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Good Afternoon,

I am just starting a new garden approximately an acre in size..last season because of no time to start I level the whole site with a JCB and I just seeded it all with grass, which is now well grown and it seems a shame to dig quite a bit up but I would like to start putting some cottage garden borders in...

This morning I drew a roughly to scale plan of where I would like the main house lawn and the cottage garden borders...

One currently lawned area that I would like to start first is approx. 40 yards long and 13 yards wide, (south facing) with a wall approx. 18 yards long on part of the long right side, this wall is the remaining standing  back wall from an old barn that once stood on the site...(the standing wall is approx. 7 feet high).

My problem is that when I tried to dig a spade in where I would like the main flower border the floor of the old barn is only about half a spade depth down... thoughts are to try and get some top soil to make the borders...(I do know that when the grass grew this year it did not burn off in the summer heat which I thought it would do with no depth of soil to retain moisure...I am in Normandy France and it was very hot this year)

Could anyone tell me please roughly how many tons of top soil I will need for the new flower border which will run along most of the right hand side of the garden some of which will be under that wall.

The size of the new border will be approx. 33 yards long (kidney shaped) 4 yards wide at its widest point dropping back to about 2 yards wide.

I have tried to work it out but as per usual my brain has stopped please please please I need your help.

Thanking you in anticipation.



quite a few I would say! I "made" a new garden, with borders after digging up concrete - exposing very hard subsoil. Probably about half the size of your planned border. I created a small lawn (about 8 foot by 10 foot), where I only needed about 3 inches of topsoil, and also a curving border (about 3 foot by 10 foot). I also had about a ton of garden compost, so could create a kind of raised border  - it is deepest in the middle, about 12" deep - to give me enough planting depth. I topped that with a layer of topsoil before planting and then mulching with barrowloads of leaf mould. I used a ton(ne?) of topsoil and had I not had lots of other stuff, it would have barely covered the ground. You will be amazed how much you need. I used a calculator on this site to get some idea of how much I needed. It might help you.

Oh dear dear dear Ginglygangly...according to that website I need 45 tonne+...

...ouch my back hurts just thinking about it...

...anybody fancy a free holiday in France spreading topsoil...???

star gaze lily

ME!!! If you can wait till the warm weather comes back



Nice. Haven't the back for it though


What is the soil/whatever like below that half spade depth?  Is it hardcore, cement,stone?  Can it be broken up at all? If so, I would look to compost or manure to trench in rather than top soil

Whatever ??ou do it will be physical.  Dont give yourself a deadline.  Do,it at your own will get done. sounds like an exciting project though

It really is a very exciting project Carmichael...but hard work will not kill me...

In the spring I barrowed 30 tonne of gravel for the drive and I survived...only just but nevertheless I survived...!!!

I'm thinking because of the way that the garden did not drought nor waterlog, leads me to believe it must be hardcore for the base of the old barn

I am very sorry but I do not understand what you mean re "compost or manure to trench in rather than top soil".

..could you please explain further..Thanks iPad wants to type in Carmichael. So sorry about that.

I meant only that if you could dig deeper, break up the soil a little deeper, you could then dig in some manure, etc  into that layer.  If possible I think that would be preferable to bringing in top soil 

Clearly you are not afraid of hard work so whatever you do I'm sure it will work just fine

Good idea Verdun...will try to dig a wee bit tomorrow and see what it turns up...

Good luck carmic 


Hello Carmic. I live in Dordogne and it sounds as though you are about to do what I did over 20 years ago! My main flower garden bit was once the farmyard and, I was told by a local, there had been a barn on it. The land here is limestone, poor and rocky underneath. We had several lorry loads delivered, but I can't remember how many now, I know it was 2 in the veggie garden and 2 farm trailor loads of rotted cow manure. It was a heck of a lot of work, in the end we got a firm in to do the lawns.

The earth that was delivered into my big border, 30m x 3m, was mostly clay with rocks and roots in it. Over the years I've dug in loads of compost and horse manure so now it's higher than the lawn.

Here is a photo of some of it now. It has given me years of work and pleasure and something to look forward to each year.


Verdun, its been far too wet and a tad windy to do any digging so i have been sowing seeds to put inside the 2 plastic balcony greenhouses which I have put inside the house (south facing in a alcove of a double french door)

So far I have sown Aqelligia ( 2 diff. colours) Achellia (2 diff colours) Hollyhocks (again 2 diff. colours) taken a load of Hydrangea, Buddlia, Pinks, and Forsythia cuttings...

What my next question is are there any other seeds suitable for a traditional cottage garden that can be sown now.

Thanking you in anticipation



Angelica can be sown for cold germination along with your aquilegias. Astrantia, hellebores, paeonies as well.



Ordered Angelica..already sown the Aquilegias...looked up the Astrantia and it says sow in February...Hellebores according to  Thompson and Morgon take 3 years to flower so will probablly buy the plant...similar thoughts re the paeonies...

So that still means I am 'looking for your further thoughts on seeds to sow now that just 'might' flower next year.


oooops Nutcutlet where are my manners...???

I forgot to say thankyou so much for your advice.


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