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Hi everyone.

I'm really fed up with my 'garden'; if you can call it a garden and was wondering if any of you lovely people could help. As you can see from the photos, its extremely bare with only the odd shrub that was planted on a whim. That mud in the middle is supposed to be grass but our 4 dogs disagree. Add to this that most of the garden is in shade due to the house being 'behind' the photos (if that makes sense?) and the trees on the north side casting shade onto the back wall of the garden and most of the middle of it leaves me with limited options for plants???

So, if that hasn't put you off, could you recommend something I could do to transform it into a garden!! Ideally I would like some sort of eating area and some actual flowers Thanks, M

Couldn't upload the pics so had to put them on an photo sharing website -



It all looks very wet at the moment!

4 dogs sounds a lot for a shady lawn to cope with in the wet weather. Would it be possible to fence off a bit to make them a run and cover it with something like bark over a permeable membrane to stop that bit getting muddy?

Then the other bit. If you were to make a seating area it would be best to put down some sort of surface, like paving stones or gravel, that depends on your budget.

You can get grass seed for shady lawns, it looks as though it could do with being re seeded. Would need raking over when it's dryer to make a bit of a tilth. I mix seed with compost and throw it over the bare areas in spring or autumn.

You can dig flower beds wherever you want them, round the edges or island beds, so long as the soil is deep enough and not full of tree roots. Add compost and rotted manure -if you can get it. Plant some shrubs for structure and perennials. Have a look on Google for shade loving perennials, there are quite a lot. I like some of the hardy geraniums that grow in shade and plants with nice leaves, like brunnera "Silver Frost", Hostas, pulmonarias and aquilegias.

If there is a sunny patch somewhere and you want cheap, quick results then sow some hardy annuals in Spring.


 Here are 2 of the photos if anyone wants to see, but they are rather small.


Thanks for the reply Lizzie. We do normally take the dogs on a walk in the neighbouring field we own, but when they get too excited they jump over the wall into the garden and start running round there and churning it up. I will have to try and stop them ! I also forgot to say, theres a busy road over the wall next to the greenhouse, what could I do to make some privacy?

Where do you think the best spot to make a patio area would be? The kitchen door on to the garden opens onto the path. During summer the garden does get sun during midday but obviously the trees are in leaf so the dreaded shade casts again. Urghh it is all so much to do haha


The patio would be best nearest the kitchen if you want to eat there. But do you want it in sun or shade? I prefer eating in the shade, but you may want to sunbathe or read your book in the sun. Only you can say.

Plant a hedge for privacy and a little sound proofing.

Won't it be fun making a new garden with a blank canvas like that!


which way does all this face?

As you look at the photos your looking north. The garden is at the back of the house so it does cast shade on it throughout the year :/

I would definitely consider sectioning an area off for the dogs. I have 2 x labradors and they created a similar mess of the lawn in my previous house. I ended up sectioning an area off for them. In my current house the lawn doesn't lend itself to sectioning an area off for them, so I don't allow them onto the garden, instead I have to take them out for about 4/5 short walks a day!

Heres my previous house, showing the total mess the dogs made of the lawn...


Installing the fence posts. The dogs lawn is at the top end so they had to walk up the drive to access it...


Fence complete, and old lawn removed...


New turf being laid...


 New turf installed. The dogs lawn is right at the top...


And a few weeks later once planted up...


This allowed me to have a separate lower lawn that was dog free. I did al the work myself, with a little help for laying the new turf.




Dog run is a definite, sow grass seed for shade, then shade tolerant plants for the borders.

ph test kit for the soil, or use the rhs website for soil type in your area.

most web retailers have advice for what to plant and where given the conditions, the rhs is the best, then its just the hard work of creating it.


Wow what a transformation LF!! Looks lovely. I may end up just not allowing the dogs into the garden as every winter it just turns into a mess, as we do have the field to take them for a run they will just have to learn to know where they're not allowed

BTW, would you recommend using gravel for a patio area? We do get a lot of leaves falling on the grass in the autum, would that cause any problems with the gravel?



LeadFarmer that is great. How much better to explain using photos. My dog isn't allowed on the flower bit lawn and he knows it and is very good, but I'm lucky enough to live in the country and there are other bits of the garden that he can run on.

I've seen photos of LF's current garden which is beautiful and bigger.

I suggested gravel, because it's the cheaper option, but if you can afford it, then paving it would be much better and easier to sweep if a lot of leaves fall on it. After all a garden is a lovely extension of the house and people spend money on carpets, sofa, kitchens etc so the garden deserves it too, if you can manage it.


I sold that house later that year, though at the time of redesigning the garden I wasn't planning on moving house at all. I do think the garden helped to sell the house as it got some very favourable comments from viewers. Id love to see it today to see how it looks.


Not always a good idea LF. I saw my old house last year after 15 years since I last saw it. Big garden, opened it to the public for leukaemia research. Now the rose garden is a tennis court, the veg garden has gone and so have most of the flower beds, some of which had some rare plants. No more rhododrendron walk by the ponds either, so now you can see the whole thing from the road, just grass and trees, and some of the trees I had planted had been cut down. The people who bought it after us looked after it beautifully, these are the newest people.


Thats a sad tale BL. Ive just had a look at my previous house on google maps using satellite view. Thankfully it doesn't seem to have changed much, but there is a big dark circle visible which I hope is a pond, and not the dreaded trampoline!!!



When making that garden I had a local saw mill make a bespoke trellis archway & gate that fitted within the fence and allowed access to the patio, whilst keeping the dogs off...


 I dug up quite a few of the plants and they came with me to the new house. I even arranged for the sales brochure to state that some of the plants were not included in the house purchase!!


Hi everyone. So I've been thinking about all your suggestions and advice (thanks BTW, much appreciated!!) and been looking online for ideas and inspiration and I think I've come to a plan that I'm quite excited about

Taking the dogs into account ive decided ill just have to stop them from running around the garden as it just makes too much mess. On the plan (which I don't think is accurate measurements so dont know how that it will work out) im hoping to put a gravel patio near the kitchen with a table and chairs. ill plant a box hedge to separate the patio and grass area which ill plant some bulbs next to (reccomendations??? I like the looks of Alliums) The rest ill reseed. The trees on the north side im going to try and trim some overhanging branches to let light onto the back wall and make a proper bed with proper flowers!! if any of you can give me some alterations or improvements theylld be welcome so exciting! M



Box hedge and alliums will look amazing, they work extremely well together, especially box balls.

Will you be relying on the hedge to keep the dogs off the garden? Box is a very slow growing hedge and will take a few years to get to any height. You could put a piquet fence along the hedge line, with a gate at each end to allow you access onto the lawn.


What a transformation LeadFarmer.  

I wasn't planning on no, more a way of dividing the garden up?? There is a wall next to the path, maybe I could up some sort of trellis up above the wall to extend it and stop the dogs from jumping over? Then plant a lovely scented climber. Hmmm so many decisions!

And YES they look gorgeous together dont they? Do you know if Alliums are scented?