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Hi all,

As the thread title says I am an extreme novice in the garden... I'd like information on where to go for help and advice...

My garden was very much in place before we moved in, it had a raised bed and even a compost bin full of the lovely stuff!! It doesn't get much sunlight... Some in the morning and a bit in the evening, one end hardly gets any at all. There are shrubs (i think) at the shady end... one is dark green with loads of bright red flowers (tis beautiful). I planed the raised bed with perennials, lavender and others... 

My lawn is patchy, the kids having a goal out there and playing football is not going to make for a perfect lawn so I'm not to concerned by that... I am buying a shed and would like to grow seeds, some for me and some to give away to family etc

I have a couple of 22" pots that I thought I might grow small apple trees in...

Anyway, I'm looking forward to  being a part of the forum and getting to lovely results..

All the best


Busy Bee2

Here is a great place for asking questions about specifics, but you seem to need a general plan of action.  If I were you, I would leave it for a bit, sit awhile, work out what you actually want to do in your garden, figure out the light/shade thing in the summer, subscribe to the magazine for inspiration, go to gardens and/or shows for more inspiration, work out how much longer the kids need their pitch, think about a lighting scheme, consider externalities (noise from neighbours/visiting cats/overhanging branches/overlooking properties).  You can't rush a plan!  And never think that what the previous occupants left you is set in stone.  I never got to grips with the front garden in our first property because it was dominated by rose bushes that I somehow felt I couldn't move, but no design thought had gone into the planting of them.  Years later I saw the property again, and subsequent owners had got rid of them and started from scratch, and the resultant garden was much more pleasing. 


I'd echo Busy bee's advice. Take your time, get recommendations from people on here as to books, magazines plants and general advice. No question is too silly to ask, so never be afraid to ask, you will always get help.

Find the ph of your soil, the large shrub with red flowers sounds like a rhododenron or camellia, so your soil maybe acidic but do a test with a kit you can get from the garden centre or online.

Posting  a pic here will get you plenty of help as well. 

See how much sun you get, where and when and tell us what your soil is like i.e. clay, loam, sandy, I suspect with rhododendron/camellia, it will be loam and fairly good. You haven't posted your location, so I can't look you up on the national soil survey, which would tell you what your soil is most likely to be.

Your soil ph will give you a guide as to which plants will do best, sun,shade and moisture will determine the rest.

See what else comes up during the summer, before you start to dig everything up.

In gardening patience is one of the first skills you will have to learn, unless you have a fat bank account and can buy in instant results.

Take the time to read and plan, see what damage the kids do and plan accordingly.

This is one of the best places you will get to learn, so make full use of thousands of years of gardening knowledge with having to buy it.


All sound advice above - and get out and see some gardens - RHS ones, NGS ones, all sorts -  even if they look a bit big and grand, if you look at 'bits' of them and see which bits you like and which you don't like - for example, you may discover that you like dwarf conifers and heathers - or you may discover that you hate them.  And you may discover that you like prairie-type planting with grasses and daisy-type flowers waving in the breeze, or  shrubberies with spring bulbs  - then you need to find out whether you have the right sort of spot in your garden to replicate the bits you like - all this will take some time - and in the meantime you can chat to us about your ideas 


Welcome Andy - if you want any plants identified, take a few pix and post them and lots of people here will help. I'm guessing the red flowering shrub in the shade could be a Rhododendron or Camellia too!

If you're keen to put apple trees in those pots - go for it - I did the same last year as I had nowhere to plant them in this present garden. It sounds like the garden is quite shady and you may struggle with getting grass to look decent unfortunately, especially if children are playing on it, but you can get seed which grows better in shade so it may be worth looking at sowing some of that in future. Take a look at what other people have in their gardens as that's a good indicator of the soil and what will be happy in it. Raised beds can make it easier to grow things which may not be happy elsewhere, so planting in that might be quite different from other parts of the garden. If the lavender's thriving in it - the soil is possibly quite different from the part where the rhodo/camellia is.

And keep asking questions - it's how we all learnt!  


 OK the garden is L shaped.. this is left most edge, the shady bit.. Will post the rest in a rough chronological order from here carrying on to the right!!!

 This one is obviously looking back across to the shady side


 The one bit I have done was dig over the raised bed and put some perennials in.. Lavender I know.. the rest are named but can't remember!!! Should have written them down really!!

Thanks for all the advice so far!!


I'm in south London, Sutton/Croydon border

Just ordered a soil testing kit...


I am interested in the future in growing and nurturing seeds, I like the idea of starting from scratch.... I'm investing in a shed, with which I hope to get power to as well...



Also would like to know if there is a kind of calendar as to jobs to do and things to plant or dig up etc in the garden?

Sorry I am talking too much!!!

Busy Bee2

Andy, I just got my copy of the Gardener's World magazine, and in the bag was a little booklet called the Small Garden Handbook, which has lots of pictures in it and ideas, and it demonstrates just how rich and exciting you can make an urban garden, and I thought of this thread.  If you don't subscribe to the magazine, and had to buy it in the shop, I don't know if you would get the guide, but it is inspiring if you can get your hands on it.  If I had to say the one difference between the pics and your garden, it is the verticals - get some height up the sides and make your space more 3-D.  I know Croydon well - I was brought up in Warlingham - don't know if you know where that is, but Croydon was our main shopping place/hub!!

Hi Busy Bee,

Yeah I know Warlingham!! Not to far away!!

Busy Bee2

We lived in Leas Road, opposite the common (not to be confused with the Green)  I now live in the middle of nowhere!