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I have bought a house with a 30 x 60 m menage.  It is well drained and has about 10 inches of fine bark on the surface which is well drained but moisture retentive.  I want to develop into beds and borders for wildlife.  Would this be suitable for plants to grow in or has anyone any suggestions. Help!!


are weeds growing in it or has it been used til lately? If weeds grow other plants will.

I'd suggest it may be quite compacted if it's been used for a menage (horse exercise area, yes?).  Not too much of a problem in itself, but it will need a fair amount of digging & incorporation of manure.  


You could rotovate the bark into the subsoil.(Hire a big rotavator if necessary). That will probably make it quite acid. Test with a pH meter before you plant anything. The bark will be deficient in nutrients so a good dressing with fertiliser will be needed. You could scrape or rake off any lumpy bark before you start to use as mulch around newly planted plants or shrubs.


It may have foundations or a membrane underneath, if it's been made properly. They can be very expensive to make. There may not be topsoil underneath. There may be hardcore even. Have you dug down? The bark alone will not be suitable for most plants. I have horses and I can't help feeling it's a shame to get rid of something that most riders would give an arm and a leg for. I am also a keen gardener.

Also the correct name is manege. It is a French word and menage means "housework", not an arena! They constantly get it wrong on programmes like "Escape to the Country". A real manege should be a covered arena.



I wrote an answer to this but it didn't appear, someone said to enter by hot threads so trying that.

Although I am a keen gardener I am also a rider and I feel it is a shame to get rid of an arena which a horsey person would give an arm and a leg for. They can add value to a house and, if made properly, can be very expensive to install.  If it is just bark on soil it may be possible, but it will be acid and lacking in nutrients as fidgetbones has said.

If made properly there will be foundations and possibly a membrane. Have you dug under the bark? If that is the case, it will be difficult to make it into a garden without some heavy machinery.

By the way it is a Manege not Menage. It is a French word and menage in French means "housework". A "manege" in French is a covered arena. Programmes like "Escape to the Country" get it wrong all the time. Strictly speaking it is not either as it's not covered, it is an arena or a school (for horses!). Sand ones are "sand schools".


How strange! Now I've posted the second answer the first one has appeared!

Thanks for all your replies.  It is a shame as I was told it cost about £20,000 but I have turned the idea over for a year now and I do not have horses and have decided it is the best for our use.  The bark is about 12" deep and there is gravel under this but the bark is quite decomposed and soil like in structure.  There have been weeds galore growing in it and it is a mamoth task hand weeding it as I don't want to use chemicals.  My idea is to have close planting to supress weeds although I do have the dreaded mares tail.  I have found tramping on it and spraying with neat vinegar knocks the top growth back within 24 hours.


The only way to kill mare's tail is by using weedkiller like glyphosate several times. It's roots are very deep and it will come back. Bruising it first by tramping will help. Vinegar will only make it more acid and harder to grow things in.

I have found that if you press Ctrl and F5 the latest answers will appear.


Yes, I would glyphosate mares tail, after trampling on it.

 Make sure it is all gone before replanting.


I'd kill for that arena! But if you really want to garden on it, why not put polytunnels on there. That would be my second best choice, as I would love to be able to have somewhere for plants to come on, and to start selling some, eventually. And I could garden all yr! (We can dream!)

However, if weeds are growing, you should be able to turn it into a wildlife 'meadow'. If £20,000 was spent, there SHOULD be a membrane, hardcore and drainage in there, as Busy Lizzie says. Could cosr half as much again to get rid of it.

Do you have stables nearby? You could rent it out to riders who have no arena.

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