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Small Garden Project

Discussion in 'Garden Projects and DIY' started by 2nd_bassoon, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. 2nd_bassoon

    2nd_bassoon Gardener

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    Hello all,

    Newbie here! My partner and I moved in together just before Christmas and in the move I've gained a nice-sized little garden. It's been very, very neglected, however; I don't think the previous tenants touched it. So it's a bit of a project :D We're renting, but the landlady is lovely and happy for me to do pretty much anything short of major building work - the downside is that, while I hope to stay a few years, there's no
    guarantee. My last place was a cottage with a little patio garden so I mostly concentrated on pots; this is something new!

    The basic layout is patio against the house with an elevated "lawn" area beyond. There's a tiny pond on one side of the steps up to the grass and a little shaded paved area on the other side. The lawn is bordered on three sides by beds - the whole plot isn't quite square, much narrower at the top than the bottom.

    Blurry pictures to illustrate:

    Top of patio steps, looking left (the cream wall is the edge of the house)
    2017-01-10 12.56.06.jpg

    Top corner
    2017-01-10 12.56.13.jpg

    Looking up the garden from the patio steps
    2017-01-10 12.56.22.jpg

    The "pond" (my puddle!)
    2017-01-10 12.56.38.jpg

    To the right of the steps, opposite the pond; tiny, shadey bench
    2017-01-10 14.52.06.jpg

    The patio from the backdoor (ignore the sad Christmas tree, I'm currently putting off sawing it up)
    2017-01-14 16.38.47.jpg

    Patio from the top of the steps
    2017-01-14 16.39.22.jpg

    And, as you can see, the whole thing is a bit of a mess. The list of problems include:
    - The entire lefthand side is a mess of brambles and overgrowth; it sticks a good metre into the garden. I assume there was once a flowerbed underneath it but no sign of that now.
    - Running up the righthand side is a random strip of concrete - possibly once the base of a shed? Or a seating area?
    - The "lawn". It was a scraggly, overgrown mess before my hens arrived; now it is that with added fertiliser.
    - The puddle/pond; I've no idea if the lining is damaged, but even with the South West rain it never seems to fill...

    And so on, and so on. I'm looking forward to tackling it all :) First move is going to be hacking away all the overgrowth on the left border; hopefully an easier job now than it would be in a couple of months time. And we'll work from there!
     
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      Last edited: Jan 14, 2017
    • JWK

      JWK Gardener

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      Welcome to the forum 2nd_bassoon

      It's an interesting garden, I like the stone walls, it looks very sheltered. I think it would look good as a cottage garden style, so once you clear the border of brambles and weeds you could have a mass of colour. Cottage garden style plants are mostly cheap and easy to grow from seed, so in March that's when you should start sowing - lots of time to plan.
       
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      • Linz

        Linz Head Gardener

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        Hi @2nd_bassoon :sign0016:

        Looks like a good space and I like the walls too, once cleared of leaves and brambles I'm sure it will look more of a blank canvas to get started, be a bonus if you can get out now before everything starts growing proper again. Agree with JWK cottage style plants would look lovely against that wall, fox gloves and delphiniums esp! A few of us keep chooks too, I only got mine in Nov, literally a week before all the bird flu shenanigans! :rolleyespink:

        Lots of lovelies on here to give you good advice, gonna beat @"M" to it and say it helps to put your location in your profile!

        Good luck :blue thumb:
         
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        • 2nd_bassoon

          2nd_bassoon Gardener

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          Thanks both :)

          Yup, interesting is a good word for it - shape, boundries, surroundings, all. Cottage-style plants sound lovely - I confess, I've always had an odd dislike for foxgloves, but maybe I ought to given them a second chance! I love growing things from seed; my dad is building me a coldframe for Christmas so will definitely be putting that to good use. Definitely want to get hostas and dahlias in there somewhere too - I'm hoping to put hostas in the shaded are to the right of the steps, opposite the pond (though in my old, rather damp, garden they ended up in pots in the middle of the patio, surronded by copper, eggshells, bowls of beer, and wool, in an effort to keep the slugs at bay...) I found a couple of roses today, so will be interesting to see how they bloom too.

