20 messages
27/12/2013 at 19:04

Hello everyone,

We have just moved in to a dilapidated bungalow with a 160ft garden that has not been touched in approx 20yrs. So I have joined gardeners' world forum and hoping to join the gardening community for some helpful advice and encouragement!

If anyone has some spare time at this busy time of year, we would appreciate some tips on where to start.

Here is a description of our garden:

When we bought the house the first half of the garden was completely overgrown with brambles as high as the house. These were mainly blackberry plants.

The second half of the garden used to be an orchard (so we've been told) but at some point a disgruntled neighbour has come round and cut most of the trees down.

My husband and I are novice gardeners. We are aware this will be a massive project. We are thinking of tackling it in sections. My husband is in process of clearing the brambles/weeds to ground level in first half of garden. However we are unsure how best to proceed after this. How do we clear the roots, I.e. Is there a machine we can use to clear them or is the only way a fork and a lot of hard work digging?

We are then hoping to lay a significant part of this section of the garden to grass for our two young children to run around on.

We really appreciate any advice. It is a very exciting but daunting project....

Thank you for your time.

 

 

 

27/12/2013 at 20:02

Hello Georgina.

Yep, an exciting project.

If you want to put some part of it down to grass decide which part.  Remove everything ....yes, hard digging but it's worth it.  Dig as many roots out as possible then rake it level.  Firm it well by walking it with your heels.  Rake again and firm again until it's nice and even with fine soil surface.  Turf or seed.  Seed in spring, March, is quick and easy.  

Once the lawn is down you can organise the rest of your garden.....bounce ideas around, decide of you want some fruit, veg, shrubs, flowers, etc.  

There will be lots of ideas and encouragement here but getting the grass organised and settled is the priority I think.  Take your time.  Do things as energy levels and time allows

Enjoy your garden

27/12/2013 at 20:43

Hello

I would tackle it bit by bit, if you find anything useful in the garden try to reuse it.

How about a wild flower area with bug houses using piles of wood

you can hire a petrol rotavator to help with the digging - make sure you cover the area after if you are not going to do anything for a bit with weed matting 

http://hire.travisperkins.co.uk/hire/productDetails.asp?levelID=420&i=15&img=8546

Do a PH test on the soil, see what soil structer you have by getting a ball of soil in you hands see if it is clay - holds together really well or sandy falls apart well 

Have you took any photos like to see them?

27/12/2013 at 21:09

Hi Georgina

I'm in a similar situation - new house, overgrown garden, novice .... eeek!

Although it sounds like you have a LOT more to tackle than me - and with two little un's as well .... double eeek!

I cleared brambles first - put up fencing and renovated the rotten shed.  It only cost a few quid to renovate (rather than replace) - so I highly recommend that.  I also bought a second hand greenhouse.

However, it sounds like you and I want different things - eg I plan to remove my one of my lawns.  And I guess everyone wants different things from their gardens, but I just wanted to say, I also set up a 'bug hotel' and started feeding the birds.

My garden is a work in progress (ie a mess) but it's a delight already because of the wildlife.  I'm not just a novice gardener anymore, I'm also a novice twitcher!

And, I believe, if I look after them, they will look after me and help with pests, so it's win win. 

Re your old orchard - why not leave that for now and see what comes in spring?  You never know it could turn out to be a lovely wild flower meadow.

Good luck with it all.

Steph

27/12/2013 at 21:21

Get your lawn in first.  Kids have a soft place to play.  You have a place to sit and survey your garden and plan.  You can remove parts of your lawn later or all of it.  A lawn is often derided these days but most of us love our areas of grass, ESP kids.  

27/12/2013 at 22:32

Definitely get your brambles cut down and rid of. It might be worth not doing anything to see what comes up as you may have a lot of spring bulbs and summr ones too. Turf might be a quicker option than seeding though that depends on your budget. You can trim any shrubs now and see how they turn out. I have a garden as  long as that, but mine had virtually no plants in it so I was fortunate. I agree with Steph about your orchard as my house is built on an orchard and has an apple tree in it as do the neighbours. You could find yourself with some nice and rare fruits for juicing, pies and cakes if you're into that sort of thing.

28/12/2013 at 10:04

I would want to find the neighbour who cut down  the fruit trees,

and shoot him !!!!

Good luck with it, i envy you.

 

28/12/2013 at 11:38

I know it's not very PC, but I'd very carefully , and selectively use Roundup, or another weedkiller based on Glyphosate , to get rid of the brambles ( bindweed, couch grass, ground elder too ). It kills down to the roots eventually and leaves no residue in the soil. I rarely use chemicals in the garden, but sometimes needs must. Watch out for weeds like ground elder or couch grass which, if rotovated, will regrow from every section of chopped up root.

We moved here 2 years ago and we had to tackle dock weeds by the hundred. On heavy clay soil digging them out wasn't really an option as the roots can be over a foot long, so roundup it was. All cleared now and the weedkiller has been banished to the darkest recesses of the garage.

Only use chemicals as instructed on the pack as a last resort, but trying to remove everything manually might not just be " back - breaking " but heart breaking too. Don't give up and think of the achievement you'll feel when it's done.

28/12/2013 at 12:07

But it'll be ages before the brambles and bindweed etc are in active growth and it's no use using weedkillers until then - I'd get started now - cut them down short, burn the topgrowth that you've cut off and then dig out the roots - you can spray anything that you've left behind and starts to grow in a few months time - but you'll have got the worst of it done! 

