care of it.  It is now completely overgrown with weeds (mainly annual as far as I can see) and is 'virgin territory'.  My daughter wants to create a play area for her 18 month old son and his friends, plus an outdoor living space from where the adults can watch the kids and down a few glasses of wine.  They'd also like space for a small shed.  They don't have much cash.

I need to come up with a plan that we (my OH and myself!) can achieve for them in a couple of days intensive work, will be cheap-ish (a few hundred pounds), and that will be as close to zero maintenance as possible.

My thoughts are to suggest that half is laid to lawn (maybe seed, maybe turves?) for the dining space.  The play area would be about a third of the space, and I'm thinking:  lay weed membrane, put an edging of some sort, then fill with three inches or so of bark chip?  (She has got slide, sandpit, etc to go for equipment.)  Then the remainder would be:  membrane, flagstones as a base for a shed, fill gaps round stone with more bark chip or similar.

We'd also need to reduce that hedge's height to about a foot so that the play area is visible from the house.  I'm not sure what the hedge is.... maybe privet.... and I'm hoping that won't kill it completely. 

What do you think?  What is going to go wrong with this plan?? Is there a better approach?  And is that beautiful soil going to be completely destroyed by doing this, or will it still be in good heart if in a few years they decide they want a veggie patch and lift some of that membrane or grass to create it? (I live in hope...)

Any advice or suggestions gratefully received!




  • CeresCeres Posts: 1,823

    If you could post a photo of the hedge plants then someone should be able to advise you on the best course of action to take with it.

    The plan sounds great. It should be low maintenance, which is what a lot of families need with the pressures of work and what have you, and the whole thing is reversible should anyone get the veg growing bug in the future. Go for it and I hope the whole family enjoy the space.

  • Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

    Thanks Ceres!

  • Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

    Thank you Tetley!  I like the idea of a "learning bed" although I'm afraid that the main lessons at the moment would be "this is what weeds look like".  But perhaps if I can get them interested in keeping the shrub border tidy, and if they see that gardening doesn't have to be dull and boring, then maybe maybe maybe....

    (I'm hoping that their borders contain lots of interesting bulbs / spring plants that will pop up over the next year and get them intrigued... if not, I shall do some guerilla gardening and plant some when they are not looking....)


  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 15,940

    Turf would be the best idea but the ground still has to be prepared, all weeds removed and the ground made firm and level. Ideal time now as you won't be walking on it  much until next year now. 

    My daughter is a childminder, her little ones just make a bee line for the brightest coloured  toys in the garden. I think the idea of a nice subtle all plain wood and little flower beds doesn't go down well with little kids, that's nice  for the adults, kids like bright.

    Its not until they get a bit older that they are interested in planting, usually prefering to dig in it and make mud pies! 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

    Cheers Lyn - yes, we are going to see if their budget will stretch to turf.  Looks like we won't be able to get down there til mid-October, so a bit late for sowing seed anyway I think?

    And I am going to set my daughter and son-in-law the task of creating bright coloured stuff to populate the play area with!  They will be fine with that, once we've set up the space for them....


  • Rosie31Rosie31 Posts: 483

    bumping up in case there are any other ideas!

  • hmm... children's play area is quite nice idea but u should think carefully of it. I mean the design and so on. But do not forget to clean that place. 

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