          @Linz, my girls are very upset about being confined on Defra's orders - I'm sure they think I'm taunting them with this exciting new bigger garden that they can see but not explore.

          I had a very productive day today, at least until the rain started.

          Partway through:
          2017-01-14 12.25.43.jpg

          2017-01-14 12.25.36.jpg
          And with the bulk gone:

          2017-01-14 13.48.09.jpg
          2017-01-14 13.48.12.jpg


          2017-01-14 13.48.29.jpg

          It's so much more open already, I'm really pleased. Though nextdoor suddenly feel a lot closer! Have made a couple of odd discoveries in the process too. The concrete area you can see against the grey wall I already knew about, but on the opposite side, against the red wall, there's another area paved with patio slabs - it starts against the white house wall and stretches about 1.5m up the garden. It was just so covered in the overgrowth, partially composted leaves etc that you couldn't see it.

          The other puzzle I have at the moment is where the beds end and the lawn begins - whatever border there was has long-since gone. As you can see in the pictures, the lawn is in a pretty sorry state anyway, so I may just make up new boundries and narrow the width of the bed slightly. Any suggestions on what to use to edge the lawn with would be much appreciated; I'd like something to make it obvious where grass stops and flowers begin! The lawn itself is probably going to be one of the last things I tackle, as (a) it's going to get so trampled by all the work round the edges and (b) the chickens will need re-situating first (probably in the top corner where the red and grey walls meet - my upstairs neighbour and her little boy like watching them out their window so I want to try and keep them easily visible for them!)

          Sorry for such a long post - I confess I'm partially using this as a chain of thought record/diary for myself, apologies if it rambles too much!
           

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          • 2nd_bassoon

            2nd_bassoon Gardener

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            Oh, and thanks for the tip @Linz - location updated!
             
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            • Linz

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              Good effort :dbgrtmb: don't worry about rambling too much, we all do it! :biggrin:

              I wouldn't like to give too much advice as I'm bit of a newb but.. maybe salvage some scaffolding planks or even some old stones that you find lying about for the lawn edges or you could go all out and get some nice chunky sleepers in? I wouldn't worry about the lawn either tbh until you know for definite where it starts and ends. Give the roses a good mulching of rotted manure or even some of your chicken poop in spring and see what happens, they might be some corkers! All the best and keep us posted :)
               
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              • Redwing

                Redwing Wild Gardener

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                What a fabulous backdrop you have with those walls! I would keep what looks like ivy on the grey wall. When it's old like that it is very good for wildlife and will add a new dimension to the garden.

                Clearing the brambles on the brick wall is a very good idea already suggested but you point out that you now feel a little exposed so you need to raise the height somehow......shrubs, a mix of evergreen and deciduous, is one possibility. Another would be to fix some trellis on top of it to grow climbers up. So many possibilities with this space. I hope you will post pictures as it evolves.

                Your chickens will have a wonderful time when let out and will help with the cultivation too.
                 
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                • clueless1

                  clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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                  Hello and welcome.

                  I absolutely love the walls. It could become a most excellent walled garden. So much potential. Personally I wouldn't try too hard with it. It reminds me of fun times as a kid, finding a secret area that nobody except everybody knew about.
                   
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                  • 2nd_bassoon

                    2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                    Ooh, I hadn't thought of scaffolding planks...there's a stack of bricks on the patio that I was thinking of using for some of it but almost certainly won't go all the way round, so maybe a combination of the two... Sleepers would be ideal, but the only access to the garden is through the flat, which involves a steep flight of steps, three doorways all at slightly different angles to each other, and going through the spare bedroom (it's not just the garden that's a little bit oddly laid out). Not for the fainthearted.

                    Definitely not going to touch the ivy - quite aside from liking how it looks, I'm a little worried the wall will collapse without it!

