Digging beds from scratch - how deep and what soil?

Hello everyone

We are renovating our garden.  The previous owner covered half the garden in 6" deep concrete and the other half in paving slabs (the builders are outside digging it all up as I type, ready to be loaded into a skip on Monday). 

Because of all this, we are essentially starting a garden on a bare site.  We will be laying some turf and digging beds.  We won't be growing veggies in the beds, just shrubs, a few climbers, etc.  The 'soil' beneath the concrete and paving is very clay-rich.  My question is how deep should we make the beds and what soil/compost should we buy to fill the beds?  I'm staggered by the cost of topsoil but we do want the garden to actually grow, so we are prepared to invest the money.  image

As far as the lawn is concerned, my understanding is that the topsoil needs to be at least 6" deep, correct me if I'm wrong!

Thanks all.

Posts

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 56,674

    Dig your beds  over about two spades depth, break up any solid layer of clay underneath with your fork , and incorporate lots of well rotted farm yard manure and/or mushroom compost into the soil.  No need to buy topsoil - over the years add a good mulch of compost and/or well rotted FYM every autumn and that, combined with the clay, will give you a lovely fertile soil.  Roses in particular will absolutely love it. image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Okay, great, thank you so much.  That's something of a relief, it takes a little off the cost.  What sort of clay soil:compost ration are we aiming for?

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 56,674

    I've never worked out how much I use, but what I'd do is dig over the beds, then cover the beds with a two or three inches of your organic matter (manure/compost etc) and fork it in. 

    This sounds a great project.  Hope you're going to show us some pictures as you go alone image

    Hope someone's going to come along with advice re your lawn .... if they don't I'll give someone a nudge image

     

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Thank you Dove, that's so kind.  image  It's really quite nerve-racking, neither one of us has much experience in gardening.  I had a small garden before I moved here, and did a little with it, to the best of my (limited) ability.  I've spent quite a bit of time drawing up a shortlist of plants, so I have a rough idea of what is being planted where.  Slightly terrified!

  • Alan4711Alan4711 LincolnshirePosts: 1,572

    Hi Patiate good advise here is free BUT paving slabs arnt they are very expensive and great for putting sheds etc on,so how about  giving  em away ,go down you local and shout does anybody want  slabs for a pint and watch out for the rush good luck with garden mateys

  • Alan4711 wrote (see)

    Hi Patiate good advise here is free BUT paving slabs arnt they are very expensive and great for putting sheds etc on,so how about  giving  em away ,go down you local and shout does anybody want  slabs for a pint and watch out for the rush good luck with garden mateys

    Yes, we'll probably keep some as foundations for the new shed which is going next to some decking and will probably need raising up a little so that the door can open over the top of the decking.  We could advertise the rest on Freecycle or Gumtree, I'm quite happy for people to take what they want.  Might even leave a couple of small stacks on our driveway with a notice telling people to take what they want. 

     

    Edd wrote (see)

    Hello pariate. 

    What size area of lawn will you have? You can save a fortune by using seed rather than turf. You will have to see what the builders have left behind and find out what the ground is like. You say it is possibly clay, so either way you will have to sort the drainage out first (this is very important). Please let us know what you have and we can sort it from there. Apart from the weather you have picked the perfect time to do this.

    Regards

    Edd.

    As for draining, do we need to lay something else underneath the topsoil?  Something like sand, gravel?

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 56,674

     

    Edd wrote (see)

    ................ dig a few pest pits........

    Pest pits are always useful  and serve many purposes - one on the front drive for unwanted callers, chuggers, baliffs etc - one in the back garden for vine weevils, New Zealand flatworms etc .

    However, my guess is that Edd means you to dig 'a test pit' image

    image  I'll get my coat ............................ 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 56,674

    Very likely Edd image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 13,633

    For the lawn area, if you can rotovate or fork in about 3 inch of compost, or well rotted FYM into the top 6 inches of clay, that will do. My brother bought a house with a lawn of turf laid over clay. The turves curled up like old sandwiches. He stripped the lot, pinched the entire contents of my mums compost heap, all the used tomato compost etc, and rotovated it in. He then seeded it, and now has a nice lawn.

    To plant shrubs, mix organic stuff as above with the clay in a 50 /50 mix, and make the hole for the root ball at least twice as big as the plant root ball. Otherwise you will plant into a sump and it may rot in wet weather.

    Clay can be very productive if you can get enough organic matter into it.

    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • GWRSGWRS Posts: 6,784

    My only tip is that you may need to check drainage over the next year and may need to put in a drain or soak away

    best of luck image

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