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Daunted by a new start

Hi All,

I'm new to this website and new to gardening apart from growing a bit of veg in a raised bed, and am feeling a bit bamboozled by the garden!

Both front and back gardens have always been just boring areas of very weedy and mossy 'grass'. We are having an extension on the back of the house at the moment and in the process, everything has been trashed and needs a new start. Please ignore all of the building materials in the pics. So...I don't really know where to start and what to do first! The work will be finished in about a month so any ideas or advice gratefully received.

The soil is really hard heavy clay so will need something digging into it I think. We'd only like a small amount of lawn but it doesn't have to be traditional grass, and would love to encourage wildlife in.

My other half is desperate to dig out all of the shrubs in the back garden  and start from scratch, as they have not been cared for properly for years and are a bit woody, mis-shapen and overgrown - is this a possible task?! image



Sorry for the long message - but any input would be great! x


  • Lou12Lou12 Posts: 1,149

    Rather than the mammoth task of digging all the shrubs up I'd sooner cut them right down to the ground and see what comes up again. A bit like pollarding a tree. You might be surprised and get something nice back.

    I wish I'd done that with a beautiful liac given the years it took to grow it but I just dug it up and now regret it.

    Nice space though.

  • PollyRPollyR Posts: 64

    Hi Lou! Yes good idea - that sounds much less back-breaking than trying to dig out all of the established roots. Thank you!

  • InglezinhoInglezinho Posts: 568

    If you are ever going to, now is the time to improve your soil. If you have clay soil you will need to improve the drainage. That is the main problem, not lack of nutrients. It's well worth doing this as if you don"t you will just have continued heartache in the years to come and working clay is very, very hard going. You will need several tons of sand and grit and at least a ton of good compost. Get someone with heavy machinery to do the work for you. If you try and do it yourself it will take months and you will end up ( like me) with a bad back.

    Also get or make a composter, so you can carry on the good work into the future. I can assure you it is possible to garden on clay without a lot of digging, if you get the first step right. Good luck. Ian

    Everyone likes butterflies. Nobody likes caterpillars.
  • PollyRPollyR Posts: 64

    Hi Tetley - I do agree! I think I may try to negotiate a heavy prune before we go the whole hog and get rid of everything. I think that if I were to plant in front and these shrubs become the backdrop rather than the focus, then t'other half will hate them less!

    Last edited: 22 August 2016 11:56:28

  • PollyRPollyR Posts: 64

    Thanks for the tips on drainage Inglezinho, there are some nice gardens on the street so the soil must be ok, it's just that getting a fork into it is hard work! I think hiring some machinery whist the area is clear is a good idea!

  • Hi Polly like you I garden on clay soil and have found over the years its best to work with it than

    try changing it. You only have to look how well the shrubs have grown over the years.

    Its always best to dig clay soil after a long spell of rain. I tend to leave it alone in Summer.

    I would wait till the builders have finished and removed all the rubbish by then you will be able

    to make plans to set it out as you like.

  • You have some great established shrubs there that I'd definitely prune back - it'll make all the difference. Don't get rid of them to then replace them with something else that you'll have to wait years to reach the same size. They can be a lovely backdrop for some perennials. I'd thicken out the size of the border and add some different heights and colour.

  • PollyRPollyR Posts: 64

    Yes, well the shrubs are staying, I just need to get them looking a bit less overgrown and out of control - so I'll start another thread and hopefully some of you more experienced gardeners can help to identify them, and I can figure how best to tackle them! 

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