                    Can anyone identify the tall woody plant pictured below? A buddleia that's grown unchecked?

                    2017-01-15 13.14.51.jpg2017-01-15 13.14.58.jpg2017-01-15 13.15.06.jpg
                     
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                    • clueless1

                      clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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                      Yep. Buddleja. I'd chop it down to about 8 inches from the ground. It will soon grow back and flower in summer.
                       
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                      • 2nd_bassoon

                        2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                        Excellent, I like buddleias. Will tackle that next; at least it's not as likely to stab me as the brambles. I was operating at work yesterday, the disinfectant we use to scrub up found each and every one of the tiny prickles from the weekend :frown:

                        Another plant conumdrum (I'm very illiterate when it comes to horticulture as you can probably tell). Any ideas on this one? It's in a very awkward spot so planning to move it if it's worth saving. No evidence of any flowers but it's a very lush green compared to everything else.

                        2017-01-15 13.15.13.jpg

                        Today is my day off but the drizzle has thwarted my outside plans, so I'm inside planning instead. One of the problems I've come across is a complete lack of an outside tap. Any suggestions on ways around this? I'm not sure my landlady would look too kindly on me ripping out the drainpipe to install a waterbutt, sadly. It's doubly annoying because I was hoping to hire a powerwasher to clean the patio at some point too :rolleyespink:
                         
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                        • Sheal

                          Sheal Total Gardener

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                          That looks like a Pampas grass to me and it will be a devil to dig out if you want to move it. Be careful with the leaves as the edges will tear your hands to shreds. It shouldn't have been planted that close to the walls as they grow to quite a size and if it was in my garden I wouldn't re-plant it.
                           
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                          • "M"

                            "M" Total Gardener

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                            :sign0016: to GC @2nd_bassoon lovely to have you join us. Congratulations on your new home!

                            Love the potential your garden offers: the walls; it's little quirks; the fabulous raised pond! You are going to have a lot of fun (once the hard work is done) in that space on warm sunny evenings :thumbsup:
                            :Think: Now that is a really strange way to spell "Office" :scratch: :dunno: ;) :heehee:

                            It would be wasted solely as a spare bedroom, barely used. You could always pop a bed settee in there for when you have the occasional visitor; but it does beg to be used to its full potential. An office, overlooking the garden? Bonus! Think: summer evenings, door open, catching up on paperwork and listening to the bubble, gurgle and trickle of the pond ... heavenly! :wub2:

                            Are your chooks Silkies? As @Redwing pointed out, as soon as they are able to be out and about they will scratching up weeds and fertilizing the ground very nicely :chicken:
                             
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                            • 2nd_bassoon

                              2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                              Thanks @"M" - the cold mornings these last few days have got me thinking longingly of summer out there!

                              Other half has dibs on the spare room/office space - as well as the bed it's home to his computer (and frankly enormous computer chair; I'm quietly relieved to have it tucked out the way in there). Bizzarrely, although the door to the garden is in there, there isn't a proper window and all the other walls are internal - it really is an oddly laid out flat - so it's quite dark too. The main bedroom next door, however, has a big bay with huge sash windows; perfect for throwing open on warm summer evenings... (which reminds me, I'm going to need ideas on how to make the pond gurgle and trickle at some point! One step at a time...)

                              They are indeed silkies, one white one bronze. There was a third (black) who died a few months back. I'm hoping to expand again at some point but I don't like the idea of another in that small run, so waiting on Defra to give the go ahead!
                               
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                              • 2nd_bassoon

                                2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                                Feeling very accomplished today:

                                2017-01-24 15.00.33.jpg
                                2017-01-24 15.00.36.jpg

                                That stretch was by far the most overgrown so having it completely cleared really feels like I've broken the back of the work (and broken my own back in the process - the roots on the woody shrubbery you can see in the first pictures were not giving up without a fight, and most were running directly against the wall so couldn't even get a spade around them. Tomorrow won't be fun!).

