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Hi There

I honestly have no idea where to start with a garden.  Essentially it just looks straggly (is that a word) and not somewhere as a family we would want to spend time.  I am very keen to learn but do not even know where to start.  I have uploaded a picture which is a bit of a compilation


of different sections of the garden.  Can someone give me a starter or a point of resource please.  I feel a little overwhelmed with it all.  The pile of rubbish on the last pic is the weeds that I dug up last year - also there is a fallen tree in the garden



Hi G,

What a great blank canvas you have and a fantastic opportunity to create something very special!

I started a brand new garden four years ago and I mention this as it was very similar to yours but I did have an idea of what I wanted to create. I wanted to create a space that was wildlife friendly but also catered for all the family including my (now) 6yr old daughter. I also wanted to use recycled or reclaimed materials as much as I could within the garden.

This makes me think that before you do anything you need to decide what you actually want out of the garden and who is going to use it?

So what function(s) does the garden have to cater for? Wildlife, Children, an outside party space, growing vegetables etc etc??

Sounds like a lot to decide but this will be key to how you start and continue to develop the garden. It also is a decision that needs to be made prior to any work in my opinion.

Once you have decided what you want the garden to do get a piece of paper and a pencil and sketch what you want in the garden and where you think it should go. If unsure of planting certain plants then post questions on here as someone will be able to advise as you go along. It's also of interest to other gardeners to see a project develop from scratch.

I am no expert by any means but I have been keeping a blog diary of my garden as I've developed it over the last four years (link below) You are welcome to have a look and see if anything is of interest or gives you ideas for your own plot. If you go into the Archived posts on the right hand side you can see how the garden looked prior to starting, which I think you will agree is in a similar condition to your patch! Some of the projects have also been posted up in a step by step guide with photographs that might also help you to see how certain projects and themes can be practically implemented?

There are many very good blogs on line and by members on here so ask about or search google as they can be a good source of information and ideas of what others are doing.

If anything is of interest on mine please feel free to drop me a personal message either on here or via my blog and I'd be more than happy to help further if I can.

So in conclusion, I suggest decide what the garden needs to deliver for you and your family. Do some research to help and then get a plan down on paper. If you want the garden to deliver several different uses you can always divide it up into different areas if you want, or develop as one whole area, the world is your oyster as they say!.. Oh and keep asking questions as there's many people willing to help where they can!

I watch with interest to see what you decide and how the garden develops!..



flowering rose

first ,pen to paper and try all sorts of shapes of paths and borders.Decide what type of garden you want ,plain and simple or more .Have a good seed catalogue book to look for plants you might like and suit your size garden .Then out and tidy that garden up ,clear rubbish, brush paths, helps to get you thinking right. If the weather to bad wait to dig those borders and place that path and don't forget that patio .Grass gives a fresh look  and flowers something to capture the Eye. keep it simple and don't plant anything too big for the garden you might regret but most of all get out and enjoy the garden what ever you do! good luck.

Good advice so far.   How about drawing a figure of eight to immediately give shape to the garden?   If there is flat ground in a sunny spot, that will be ideal for your bench and tables.   Plant a pretty tree, e.g. Amelanchier where you can see it from the house, and underplant with evergreens and long-flowering perennials.   Good luck!


 Hi Gulliver, welcome.

You'll probably want to do something about that pond. It's never going to fit in with anything stuck out there and you won't get the frogs/toads/newts in a raised pond. There may be insect (eg dragonfly/water beetle) larvae in there though so rescue them to a place of safety if you dismantle their home.

The fallen tree could be sawn up to make a woodpile for all sorts of exciting things to live in



Firstly I would try to have an idea of what sort of garden you want.

Do you have kids? If so do they need an area to play in?

Find the orientation of the garden.

Do a soil ph test.

Then section the garden in a plan, and take it one step at a time doing your clearance first ,getting rid of the fallen tree and anything you dont want in the garden first.

If you do it stage by stage, it becomes a lot easier, as results soon appear and give you encouragement to continue to the next stage.


My favourite piece of advice to new gardeners is to go and visit as many gardens as you can - take a camera, photograph all the 'scenes' 'patches' 'plots' that you like and come home and see if you could adapt some of them to fit into the space you've got and your lifestyle - decide whether you like Cottage style, or something more formal - do you want borders around the edges and grass in the middle, or would meandering paths  amidst island beds of herbaceous perennials be more your style.  

There's no real need to go out in the horrid weather that we've got now, so maybe look online, in magazines and in books - visit the public library - they've usually got loads of books on garden design and decide what you do want and more importantly, what you don't want 

I had to start mine 13yrs ago, still not finished as it takes time and money.  I used the library and internet for inspiration.  I also sat in my garden and just looked to see what I could do with it, as I have four different sections.  You can get a lot out of just sitting and trying to imagine what you want and what would look great where.  To save money buy seeds from Ebay and try and grow your own,  take cutting from friends and family's plants.  Good luck with what you are going to do, but the main thing is look at it as a joy of something to come, not as a chore.  I never liked gardening before I did mine, now cannot get enough, helps with stress and you can watch it develop as you go, do not be in a hurry.


