Landscaping a garden is potentially expensive and it can be difficult to get right. However, with some careful planning, there is no reason why you can’t hire some landscaping equipment yourself and transform an overgrown plot into an attractive outdoor space. Here are some useful pointers to help you get going.
Decide what elements you want to include
There are a huge variety of ways to transform a garden, so decide which features will be most important to you. Do you need to create a flat area of lawn for the kids to play? Do you want a nice patio area for dining and socialising? Maybe a sunken seating area or a wildlife pond could be created to add some extra interest.
Think about the location
If you want a sunny patio to relax on in the afternoons, check out the position of the sun on your garden at that time of day. If you want an outdoor cooking area or firepit, decide which is the prevailing wind direction, and build it in a good sheltered spot.
Make some rough sketches
Get a plan down on paper before you begin, to help you envisage a well-proportioned garden that isn’t overwhelmed by any one element, and fits well with the size of the house. It can be a good idea to create a focal point to draw the eye, which could simply be a tree or seat.
The trick is to create a space which feels ‘pulled together’, yet isn’t too repetitive and monotonous. You could contrast linear fencing with curved flower beds, and add different levels of lawn and patio linked by a few steps, for example.
Consider the problems of the plot
If you are starting with a new-build or neglected garden, there are bound to be some problem areas. You may need to remove overgrown trees which are too near the house, or are dead. (Check with the local authority that they are not subject to a protection order first.)
Old tree stumps can be removed with a stump grinder, and branches and other garden waste can be put into a garden shredder. This will make the waste much easier to remove and dispose of, and shredded leaves and weeds can be reused as garden mulch and composting material.
If the plot is completely choked with weeds, it may be necessary to finish the clearance with an application of weedkiller.
Check out the soil
Once the plot has been cleared of unwanted trees and weeds, check out the quality of the soil. Is it sandy and full of pebbles and builders’ debris? Does it drain properly after heavy rainfall? Is it heavily compacted by building machinery? Does it need levelling?
You may not need workable soil on the whole site if you are putting in a lot of paths and patios, but you will still need to think about levelling and drainage. To level out sloping land, you may need to hire a mini excavator. Even if you don’t want a flat lawn, it is a good idea to build in some terraces to stop the topsoil washing away, and for ease of mowing.
Heavily compacted soil will need turning over to improve drainage and plant growth. Digging over hard soil is tough work, so consider hiring a rotavator, which will make the job much quicker and easier. If the loosened soil still looks fine and gritty, it may be worth having a delivery of good quality topsoil to help new plants and turf grow well.
Consider the drainage
If the site takes a long time to drain after rainfall, you may need to install drains. If you are creating a lot of planting areas, a lot of this excess moisture will be soaked up. However, if the space will consist mainly of paved areas, extra drainage provision should be made.
Once you have the site cleared, levelled, and have corrected any issues with the soil and drainage, you can start the building work. Lay out foundations for the paths, patios, and garden structures. Install fences and raised beds, and any electricals that are required. If you are including sunken areas or ponds, dig these out now.
Planting beds and borders
Start with bigger plants such as trees, shrubs and hedges first. Check out the final height and width each plant will achieve in ten years, as you don’t want to end up with overshadowed areas, and smaller specimens being hidden by larger ones. Leave sowing or laying the lawn until last, to avoid unwanted traffic which will damage the new grass.
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