                                My next plan is to invest in some scaffolding boards and make borders to go round the lawn. You can't really tell from the pictures but the soil in front of the red wall is much higher than the grass, while the soil against the grey wall is either lower or level. Once I've got the borders more defined I'm going to spread it about to try and make the whole thing more even; the hens are probably going to go against the red wall so that bit needs to be more level at least. Was thinking of getting hold of some stable manure or something to mix in too, since I'll already be throwing soil about - worthwhile job?
                                 
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                                • "M"

                                  "M" Total Gardener

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                                  Crikey, you have worked hard. Bravo! :yay:

                                  Yup, mixing in stable manure is a very worthwhile job, so go for it :thumbsup:
                                   
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                                  • 2nd_bassoon

                                    2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                                    Picked up scaffolding planks on Friday (thanks @Linz !) and started painting them over the weekend. Now waiting on the dry weather to return so I can finish the job! They'll go round the edges of the lawn and then I'll finally be able to level out the beds and shift the hens over to their permanent home.

                                    What I actually do with the lawn is another matter. Originally I was planning on tolerating the mess for this year then reseeding it and starting afresh come autumn. But (a) walking on the seeded area to reach the hens would be unavoidable and (b) it turns out turf is a lot cheaper than I thought, epecially for my tiny 10 square meters...so that's something to think about!

                                    2017-01-28 15.03.46.jpg2017-01-28 16.04.08.jpg

                                    (Cat is supervisor-in-chief for the project).
                                     

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                                    • Linz

                                      Linz Head Gardener

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                                      Aw nice one! Liking the black paint too :blue thumb: Turf would be the easy way out, don't blame you!
                                       
                                    • DoubleMM

                                      DoubleMM Gardener

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                                      An amateur newbie here so can't offer much advice - but you've done so much already - and it's going to be lovely!!
                                       
                                    • 2nd_bassoon

                                      2nd_bassoon Gardener

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                                      Hello all,

                                      Sorry for the long absence, things fell on the back-burner a bit during February. My cat was knocked down on the road at the start of the month; she and I spent a lot of time together in both this garden and my last one, and it really knocked the wind out of everything. And then the rain, and the rain, and the rain...

                                      But the evenings are getting longer and I've had good luck with the weather on my last few days off. So, progress in the last couple of weeks:

                                      Excavated the surprise patio in the near corner; turns out it's pretty much the most consistantly sunny part of the garden, and the perfect size for a coldframe.

                                      2017-02-05 14.24.14.jpg

                                      Next big job was bordering the flowerbeds. This was made far easier by dint of an ex-American football playing, weight-lifter friend who is easily bribed with cake and the promise he can use the mallet.

                                      2017-02-19 14.15.42.jpg

                                      2017-02-19 14.15.44.jpg

                                      2017-02-19 14.15.53.jpg

                                      Originally the coldframe was going to sit against the redbrick wall, so I extended the patio to meet it with some of the many, many loose bricks there are lying around.

                                      2017-02-28 14.50.49.jpg

                                      And then, finally, the hens were relocated! This felt like a huge moment; partly because moving their run out of the middle opened up the space a lot more than expected, but also because this whole project started when I realised that the only space for them when we moved in was slap-bang in the middle of the lawn and rendered the whole garden pretty much unusable. So mission finally acomplished!

                                      2017-02-28 16.12.16.jpg

                                      Meanwhile the spare room was turned into a temporary greenhouse.

                                      2017-02-28 14.59.45.jpg

                                      Coldframe (Christmas present from parents) arrived, painted and constructed.

                                      2017-03-07 17.32.02.jpg

                                      And, finally, this week I collected several times my own body weight in rotted horse manure and top soil (thanks, gumtree freebies) and spread it over the beds (usefully muscled friend sadly unavailable for this venture; I regretted it this morning).

                                      2017-03-09 17.13.22.jpg

                                      2017-03-09 17.13.40.jpg

                                      Please ignore the very sad-looking "lawn"!
                                       
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