Susan's post reminds me. We swap seeds on the forum. Don't worry if you've nothing to swap, an SAE will be OK. Not a lot going on at the moment though.


Thanks nutcutlet, I didn't know that! Where on the forum is the seed swap?

I have a load of packets of seed that might be of use to someone - Maybe of use to you Gulliver to help get you started?? (once you decide what you want to grow or even to experiment with in the first instance?)



Wow lots of great advice on here - and typical British weather it is throwing it down with rain already. I think it is like anything I just need to start doing something rather than seeing it as an overwhelming task.  I think I will take the opportunity of rubbish weather to make a start on planning out what I would like.

I love the idea of wildlife although my 12 year old cat might not be as keen on things inhabiting his garden - he likes to look at the flowers


Hi Gulliver, there's been loads of great advice posted on here but I thought I'd add my two cents (as another newbie who's just planned - but not implemented yet - two gardens).

I started out by drawing up a list of what I needed from the garden and what I wanted (essentials and none essentials).  I then spent heavens knows how many hours trawling the net looking at garden designs ( is a great resource for designs).  Anything I liked I saved in a folder on the pc - don't think about it too much at this stage.  I then went back and examined each saved image deciding what I liked and disliked about it.  Some pictures I then decided I didn't like very much so I deleted them.  This helped me to identify what styles of gardens I liked the best and also to pick out some really great ideas.  From there I started designing my own.  I used google sketchup as I have two awkwardly shaped gardens and most of the freebie garden design programmes don't really cope with funny shaped gardens.  Pen and paper works well if you can draw at all - I'm hopeless though, much better with the computer lol.

One of the things you will need to bear in mind is what areas of the garden get the sun/shade and whether you need to build in shelter from strong winds (I live on quite an exposed site) or shelter from the sun.  When it comes to choosing plants you will need the sun information, along with what your soil is like (i.e. sandy, loam or clay) and what pH it is to help you pick plants which will thrive.

Have fun with it.  I find its best to think of it as a work in progress.  Even though I've come up with a design I like I'm still open to new ideas and once its started the only things which I wont alter (for a long time at least) are the patio's and paths we've already laid. 

In addition to all that I've got some information in word (taken from places like BBC - Alan Tichmarsh has a good guide on the BBC website, Gardeners World website and tv programmes) which I've looked at numerous times.  I'd be happy to send you my collected information if you'd like it (bearing in mind its not my own work - pretty sure I've put links or references on the documents as reminders for me).


You are going to have a lot of fun!  Great advice already on this thread so I won't add too much more (you'll drown!).   All I'd add is to do it bit by bit - you won't crack it all at once.  When we took on our new big garden as complete novices, we had a vague overall plan but we decided that each year we would have one bit that we'd 'develop'  (that is, reclaim it from jungle!); one bit that we'd 'maintain' (just keep tidy - usually the bit we'd 'developed' the previous year); and everything else we'd pretty much ignore until the following year.  It meant that there was always at least one part of the garden that we were really proud of and excited about!

By the way, how long have you been in your place?  if you've just moved in then it is a really good idea to do as little as possible for  year, so that you find out what you've got / see what comes up.... because most of your lovely plants will be hidden underground right now.

Have fun and let us know how you get on!




Hi All

I am still feeling overwhelmed lol but I do know what kind of garden I want.  It wants to be a nice place for us to sit out in Summer.  

I have been in the house about 3 years but still no idea what happens in it lol.

I know there are a few problem plants with the accursed ivy and I would like to address that as the neighbours complain when it goes into their garden.

Also the paths are a bit overgrown so maybe they need addressing first as well AGGGHHHH where to start



Start by getting out there on the next nice day (today?) and removing some ivy. Don't overface yourself. Start where it goes through to the neighbours if that's a likely source of problem. 


Hello Gulliver, You could make a list of small projects, e.g.

1.Clear left side of ivy

2.Use old knife/trowel to clear weeds around path, or use weedkiller......

make sure that each project only takes 2 or 3 hours, leaving you time to clear up afterwards. Bag up the weeds and take them to your local Council Dump. In future you could compost the annual weeds before they set seed, but you cannot do that with perennials. For large garden projects break them down into small jobs.

Don't forget to tick each one off as it is achieved


Hi Gulliver, I've come across some old video's on You Tube which may be of interest to you.  Alan Titchmarsh did a tv show about 10 years ago (ish) called how to be a gardener.  There's two maybe three series available on You Tube.  About 8 episodes each, half an hour long per episode.  The first series goes into the basics of gardening (know your plot) and he plants a really fabulous annual border as well as a perennial and mixed borders.  The second series is more about the design of different style and size gardens (although he touches on planting plans and design in the first series as well).  If nothing else I'm finding them highly motivational.  Can't wait to do my garden now lol

Hi SamJP

Oh they sound perfect I am deffinitely going to check those out they sound a great place to start.  Thank you