Garden - Summer Project.

3 Jun 2010
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United Kingdom
For some back story my wife and I bought this ex 1930's council house ~9 months ago and spent the summer doing the interior. Now that it is summer (and the inside is finished) i finally get to work on my garden

Being a novice at pretty much everything DIY prior to buying the house - i figured i would post progress as i go - partially to see where i went wrong in a few weeks time and partially because i want to show off the hard work (whatever the outcome).

I'll even through in some before and after shots of the house if i remember.

Now, the garden hadn't been touched for a good 15 years when we bought it - from the house the garden looked like it extended maybe 20feet from the house. It was badly over grown with trees, bushes and sofa's.

Prior to signing on the line i had already been to the council offices / Google and found the boundary so knew full well that a fair sized garden awaited me.

First weekend in the house i decided to see what i had bought (besides the sun was out so i needed an excuses for a BBQ in my new pad). I filled up on beer, got out the chainsaw, hired a petrol strimmer and set to work...

Much larger than i expected - the overgrown "stuff" extended from the fence posts you can see on the left across the garden and then down to the bomb shelter (yes, a bomb shelter) - the above picture was taken ~3 months after "trimming" most of the growth came from bramble and the green bush stumps you can see towards the back.

This is some of the stuff left after being cut - filled ~60% of the garden.

The bomb shelter was quite a surprise - the neighbor had told be that it existed when i went to view the property but i hadn't expected the size of it (roughly 3m by 2m) - just about big enough for a tool shed and a few bikes.

The roof on it leeks badly, the walls let damp in and the door is a new addition so i can store my tools somewhere other than the kitchen floor (wife stopped that little habit once i tiled the floor).

The plan is to cover the roof in Bitumen paint, exterior water sealant on the walls then run electric and possibly a water pipe down to it (reasons explained later).

General plan for the garden is;-

Replace the fencing in the far left (the one being held up by twine and snapped fence posts).
Cut the trees at the end down to a manageable height (~12 feet, picture is taken facing south so that end of the garden gets the sun all day)
decking area to the left of the bomb shelter all the way up to the (new) fence
Pond to the left of the garden this side of the decking (between the white chairs and the bushes)
Remove the above mentioned bushes and replace with more fencing.
Flatten Lawn using the pile of top soil (taken from digging up front driveway) and re-seed.
Use rest of the topsoil to form a veg patch (soil mixed with the ash from the fires - that's good fertilizer right?) veg patch will be where the pile of soil is atm.
Build compost bin next to veg patch.

The decking area will be the BBQ spot - it gets sun all day and the plan is to build a brick BBQ onto the side of the bomb shelter (hence electric lighting and sockets for music).

I'm also wanting to build a castle out of little ferns with a moat on the right hand side - pretty sure that wife has vetoed that idea - but when i get around to it I'll probably sneak it in when she's away for the weekend and hope she doesn't notice.


This weekend will be spend removing the rest of the junk, seeding the lawn, repairing the bomb shelter roof and digging the start of the pond.

Edit - i also have a vixen and four cubs living in my garden.
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as the fence down the left is a mish-mash of odd fences, it's highly likely that it's not yours to mess with ( check the deeds, should say which side is yours.. )..
as such you'll need to get permission from the neighbours ( looks like a few ) to do anything to them..

odds are they won't mind as long as it improves their fences and doesn't cost them anything, but you might get the odd git that takes issue with it..

alternatively you can whack in your own posts inside the boundry and put up your own fence right up against theirs..

as for the bomb shelter, you could clad it with shiplap or similar nailed onto 2x1 uprights screwed and glued on, then use the bitumen to glue a layer of felt on the roof..
how waterproof do you need it exactly?
Wow - this all looks great! Do keep us updated. The bomb shelter is a fantastic original feature and really adds some character - as do the vixens!

You've done the right thing and planned everything in advance (even the sneaky bits you're not telling the wife about!). Good luck, and thanks for sharing!
So... a busy two weeks.

I finally managed to get the 12, 30 year old root balls at the back (left) of the garden out after ~ 3 days and a torn muscle in my arm from swinging the sledge. They unfortunately had to come out as they were above the level that i wanted the decking to be - so root poison and a thick membrane wouldn't have cut it (which was the original plan). They started as a pretty much constant line for ~5m (12 individual bushes all inter wound)

Root balls out i managed to level the back of the garden - dropping the soil level down ~ 13 inches.

