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Complete novice with first garden - Help!

Hello all 

I've recently bought my first house and, being a 33 year old man with a lifetime of renting  London flats, have seldom found any need to improve my gardening skills. 

Imagine my surprise, then, that I appear to have a sudden thirst for knowledge and am enjoying the challenge of improving the lovely but neglected garden I've inherited. 

The previous owner had children and the lawn was very neglected, full of weeds and Moss. Likewise there was a lot of bramble and weeds to remove in the bushes etc. 

I've given it a mow and a tidy up but where should I go from here? I've read about Moss killer and grass seed but really don't have a clue where to start. My priority is with fixing the lawn before moving to the shrubs etc. The lawn is brown in most places and has some bald patches. 

I have no tools and no products at present and am about to start. If anyone has any very, very, simplified advice for where to start that would be much appreciated. 



  • Paul165Paul165 Posts: 97


  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,409

    Hi Paul 165, welcome to the forumimage

    Peeking over the fence, what I think is the neighbour's lawn also looks very brown. Has it been very dry there recently?

    Yours will look a bit sad anyway after being mown down. Unless you are aiming for perfection (that can always come later!) a sprinkle of some lawn feed, a good watering and some time should see it improve. Once the grass begins to grow again keep cutting it regularly but not too short. This will encourage the grass to spread sideways and fill some of the bare patches and also help it withstand dry weather better. When you have had time to get to know your garden a bit, you will have more idea of the growing conditions and whether there are any potential problems to be addressed to improve the lawn further. All you will need initially then is a box of feed and a watering can or a hose with a spray attachment if you can afford to make things easier for yourself. And a mower of course if the one you used was only borrowedimage

    The next things you might want as it starts to look greener are: a half moon cutter and shears to maintain a crisp edge and a fork and trowel to tackle the weeds in the borders. For the shrubs you will need some secateurs and maybe some loppersif you need to cut any thicker branches. They don't look overgrown enough for a handsaw yetimage

    The garden looks to have some nice shrubs which are fairly low maintenance, most need only an annual prune, if that. That means you have time to find out about starting a compost heap (shame to waste all those grass clippings) and think about what you want to do with the garden and what you might like to grow. Plenty of friendly help on here if you need further advice.

    Last edited: 25 May 2016 09:37:38

  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807

    Great size, what time did you take your picture with the shadow?  What's the aspect of the garden?  Where does the sun rise and set?

    Did the previous occupant have have dogs?  Why the browner patch at the back?  A climbing frame, shadow or something else?

    I have a stamp sized bit of lawn, it's not really appropriate where I am, but I have noticed that lawns generally look rough over winter, and about now start to look more vital.  People can cut them back too hard (short).  I only just cut mine.

    Mosses might be an indication that your garden is north facing or that the lawn is in shadow.  Does it dry quickly or slowly? You could lawn rake them out.

    Mid spring or autumn is a good time to plant seed.  But which?  Lawns are also a science.  A friend of mine went to study field sports and he complained that a huge percentage of it involved grass studies.

    Whereabouts are you in the UK?

    What would you like to use your garden for? 

  • Paul165Paul165 Posts: 97

    This is all really helpful thanks.  In answer to your questions:

    1. The neighbour's garden is completely brown, but think it's just not been looked after for many years.

    2. I'm in Leeds, there has been no drought/heatwave here believe me!

    3. Garden previously had a large trampoline and other kid's stuff in, so that probably explains the patch

    4. Don't think it's a north facing garden, we get the sun from around 12pm onwards and it covers the full garden by 2pm or so.

    5. Would like to use the garden for relaxing in, really, no kids (yet) so should be able to keep it under control...

  • Paul165Paul165 Posts: 97

    Would anyone recommend a particular product for killing Moss and encouraging grass growth? 

    I've read about scarifying, do I need to go this far or will a few products and watering do the job? 

    Garden is south west facing, I've learnt... 

  • BobFlannigonBobFlannigon Posts: 619

    It's nice to avoid chemicals, Paul!  You can very easily rake up the moss on a garden this size, no need to buy a machine to do it for you.

    Otherwise, I think the advice you've already been given should get you well on your way.  Good luck, don't forget a picture when you're done! Oh, and screwfix sell 'leather' gloves for about £3 which dispatch brambles with ease, so hopefully you have one nearby you can save some money.

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,234

    It is nice to avoid chemicals but as a lady of a certain age I'm afraid I simply don't have it in me to rake 200 square mteres of lawn. I use a 4 in 1 treatment which kills the moss and weeds and also feeds the grass. It only requires two treatments a year.

     My mum is a woman of uncertain age image and she gets Greenthumb in. We do what we can.

    Your plot looks ideal for a beginner. Just make sure you ask the questions before you make the mistake.

  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807

    Weeds and brambles tend to just happen.

    It takes a while with a new garden to work out what you have.  There could be plants in the borders that raise their heads after winter.  You might not want to mistake them for weeds!

    The shrubs look promising.

    People like to feel like they are doing something in a new garden, and it can be tempting to cut things down and rip things out.

    I've planted a few shrubs and trees.  At times I can feel a little impatient waiting for them to grow  (it's fun watching them grow too).  So value the established plants you have and observe their behaviour.  Plants 'perform' at different times of the year.

    I know what I've planted, but my partner frequently asks 'what is that dead looking stick?', in the winter months at least.  Later in the year it becomes, 'oh that's nice, what is that?'.  Gardens look very different during the winter months.  Springs exciting. May is lovely.

    I have a forsythia shrub, and it fades into the background for most of the year, and comes alive in early spring.  A time when the colour is most needed.

    I hadn't had a garden for nearly 20 years, so really relish it.  We were lucky in that the garden had been planted to our tastes in the past.  However we still wanted to do something out there.  I've foolishly over planted in some places, and planted some things in the wrong places.  It's all a learning experience.

    We now have a few extra fruit trees that we planted in blossom and are growing nicely.  That's gratifying.

    Do take note from old hands!  And glance about your neighbourhood for inspiration.  Take note of what you like it's likely they'll do well in your garden too.

    Perhaps get some pots and seating for your patio area to do hard observation work.

  • Paul165Paul165 Posts: 97

    Thanks all, very helpful. 

    One more thing. When applying grass feed do I need to rake it in or just spread around liberally? There are some baldish and particularly neglected patches at bottom of garden and I don't want it to be wasted due to wrong application... 

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