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Ideas for a small, low maintenance garden (almost from scratch)


I am new to gardening - well, I have done lots of the 'pulling up weeds and tidying' kind of gardening - but now I'd like to spend some time making my small urban garden beautiful. And learn how to keep my plants alive!

My garden is fairly narrow and faces NW. A patio takes up the first third, then there is a semblance of a lawn, followed by a bedding area with one shrub and a nice flowering tree, then a shed. (See pics).

So here are the problems I'd love some help with:

1. The soil is really hard and full of stones. Shall I dig it through and add something to it to make it more suitable for growing plants? 

2. The lawn is sparse and the ground is cracking beneath it. Is there anything I can do to revive it or shall I dig it up as well and get the soil in better condition, before planting lawn seeds? I have a small dog - is it possible that he has damaged the lawn with his urine?

3. Any ideas for planting? I think that evergreen plants will fare best and might just survive my version of TLC... but the left side of the garden is in shade most of the day. I love ferns and woodland style planting, and would love to encourage wildlife (if there is any left in Lambeth!).

4. What climber could I grow up the fence and the shed?

5. Currently the garden is always dry and only weeds grow. Should I put bark chips down after planting to keep the soil moist and weed free?

I would greatly appreciate any pointers, ideas, hints, tips - I am eager to soak up every drop of information.

Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you.image









  • ShelleyTShelleyT Posts: 33

    Hi Clare, I too am new to gardening so can't offer as much help as others on the forum. But here goes...With regard to the soil I had the same problem, lots of stones, I bought a sieve and painstackingly sifted out most of the stones, the soil is much better and once you start planting it will help the soil. I threw in some annuals, mainly french marigolds this year to get it going. it is a big job, a backbreaker and you will have a problem with what to do with the stones.

    I notice you have a lot of containers so you can fill these up while you sort out the soil.

    Good luck!

    Ps Love you dog! image

    As for the climbers I like jasmine or honeysuckle as they give off a great fragrance.

  • waterbuttswaterbutts Posts: 1,214

    Hello Clare

    A lot of things to think about!

    Firstly, I used to live in Wandsworth and I can say that there will be lots of wildlife in Lambeth too (they aren't fussy about politics). We used to have foxes, hedgehogs, owls, sparrowhawks,woodpeckers and even on one occasion a poor lost hoopoe.

    1. Nothing wrong with stones per se. They keep the soil from getting compacted and help keep it moist. But yes, if you can add compost even from a bag it will help to make the soil more usable by your plants.

    2. The lawn is a mess, that's for sure, but the cracking is just a sign that the weather has been dry and you haven't added that compost to the soil. Male dogs' urine isn't usually a problem because they don't deliver it in a puddle on the grass as female dogs do. He looks a nice dog and I'm sure he is completely innocent. By all means you can dig it up and start again but it will take a lot of raking and trampling with many flat feet before you can re-seed it. You will then have to leave it for several weeks, watering it when it gets too dry, before it begins to sprout. You will then have to treat it with great care until it develops into something resembling a lawn. It may be easier to buy some good quality turf. Not too expensive as it's not a huge area. That would be quicker and easier to establish.

    3. Climbers for shade include honeysuckles and some roses (though generally they prefer sun or partial sun), climbers for sun - the world is your oyster.

    4. yes, bark is good. Or cocoa chips (very smelly to begin with but good)

    If you have room for a bird feeder that will bring birds into the garden (providing you keep it topped up with food). Shrubs like buddleia are easy to grow and don't mind poor soil and bring in butterflies and moths.

    Good luck.


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 26,990

    i'm a dead loss at garden planning but the bark to hold in moisture sounds a good plan

    In the sticks near Peterborough
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