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Shrinking Violet

All ideas gratefully received!  My neighbour's front garden has a sumach tree and a conifer of some description, and a couple of years ago she "cleared" all the surrounding soil and had turf laid.

I said at the time that these two trees (together with a few random shrubs) would suck moisture out of the soil, and that unless the additional problem of rampant wild garlic was properly controlled ie killed with glysophate, there would be future problems.

I hate to say that I'm right - but I am! 

Around the conifer is a wide circle of dead ex-grass.

The sumach has sucked the life out of the soil.

The wild garlic is rampant.

So NOW I am asked for advice - and my temptation is to say "start again from scratch".  However, it is a rented property, and she is loath to embark on an expensive  solution that would involve a lot of hard work.

Is there an easy answer?  I don't think so.  The garden is south-facing, but is at the front of the property and partly shaded by a front wall. 

If I was going to lay a lawn, this is not where I would do it.  But . . .

Hiya Shrinking Violet

I would apply lawn weedkiller soon....mid April.  A combined lawn feed and weedkiller ideally.

Then I would lightly "scratch" in grass seed in bare spots.  shouldn't cost too much.  Could you water occasionally? 

(conifers can take up a lot of water and make life difficult for other nearby plants. Stag horn sumach too)

Shrinking Violet

Hi Verdun - many thanks for your suggestions.  It is roughly what I would have recommended, so I will try to see if I can make some headway with neighbour.

A friend of mine suggested pre-germinating grass seed in damp, not wet, compost to deter birds etc,  I'll see if this also helps.

Have tried this myself Shrinking Violet.  If worried about birds can you cover with fleece or polythene?  It's how I do it now 


Would it not be better to offer no advice to your neighbour?  Whatever you say the neighbour will either ignore or resent whether you are right or wrong.

Sumach is not a good plant as it puts up suckers.  And garlic should be kept well away from gardens, though it does die down quite early and can be mown off in a lawn.


Shrinking Violet

Thanks Welshonion - tempting though it is to offer no advice - it's a bit difficult when I'm asked and pushed for an answer and/or an opinion.  Whether or not the advice is followed is another matter

Incidentally, after the wet, long winter, there are patches of my own lawn looking a bit sorry for themselves.  But I shall try the pre-germination of seed before I re-seed where necessary.  And may follow Verdun's advice, too, regarding the temporary covering with fleece.

Pity it is rented I would have said do has I have done and get artificial grass mine after all the rain and my dog made it a right mess so I dug it up and put down artificial grass looks great


But if it looks great, what do you grumble about ....... that's what lawns are for, to provide a focus for grumbling.  

Whatever a lawn is doing, it's always doing something wrong 

I'd encourage her to regard the wild garlic as a useful crop and plant alpine strawberries in the shady area where grass will not grow. the spread v rapidly and don't require much attention

Last few years, every summer I get mounds of ant hills appearing all over the lawn, they are tiny ants wih eggs beneath the surface. I've tried hosing out the eggs for the birds and ant killer but no real effect any ideas please?

Praps someone can advise me too? ......have awful lawn on flinty coastal soil. It's bumpy and poor looking. Hardly any money to spare!! Also can anyone suggest where to look at buy instant hedging? Near Brighton, need some privacy! Garden is at front and side. Thanks

Steve 309

Lawns aren't compulsory.  Sounds like a rockery might be more suitable?

I suspect 'instant' and 'cheap' are mutually exclusive as far as hedging plants are concerned.  £2 on a packet of seed and wait 4 yrs, £20 on young plants and wait 2 yrs or £200 on larger plants and wait 1 yr if you're lucky.  The figures will, of course, depend on the length of hedging you need.  Which is....?  And on what sort of hedge you want.

Maybe your local nursery (NOT garden centre) could advise on a local supplier?  Or maybe your local council or other large organisation has over-ordered?

Sorry - this may not be much help


Trees don't like being underplanted, so the usual advice is to leave a bare patch around them anyway. If your neighbour hates that look, then she could cover the ground with an attractive mulch, which will eventually feed the tree anyway if she uses compost or chipped bark; but using pebbles etc would look better than bare earth.

If she's intent on planting underneath the trees and is prepared to keep watering there, then she could try grouping large containers under them (ie too big and heavy for thieves to take) with appropriate planting in them for the shady conditions.

For cheap front garden hedging, I'd recommend buying appropriate bare-rooted roses - good prickly stuff to deter unwanted intruders. Alternatively, make friends with someone with shrubs that need regular cutting down hard and use their prunings as cutting material to grow your own hedge.

The tall coloured stems of dogwood (which needs to be cut right down in early spring every year) will root almost everywhere - encouraged or not - and will grow as lavishly as the parent plant in only a few years. Meantime, they'll darken slowly from their initial bright red or yellow colour.


fairy54, go to a specialist for your hedging.  It is amazing how quickly little sticks grow up.  If you go to a specialist hedge supplier (not a garden centre) you will find the bare-root plants are incredibly cheap.  But be quick the hedge planting season is nearly over.


The gardener2

Hedging. Have you thought of Lonicera nitidia? our £3, 3litre pots (bought from a supplier rather than a garden centre) have grown about 3 ft high and 4 ft wide in 2 years. They can be pruned easily with shears.

Thank you for your suggestions. I will try hedge specialist.

Garden is far too big for rockery! But see where your coming from, thank you.

Stacey Docherty

I'm quite jealous I love wild garlic I have planted a load in the wooded bit of my garden hoping for some pesto this year!


I planted a single pack of allium bulbs in a newly-landscaped garden some 15 years ago. Now they've spread so far that I'm going to have to dig them all up after they've flowered, to keep them out of the vegetable patch I've started nearby....

They're not the same as ramsons - the usual wild garlic beloved of foragers - and I'm not sure if this particular variety is edible.

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