Where you can see the remaining bush stumps will be fenced of to provide some extra storage out of sight for the trailer / wheelbarrow and now possibly the compost heap.

The bombs shelter roof is now water tight again - a coat of Bitumen paint did the trick - along with some silicon in the largest cracks (mainly to stop the bitumen dripping through prior to setting). This week will be spent with a stiff brush on the internal walls and bricking up some ventilation holes on each of the walls - then i can run electrics out to it and start hanging tools.

The "veg patch" which so far has been my soil dumping ground has a boundary to it - due to the fact it was slowly growing over the rest of the garden as the foxes played on it over night.

The main holes in the lawn have been filled with finely sieved topsoil - luckily the grass under the new dirt is growing through so no need to re-seed those bits - and i now have a flat lawn again. Two patches to be seeded at in front of the bomb shelter where the bushes had previously blocked out the light, and next to the house where i had my pile of wood - and subsequent fire.

The fences will be done next, concrete posts to replace the now rotten wooden ones - I'm on good terms with the neighbors and they are happy enough to pay for half as I'm doing all the work. Although they have asked for a bit of warning so they can lock their German Shepard inside so he doesn't maul me (nice of them).

Sourcing the decking at the moment - plan is to dig 3 trenches to act as the foundations and sit the wood on top of that - using the last trench at the back to hold up the rear fence also. Anyone have any good tips or tricks for building decking?

Garden is now (nicely) up to a level that doesn't "need" work to be used as a BBQ venue which is nice.

Apologies for the crap photo quality, was getting late last night by the time i got dragged inside again by the wife.
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I wouldn't brick up the ventilation holes, they're likely there for a reason and should help keep the damp out

that looks a long way for the lecy to run.. you're going to need a 600mm deep trench for the wires so it might be worth doing that while you're in a digging mood and before you get the lawn all nice and perfect.
no way to get a minidigger in I suppose? take out a panel and drive it up the neighbours drive?
Not possible for the digger unfortunately, the side path is ~9 inches to narrow and all the neighbors are the same. So i would have to bring it across 6 gardens to get it into my place....

The trench will be Farly easy to dig, the ground is pretty loose, i have some Armour cable and very thick plastic (PVC?) 5cm tubes scrounged from work to give it some added protection (they are also bright red).

Trench will go under / next to the bushes which i have only just filled with dirt (it had previously sloped down ~8 inches into the bush at the end of the lawn) so i won't disturb the grass.

The ventilation holes are i assume just to let air in if you are locked inside it (during the blitz) - not really needed now - tempting to replace one with an air brick instead mind - as you say just to hemp keep the damp out. The holes themselves are 2 bricks wide at the top middle of each wall (apart from where the door is).
So... Garden now looks worse than when i started.

I decided (in my wisdom) that the lawn was past salvaging. It had been overgrown for ~20 years and had several large bushes covering most of it for that time. It wasn't a lawn, more a collection of grass plants separated by a few inches of dirt. So i started to dig it up and re sow it.

This is when the fun started. An inch or so under the lawn i have found all sorts of "stuff" mainly broken glass bottles but also action figures, old clothes, a few hundred marbles and old coins.

So it has taken me two weeks to clean out and break down the first ~10 feet of lawn, with the intent of doing about half the lawn (up to the dug up bit in the middle). I have so far filled 3 buckets with broken glass, roughly 15 wheel barrows with rubble and a wheelie bin with rubbish.

Still glad i started, as now i can get a flat lawn (it was horribly rutted with random ditches running across it - hardly ideal for back yard cricket).

Next step is to finish digging it up and clearing crap, break it all up and mix in some fertilizer then sow the new lawn ~ September.

Due to making slow progress on the lawn i decided to spend a day on the bomb shelter (you may have noticed it has changed colour to sky blue).

The inside has had a clean out, the holes have been bricked up, shelving installed (some left over ply + spare radiator brackets), and hooks on the wall for ladders + tools.

Now has standing space, and somewhere to store tools that doesn't stop the wife from reaching the hoover ;)

Bb do not be in a hurry to seed a lawn on old ground. By all means turn it over and correctly fertilize. Then wait until you see what comes up. Some old grasses may show up that are not compatible with the growing characteristics of your new grass. When any grass appears you'll be best to kill it. Being patient with new seeded lawns and you'll get what you want.

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