The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

By Samjp

Staffordshire, West Midlands, United Kingdom Gb

Hi all I'm new around here (and to gardening). I've been lurking around for a while now getting to know the site a bit better and soaking up information like a sponge. Thought it was about time I said hi.

As I said I'm very new to gardening, always had a love of flowers and plants but never really spent much time in the garden. Anyway to cut a long story short I finally got tired with the mess that is the garden and decided to do something about it. Complicated point though, I'm currently working on 3 gardens. One is my parents back garden (where I'm currently living) the other two are the gardens at my boyfriends (who I'm considering moving in with). My parents have no interest in the garden so I've unofficially taken over. My boyfriend apparently has no interest, but I'm working on him :D. I have masses of questions and hope I don't drive you all insane - promise I'll research first.

My first question relates to soil. I think the soil at home is quite light. Its quite compacted at the moment since it hasn't been touched in ages, but when I dug the one small section over it broke apart very easily. The ground always seems to dry quite quickly after heavy rainfall as well. From all my reasearch I had been considering digging the beds over and incorporating some compost (which apparently I can get from my local tip). The only thing is we have 3 large trees (shrubs?) across the two borders which make digging quite a task. What do you suggest I do? Should I dig the whole area and incorporate compost, or should I just mulch with compost, or something else entirely?? Any tips and tricks would be much appreciated.



it would help to know the size of the beds in relation to the trees/shrubs, and also what the said trees are. Could you post photos please, including a closeup of a spray of the tree leaves for identification.leaves.

As your ground is well drained it will need lots of compost adding as you say. Compost is usually dug in before planting and a mulch is usually added around existing plants. If your beds are full of tree roots and very dry there will be lots of plants that won't do well, so you will need to choose carefully - lots of advice on here when you are ready. Whether you can dig through the roots without damaging their owners depends on how big and robust the trees are, so we do need photos and more info.

22 Jun, 2011


Firstly, welcome to GoY, Samjp.

Next, have you any idea whether your soil is acid or alkaline? It might be an idea to get a soil testing kit, which are very cheap , at your local Garden Centre. Then you'll know what you're dealing with.

It's better to get the compost mixed in with your soil if you want to start planting. If it were autumn or winter, I'd say leave it on top of the existing soil until the spring, and let the worms do the job - but at this time of year - dig it in.

Are the roots of the shrubs causing you trouble with digging - I wasn't sure from what you said if they were the problem. What are they - do you know? Are they part of your overall plan?

22 Jun, 2011


welcome to goy - I'm no expert but there are plenty of experienced people on here, but I always believe in working as much compost as possible and mulch - you can never add to much. The better quality soil the better quality plants. Soil prep is soooo important.

22 Jun, 2011


Hello and welcome to the GOY, i would certainly give it a good dig over and work in some good organic compost, make sure you dig out all the weeds, as you go keep a check for any bulbs etc, the three large shrubs you mention, have you any idea what these are, as more than likely you can adopt renovation pruning on these and reduce the size of each one, have you any ideas of what you would like to plant in this border, do you want to keep it has a shrubbery, what about an herbacious border perhaps, or maybe a mixed border ? would it be possible to post some pictures so we get an idea of the aspect and of the existing shrubs, i f you have no bulbs in the border then with next spring in mind you could plant various bulbs which will be in the garden centres Aug/sept/ oct and in the meantime create a lovely shrubbery, but like i say the aspect/situation is important along with the overhang of the large trees, which may need some attention.

22 Jun, 2011


Yes and welcome for me to.

Yes first and formost is keeping digging out these weeds before any planting .

This will reward you in time.

You will still get small seedling wees which are easy to pull out.

But first keep enjoying dont overdo as it will become a chore and not a delightful pleasure.

If you need cuttings I am sure many of us will be happy to oblige.

23 Jun, 2011


Any humus rich material would be a good addition - works really well on thin light soils and, paradoxically, works just as well on heavy, clay soils. If you have areas where you're not going to plant because the soil beneath is chock full of large and small roots from the shrubs and its impossible to dig anyway, just lay the material on top of the ground - it'll work its way in eventually. Dig into the areas where you can. Humus rich materials include the garden compost you mention, plus things like well composted manures, leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, soil conditioning compost from the garden centre, plus home made garden compost.

23 Jun, 2011


Thanks for all the comments. I'll try to answer all queries.

Photos - I have a couple of pictures, but they aren't brilliant, the weather hasn't been co-operating too well at the moment, always seems to rain when I get home from work. Once I have some better images that you can actually tell what things are I'll post them (may be a week or so though as I'm working litterally the next couple weekends).

