Zooming in on your photo, all you have to cut down and get rid of is a small tree and a 3-4 shrubs. As said earlier, compost making requires a mixture of hard shredded material and soft material. You do not have any soft material. as such and the tree will need to be disposed of. Just put all your stuff to the tip, knock down or sell the shed.
I hope you are going to keep the central birdbath and paved area and only grass the gravel bits. It makes a lovely centre piece and will look really well surrounded by grass and with the path leading through it.
No I'm not. It is far too narrow for children to do anything on it if that was all that was lawned im afraid. As I have said previously, yes I want my garden to look nice, but my family come first. I've arranged with a neighbour for grass cuttings.
I agree with some of the other comments. If it were my garden I would:
- Cut down all trees/shrubs you want to go
- Take it to the tip. It'll take a long time to compost otherwise, and will make a disappointing amount of compost.
- Decide if you want to keep the shed. Sell it if you don't (but you'll need somewhere to keep the lawnmower).
- Remove all stones/pebbles etc. Make them available on Gumtree etc but accept that you'll probably have to take them to the tip. You may be limited on how many you can take at a time, so this could take many trips - rope in any willing volunteers.
- Dig the soil a little to check what it's like. It's got to be really bad to be too poor to grow some kind of lawn.
- Assuming the lawn isn't terrible, dig over the lawn to one spade depth if possible. Take out any weeds as you go.
- Break down soil lumps, take it over to form a nice flat seed bed ready for grass seed.
- If doing the above takes you through to the end of April, delay sowing until mid/end of September. (You'll end up with a better lawn. You can sow in the summer if you're prepared to water it frequently but it's not ideal.)
- Spread some Growmore fertiliser, then grass seed (Google how to do this - there's loads of advice). As a fellow amateur I would suggest a cheap family lawn seed mixture. It's cheap 'n' cheerful, resists wear and tear, resists a dry summer etc, but still looks good if you look after it. You can get much nicer (finer) grasses, but they take more effort to keep in good condition.
If you do that, you'll have a nice blank canvas in 12 months' time. From there you can start to build plans for any beds etc. If you're not sure what you want to do yet, personally I would make it all lawn the then cut out beds later - that's easier than filling in patches with lawn at a later date.
If you are shifting all the stones and pebbles and live near the countryside, farmers would really appreciate that in their farm gateways. You may just be able to dump it close by than bagging it and taking it to the tip.
Noob that is such a detailed message and has elements of what I was planning to do, which to me is very reassuring. I shall seed it this year, which was my plan and hopefully then arrange beds, borders, paths and the like next year. I shall be using your message many times over the coming months.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your help.
Despite the Noob name, there's good advice from Garden noob.
Assessing health of soil:
There's topsoil and there's subsoil. When you dig a big hole in an unpaved garden you'll see the strata change from blackish at the top to possibly orangeish or in my case one area of the garden is proper grey and sticky (there is an old brickworks up the road so clues there).
When you take up your paving/pebbles etc what you might find is there is no topsoil because they scraped that off before laying the paving. Your grass will struggle if you seed it in subsoil. Remember the nearer to black you are, the better.
So buying in a ton or more of sterilised topsoil might be money well spent.
I see Cloggie. Thank you for the advice too. I certainly want to be thrifty but most importantly want to do it correctly. Would you say a ton would be enough? I guess it is 15x8 metres at its widest. Would you dig it in or as the name suggests leave on top? And if so, what's the best way to prepare the subsoil before placing the top soil on?
Thank you so many more questions!
When you take up whatever top dressing is on there now (paving slabs/pebbles/whatever) you will be faced with something that is not black I would guess (indicating it is subsoil).
I would then chuck on whatever you have to hand as organic material (if you did the shed thing and had some stuff out of that then this would be the time to use it). You then dig this over to a spade's depth.
Chuck on top of that a layer of topsoil, this only needs to be deep enough for sod to take hold and live so it depends on how you're turfing as to how much you need.
The reason I say this is if you are using seed, you need to Google topsoil depth for turf establishment. If you're using turf rolls then you won't need as much topsoil.
does that make sense? If not, ask again ...
And if you are making paths keep all these nice bricks and paving stones to reuse later. Borders edged with brick pavers makes a neat job and easier to mow. And did you say you were making a patio where the shed sits? You can use them there as well. In fact you could probably move the whole central circle where the bird bath is, to the shed area for your patio.