Me and my wife have just moved into our first house together. I
previously lived with my parents, and although they had a large garden,
it was my step dad who always took care of the garden. I'd just do the
odd bit to help out.
But now i have my own garden and own dilemmas. I'm in a bit of a pickle
as to what to do with my garden. It's a bit of a mess and it looks like
the previous owners had stones put down. But the grass and weeds have
grown over the top of these. I haven't discovered wether these were over
the whole garden or just around the edges. there's definetly more around
the edge and uncovered. But the center of the gardens also seems to be
I was wondering if people could help me and give me some advice on what
to do. My parents have given me advice but they haven't actually seen
the garden yet. I have a few pictures so you can get a better idea of
what i mean. Oh also there seems to be some small bush, tree stump and
roots in the center of the right lawn.
First thing I'd do is dig a couple of small holes maybe 15" deep and
do at least a shake test on the soil:
If you've got some pH paper (even pool test strips), I'd also check the
pH of the soil.
It looks like you've got a lot of gravel in that soil, but it could also
be construction debris, particularly if you got the last lot built in an
area. I'd also take a good walk around your area looking for nice yards
and people who are often out digging or grooming or pruning plants and
make friends. What you're looking for are the names of the best local
nurseries, the best garden books for the area, and what their soil looks
like. Also take note of any plants you particularly like and seem to be
growing well, and ask their owners what they are, how old are they, and
have they been easy to grow?
I would also lift some of those pavers and see if there's proper foundation
under them (good) or if they've just been laid on soil (they'll heave over
time). I'd probably also wait till after a good rain or a good watering, and
wander all over the yard with a three foot piece of re-rod, pounding it in
randomly to see what's under the grass. If it goes in fairly easily, you've
got fairly easy conditions to plant in; if it keeps hitting large debris and
rocks, I'd dig some bigger holes to find out what's down there.
Don't forget to call the locator service number and have someone locate
your utilities first before digging. Saves you the surprise of knocking a
hole in the gas line with your rerod, or digging up the neighbor's cable
I'd also spring for a professional soil analysis (sometimes your state
soil lab will do them for a reasonable cost -- if all else fails, I think the
Iowa State soil lab still does out of state testing (drop a note to
soiltest.iastate.edu to check)
With that information, you're going to start thinking about what you want to
do in your yard, how much work you want to make for yourself, how the water
moves in the yard, where you've got shade and where you've got full sun,
what the climate is like and what the pH of your soil is like. And then
read good garden books and extension publications for your area and decide what
you want to do come spring. The general book I'd hand you is this one:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
with orders to read the opening chapters on soil and water at the very
least. The more you understand the basics of how plants grow, and what
their limiting factors are, like soil and water, the easier your job
will be in choosing plants that will grow well, are easy to take care of,
and suit the conditions you offer.
Yes, it's an organic gardening book. It's well written. There's nothing
in it you can really hurt yourself with, so even if you later choose to use,
say, a synthetic fertilizer, you're still on solid ground.
Keep the lawn mowed (it has the look of something that's been allowed to
grow up and then scalped regularly -- that's one of the major ways you get
a really weedy lawn), and if you feel energetic enough, consider digging
down around that stump deeply enough that you can cut it off at ground
level or a bit below. Or consider dropping a bird bath over it. It's just
going to get in the way of about anything you want to do.
Take some photos of the house and start sketching foundation plantings
over the photos... you don't even need to know the names of plants for that...
just shapes and maybe textures.
Me, myself and I, I'd concentrate next spring on putting in some annuals in
places that I think I might like plants permanently -- for instance,
ornamental gourds or scarlet runner beans on the wood fence, instead of
climbing roses or clematis. I'd haul out the lawn furniture and the bbq
and see where it makes sense to put them, and if they tend to stay there
or move to a better spot. I'd lay out lawn areas on the grass with outlines
of flour or gypsum, and try to mow the areas. And I'd stick some easy
veggies in the ground, like a couple of tomato plants, just so you can feel
like you're making progress.
That fall is when I'd really start overhauling the yard and making permanent
Thanks for the reply. I don't want to spend a lot on the garden as it's
a Military house so we could be moving after a few years. I'm thinking
of turfing it and see how that goes, leave a edge around the grass to
grow some shrubs etc.
And we have two parts of the garden. Half is all grass, the other half
is half grass and half paving slabs
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