Beds, we currently have two beds, one on the left, one on the right. Not too sure whether the garden is north or south facing (having a bit of a blonde moment), but the right hand bed tends to get full sun almost all day. It is a little shaded first thing in the morning, before the sun rises over the house/fence. The right hand bed doesn't get sun until later in the day (probably a little after lunch at this time of year). The end closest to the house gets no direct sun at all as the sun drops behind the orange blossom and the apple tree. Neither bed is very big, we purposely kept them quite narrow (roughly foot - foot and a half deep at the narrowest point). Length wise I'd guess the right hand bed to be 6 foot - 7foot (ish) with the left hand bed being closer to 10foot long. The beds aren't straight edges but have been designed to come out into semi-circular shapes at each end and around the larger bushes.

Trees/Shrubs mentioned before. We have two lilacs (one in each bed), very old (were there when we moved in 20 years ago) about 7foot high. They have progressed into more of a traditional tree shape than a shrub, with all leaves etc toward the top of the tree. The third tree/shrub is an orange blossom, again was there when we moved in. I'd guess it to be around 10foot high probably more. Again is in more of a tree shape with leaves higher off the ground. Yes the roots are giving me issues, particularly around the orange blossom. I haven't attempted to dig it recently but remember from previous years having issues. I have no plans to remove them (may tidy them up a little) as they are beautiful plants.

Ph - Absolutely no idea, I've been trying to work it out based on the plants we have, but so far that hasn't helped. I can tell you we do have lilacs, orange blossom, bluebells (which we have masses of) a rose of sharron (I think), Forsythia (I think), Monbretia, Poppy and forget-me-nots in the garden. There are a couple of other things, but honestly its a little bare at the moment. I have been looking into ph testing kits, but haven't made it to the garden centre yet.

Plans for the border. As I mentioned before the orange blossom and lilacs I want to keep. There are a few smaller existing plants (including a couple very straggly heathers - they may go) but very little in there. We do have a lot of bluebells come up in spring and should have daffodills and tulips but we only saw two of each this year. I would like to bring year round interest in the border through mixed planting (most likley). I need to keep it fairly low maintenance as I'm not here that often and my parents have no interest (other than seeing it look nice). I may extend the one border, since the bluebells keep comming up and killing the grass, but I haven't decided yet.

If I'm reading the comments right it sounds like I'd be best to dig the borders as much as I can, incorporating compost, then where I can't dig it add some compost as a mulch.

Thank you so much for your comments and help, it is really very much appreciated. This seems like a really great place to be.

23 Jun, 2011


One query - you mention first that the right hand bed is in sun most of the day, and then say the right hand bed doesn't get sun till the afternoon, so presumably you've got your right and left mixed up.
As for the Ph, just have a look round at other people's gardens in the area - if they're growing Pieris, Camellia, Rhododendron, Azalea successfully in the ground, then the soil will be on the acid side of neutral. If you spot a patchily pinky lilacy flowered hydrangea rather than a properly blue one, then its probably close to neutral, but slightly on the alkaline side.

25 Jun, 2011


Ooops sorry, you'd think I'd know left from right by now wouldn't you. What I should have said is the right border gets full sun pretty much all day, the left border is more shaded.

Bamboo, thanks for the tip I'll start peering round for the azaleas etc. I'm pretty sure we used to have a hydrangea in the front garden, had big round clumps of flowers. Think it had blue flowers on it, but wouldn't swear to it. Its been gone about 5 years.

27 Jun, 2011


If the roots round the orange blossom make digging difficult you could try planting perennial geraniums under it.(a fairly tough variety, not one of the delicate ones) Some prefer shade and some will grow in sun so choose carefully. Send a pm to Spritzhenry for advice on variety! They will spread out sideways in the summer, and you can have bulbs between them for the spring.Euonymus fortunii would give you variegated evergreen cover in that position too and can be clipped to keep it the size you want. With planting like that you wouldn't need to dig the whole rooty area - you could plant first and then mulch round the plants afterwards. If the ground is very dry a useful tip is to put a few gel crystals in the planting hole and mixed with the backfill soil - it can make the difference between success and failure.

1 Jul, 2011


Ohh thanks for the tip, I'll keep that in mind. Hardy Geraniums, hmm sounds great. We do have a Euonymous further up that same border, but is being a little bit strangled at the moment by another plant (whose name is currently escaping me). Could be worth putting another one in closer to the orange blossome then.

4 Jul, 2011

How do I say thanks?

Answer question


Not found an answer?