28/12/2013 at 16:00

As Dove says, if you want to get started asap, I'd choose the bramble infested area and dig as many bramble roots out as you can.  Doing that will also help drainage for the lawn which is important if you want a healthy lawn.  If you then level and lay the lawn on this area, the regular mowing of the grass will weaken and eventually kill and remaining brambles which will appear from the roots you missed (and there will be some!)  Spot-treat any particularly vigorous remnants by painting on a glyphosate-based weedkiller as Hostafan said.

28/12/2013 at 20:47

my fear with the " get stuck in with all guns blazing" approach is that, at this time of year, some nasties like ground elder, bindweed , couch grass might be lurking underground,and by digging, you'll just be storing up problems with regrowth from all those chopped up roots later in the season. I'd wait until growth starts but, by all means, start cutting down the brambles as the young growth can either be dug up or treated at a later date.

29/12/2013 at 09:17

Thank you everyone for your input.

I will try to take a couple of photographs later and post so you can see the garden. 

Our very rough plan is to have a lawn in the first half of the garden and use the second half for growing veg, greenhouse, (and now a 'bug hotel' after stephanieanne mentioned it! ) But it is a huge space, we moved from a house with a courtyard garden,  so it is going to be a working progress and our plans may change! 

So far we have cleared a significant amount of brambles using a petrol strimmer. After this my husband and I differ in opinion, he wants to get in machinery and play whereas I think maybe we need to just put in lots of hard work digging!

I would like to get this done by spring so we can put seed down in march as Verdun mentioned as I don't think our budget will stretch to turf.

I look forward to discussing it with you all as we go along....

Thank you!

 

 

29/12/2013 at 09:32

I think you are right about hard digging Georgina.  Heavy machinery often causes a lot of problems.......soil can be over compacted ESP when damp.  Digging helps you to see your soil, what may be buried there and slows you down enough to understand your plot.  Digging can actually be enjoyable ESP if you take your time. 

29/12/2013 at 10:00
Hostafan1 wrote (see)

my fear with the " get stuck in with all guns blazing" approach is that, at this time of year, some nasties like ground elder, bindweed , couch grass might be lurking underground,and by digging, you'll just be storing up problems with regrowth from all those chopped up roots later in the season. I'd wait until growth starts but, by all means, start cutting down the brambles as the young growth can either be dug up or treated at a later date.

Digging in this case involves not just breaking up the soil but breaking up each clod with the back of the fork and bending down and removing roots - all and any roots, grass roots, ground elder roots, bindweed roots, nettle roots and bramble roots - to the inexperienced these will be unidentifiable roots but they all need removing and burning or disposing of in a brown wheelie bin.  

That's not 'going in with all guns blazing' but proper digging and soil preparation for whatever is coming next.  It will not result in 'chopped up roots' as simply turning the soil over with a spade would do, or churning the surface up with a rotavator which, I agree would, in this case be a recipe for disaster.  

There is no easy way to do this job properly, but it'll be so much easier to do it now when the soil is soft and nothing is growing!  

29/12/2013 at 10:07
Verdun wrote (see)

I think you are right about hard digging Georgina.  Heavy machinery often causes a lot of problems.......soil can be over compacted ESP when damp.  Digging helps you to see your soil, what may be buried there and slows you down enough to understand your plot.  Digging can actually be enjoyable ESP if you take your time. 

And much cheaper than gym membership! 

29/12/2013 at 13:30

Given the amount of rain we've had recently I would not attempt to dig over the ground unless you are on VERY free draining soil.  You can certainly set about cutting back the overgrown areas.  Just pile it all up and allow it to dry out - it will dry slowly even in poor weather, then have a good bonfire.

29/12/2013 at 23:18

Below are some photos of the garden. I have never uploaded photos onto a forum before and For some strange reason they have come out upside down. The first one is view of the whole garden. As you can see we have cleared quite a large section compared to its beginnings. This was brambles as high as the bungalow!

http://s4.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/35400.jpg?width=276&height=350&mode=max

 

30/12/2013 at 00:23

http://s4.gardenersworld.com/uploads/images/original/35402.jpg?width=276&height=350&mode=max

 

Turned it the right way up for you Georgina.   Looks like you have a lot of potential there (and a lot of hard work) but it will all be worth it!

 

30/12/2013 at 07:32

What a fabulous space!   And some mature trees to give the garden structure 

Don't try to tackle it all at once - work out a rough plan then start on one area and concentrate on that - just keeping the rest of the garden 'controlled' - I start nearest the house and get a nice area around the house and shed sorted, then gradually progress, bit by bit towards the far boundary.  It may take you a few years to get it all tamed, if that's what you want - you may prefer to leave some of it semi-wild while the children are young - as long as brambles and nettles are cut back once a year to stop them spreading. 

I spent much of my childhood playing in overgrown woodland - my guess is that there'll be dens and camps in amongst those trees before very long 

30/12/2013 at 13:21

So exciting. Our patch was totally overgrown as well. The brambles were a big problem but we tackle it in areas. Digging, then digging over what we had done until virtually clear.

I agree with Verdun, get your lawn down it will give you some structure

Keep an eye open all the time , you never know what plant gems may have survived.

Buy some good gardening books to guide you and of course use  forums

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