It’s so easy to keep putting off big projects. Blame the weather, or the kids, or a busy week at work. But one weekend spent putting in the graft can revolutionise your garden. Think of that feature you’ve always wanted: the pond, gazebo, or rockery. Here’s how to finally build the big new garden feature you dream of having. Start planning now and you’ll be ready when the weather improves.
Put in a new border
We all welcome extra space to grow flowers. Starting a border from scratch might seem daunting, but there are some simple rules to make it seamless.
First, mark out your shape – it’s important to get this right first time. Use a hosepipe to create the outline and check the shape is smooth and balanced from an upstairs window looking down at your garden.
Remove the grass with a spade by digging straight down several inches and peeling back the turf. You can use the spare sods to repair any gaps in the lawn.
If you don’t want to dig out the grass, you can smother the area with thick layers of newspaper. If you do this in early spring, it will be ready for planting in autumn.
Dig over the soil and add plenty of organic matter like well-rotted manure to bulk it up. Now you’re ready to plant it.
What you grow in your new border is entirely up to you, but here are a few tips. Check that the plants are happy in your soil and sunlight levels before you buy them. Give each plant space to grow into, so it doesn’t smother its neighbours. And plant some evergreen or woody structures that will look good in winter, otherwise your border will look barren once summer is over.
Build a rockery
Rock gardens are brilliant features and so low maintenance. Most of the plants are alpines, ground cover and dwarf varieties, so they are cheap and easy to control.
Mark out your space as with the flower bed, but don’t dig in any organic matter. If you have heavy soil, dig in some sand to loosen it.
Next you need some rocks – check out your local garden centre or builder’s merchant.
Go for the biggest rocks you can handle, rather than lots of little ones that can look too busy. Dig in the rocks using a spade so they are partly buried.
Now you’re ready to add plants. Create height and structure with dwarf shrubs like conifers and heathers, or grasses like sedge. Then add alpines like sedums and saxifrage and creepers such as thyme and aubrietia.
Cover the soil with fine gravel to help drainage and stop weeds growing, and your rockery is complete.
Install a summer gazebo
A permanent garden gazebo is a great escape from the house, and a perfect spot for relaxing and reading.
First, you need to choose the right spot. Aim for a place that receives plenty of sunlight and has level ground. Measure the space before buying anything – we’ve all been caught out by that…
Next you need to choose a gazebo. If you can afford it, I’d recommend a softwood timber structure.
The wooden kits contain a base, roof, side panels and even glass windows that can be assembled and left up all year round.
Alternatively, there are cheaper pop-up metal gazebos with fabric covering, which have no base and often need disassembling in bad weather.
Kit it out with comfy seating and decorations or embellishments you like, from bunting and fairy lights to insect hotels mounted onto the walls.
Add a pond
If you have space for a pond with fish, this is a great project to get stuck into. However, even smaller gardens can have a wildlife pond to give our garden friends a helping hand. Choose a fairly shady spot but not underneath a tree, or you’ll be forever fishing out leaves.
You can build up with bricks or dig down. For a raised pond, level off the base and build brick walls.
For excavated ponds, mark out the shape with a hosepipe and dig out the soil. You can also buy ready-moulded plastic ponds that will dictate the size, shape, and depth.
Alternatively, create your own shape and make sure to add steps for different levels on larger ponds – varying the depth helps plants grow and supports fish.
Line the pond with cushioning material like old carpet then add a strong pond liner. Pin it in at the edges with heavy paving slabs. Gradually fill with water, allowing it to settle and checking for leaks.
Plant a tree
A new tree has a dramatic impact in the garden, from adding height, shade, and structure to providing autumn colour and attracting wildlife.
Even small gardens can have trees – acers, sorbus and amelanchier are all brilliant. And it doesn’t have to be ornamental – fruit trees are gorgeous and productive.
Make sure you choose a tree that will fit in your garden – check its full-size measurements rather than just the current height and spread.
Any one of these projects and garden features will transform your space and give you a real sense of achievement.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
I feel that it’s important for people, like myself, that are new to the gardening world to know the difference between a raised pond and an excavated pond. Also, I like that you mentioned cushioning the material like old carpet followed by a strong pond liner. I can imagine that it would make a world of difference to use the correct items for a man-made pond.
Having a water feature in your garden can really make it aesthetically pleasing. The fish are a delight to watch and to feed. The few water plants that grow in this shaded spot are lovely to look at, and the sound of water flowing into the pond is soothing. That’s why you can never go wrong with ponds! Anyways, there are several types of ponds you might want to build for your garden, and one of them is the mini pond. It’s a kind of pond that uses a tub with water and plants growing in it. They’re ideal for those that don’t have much space for an average size pond. If you can’t afford to have the normal sized pond in your backyard due to space constraint, then this mini pond is perfect for you!