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Renting a new build - soil terrible!

I have rented a new build for about six months and am slowly creating a little garden. The soil is terrible. Stones, weeds, nails, bits of wire, clumps of clay, patches of sand, bricks, plastic. All sorts of rubbish. I cannot even turn the soil half a fork depth without banging into a big rock.

I have potted up a lot of plants, and the patio looks great, but I wonder what I should do about the borders. I started digging and sifting. A couple of square metres work produced two rubble bags of rubbish and aching legs for a week!

I was thinking of putting black membrane, pebbles on the borders and standing pots and tubs on them. I can then take everything with me when I go.

Is it worth the effort for a rental? I plan to stay at least three years.


  • stormywaters
    I have the same problem. My house is 12 years old, and the actual soil is not much more than a fork deep when I hit stone and clay. And the weeds! Don't get me started! The last owners, and both my neighbours have tonnes of ivy, and it's like digging through really tough spaghetti. I'm working on it, but it's not easy. In the meantime, I'm growing veg and flowers in pots, just to keep the place looking nice, but this coming spring, I'm going to do another dig, and get some good compost in there to see if I can start to grow stuff in that.

    Good luck!
    Savings goal: £1000 by December 2011
  • tim_n
    tim_n Posts: 1,607 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Hi Nancy

    The cheapest option is indeed to spend the time digging and shifting. Once it's done, it never needs doing again though you'll still have to do the envitable weeding!

    Your idea of covering with fabric and stones is fine if you're really sure you'll bother to move the stones. There is a 3rd option similar to what I'm doing tomorrow to make my own allotment in my back garden. My objective is to create a low maintenance area to grow food, so a little different to what you're doing.

    Therefore tomorrow I will be building a full set of raised beds on top of an area of grassland and weeds. The soil is OK but clay and drains poorly.

    I'm using weedkiller to kill off the grass underneath then putting a layer of 100gsm geotextile fabric - it's like a thick plastic mesh weave which is more industrial than the usual stuff you get in garden centers. For your project I'd use similar stuff - the cheap stuff just doesn't really do the job very well and it'll only last through the first summer before it degrades.

    My boxes will then go on top - they'll be totally unsecured so just dumped on the mesh.

    I bought the wood for the boxes from a classified ad on ebay. Each plank is basically a scaffold board, new and cost about £9.50 each (due to a bulk order, usually £10 each) and are tanalised. If you only need them for three years, you can use untanalised which are about £9 each, but don't expect more than 3-4 years out of them. They're 3.9m long, and I'm double stacking them, the width being 1.2m wide, about .45m tall. Effectively they contain 2m cubed of soil/compost.

    Each box, roughly speaking works out at £100.

    You might not want them as deep as mine, in which case you can probably halve that cost. So £50

    Stones _may_ cost the same, but you'll have more growing space.

    If you want to look at what I'm doing over the next few days, you can tune into www.waark.com where I'll be doing (hopefully live and regular) updates daily.
  • Mrs_Imp
    Mrs_Imp Posts: 1,001 Forumite
    I've seen new builds go up (I work in construction) and I'm not surprised to be honest. On one site they ground down the remains of the former smelting works and used that as their hardcore. I wouldn't have wanted to grow anything edible in that soil, due to the risk of heavy metal contamination!

    I'd grown things in pots if you think you're going to be moving any time soon.
  • tim_n
    tim_n Posts: 1,607 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Was the site your house was situated on an old brownfield site? If it's on an old plot where a house used to be, I wouldn't worry too much.

    Occasionally some of the big retailers sell decking dead cheap and you can build raised beds out of that.
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