Category Archives: Garden Construction

How to do Garden Turfing for an English Country Garden

English Country Garden 1.If you wish to build an English country garden then you almost always will have a lawn making up at least part of it and hopefully by using the perfect garden turf…

Garden turfing (for garden construction) is best done in the spring or in the autumn. Weather conditions are also very relevant for this type of work. Preparation on a wet day can be difficult (sometimes impossible) with successful turfing also dependent on the soil type i.e. heavy clay soil or light sandy.

For Small Lawns

Remove the existing grass/weeds with a sharp spade or mattock and dispose of. Next use a fork or spade to dig the ground to a maximum of 4 inches depth (10 cm) – very important! An even, shallow depth is the goal – not uneven deep pockets of ground which will sink later on and cause depressions in the lawn.

When all dug, use a good metal rake to refine and grade the ground, pushing back and forth with the rake sifting out the debris and breaking up the soil clumps. Work methodically, starting in the corner, working across the area in (say) 1 m wide strips, making sure that the debris is cleared into small piles and then cleared away using your builders bucket and shovel.

When raked and cleared, tread the entire area with the heels to concentrate the weight, again in a methodical way, with attention to detail.

Repeat these steps at least twice more. The final rake-out should leave a fine even tilth good enough for seeding ideally, but, as always, this will be dependent on the weather!

In between raking, hollows and bumps can be addressed – shaving away the rises and filling-in the hollows as you see them. A good eye is an asset for this task but if it is a flat lawn, then stretching a brick line across the site will certainly help.

In wet weather conditions (as already stated) work is best delayed. There can be situations where the project has to go ahead, in cases such as these a bulk bag of course sharp sand from the local builders merchant will be a life-saver. This sand should be spread over the dug area, where raking/treading will be possible (although still difficult), this will stop the soil from clogging and rolling into lumps.

Please Note: the sand needs to be raked in and not simply spread over the top as a screed.

For Large Lawns

You will need to borrow/hire a self-propelled rotovator, preferably with a reverse gear as the larger ones can be awkward to handle and to pull around. The rule for rotavators’ is, the larger the machine the better and quicker the result (access allowing of course).

An old lawn will be compacted and firm. This will therefore take a lot of breaking up and the first pass with the machine will be tough going. Again, make sure that you work methodically. Don’t worry if the rotavator lurches forward from the stones and various buried debris hitting it. It is important, whilst the rotavator in use, to keep a ready hand on the clutch lever (this is necessary to disengage the drive) and to note that the reverse gear on it is used to back up. The re-digging of hard patches may be necessary and if this happens the lowering of the blades needs to be done gradually back onto the area. In essence, the heavier and more powerful the machine, the better the result in breaking up the ground.

When all dug over, a small tractor with a soil grader (or some assistants armed with rakes) are needed to achieve the smooth fine surface suitable for turfing or seeding.

Following on you will need some lengths of short scaffold planks and a sharp half-moon turf cutter, plus a metal rake is always good to have at hand to make last minute tweaking to the surface preparation.

If your lawn is irregular in shape, then make sure that you lay the whole perimeter out first – in effect framing the entire area. You will need to cut the turves around any tight corners very carefully and keep checking that the tool has not pushed divots into the preparation below.

Starting from a corner chose the longest run (the idea is to lay a continuous straight line of turf with the edges butted together and with no gaps). Try not to stretch the turves as you lay them – as this will encourage shrinkage if they dry out.

Cut each end of the run into your edging turves with the half moon (again checking for disturbance in the preparation underneath as you cut through).

Lay the next run, bonding the turves like brickwork (see above picture), all the while making sure that you are using the planks to walk on the previous turf run (thus avoiding sinking).

When all laid and cut-in successfully, if the level looks slightly bumpy, then water thoroughly and then compact the grass down with a plank laid across the bond with a heavier-build (chunky) landscape assistant walking up and down. Avoid using a roller at this stage. In any event, always finish with a thorough watering!

The Perfect Lawn care

Your new (hopefully) perfect lawn might well need rolling after 2 to 3 weeks.

In the growing season cut after 2 weeks leaving the grass approximately 1.5″ to 2″ high – do not scalp the lawn at this stage! It needs the green to photosynthesize for root growth.

Water little and often in the growing season – evenings are best!

Dogs and children are generally not good for new lawns. Efforts should be made to keep off the new grass until there is sufficient root growth for ground stability.

(c) Copyright 2013, Mark Cook, All Rights Reserved. Written For: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and

English Country Garden 2.

Garden Layout Working Drawing example…

This is an example of a simple Front Garden Layout ‘Working Drawing’. Please see this previous post for how a working drawing should be scaled off and transferred onto the area to be landscaped.

An example of a simple front garden layout

(c) Copyright 2013, Mark Cook, All Rights Reserved. Written For:

How to carry out the Groundwork stage of Garden Construction (for patios, paths and drives etc.)

Garden Construction groundwork 1.The groundwork stage of Garden Construction will be relevant to front yard gardens and back yard gardens:

To landscape your garden for such things as paving it is very important to decide early on how the waste is going to be disposed of. Sometimes this will be via a skip on the road (in which case a road licence will be needed from the local authority) or a skip on the drive, or occasionally via a grab lorry service which will require an area of garden (or driveway in the front) to be boarded-out for protection.

The next thing to do is to scale off your working drawing and transfer your layout onto the area to be landscaped. This may involve breaking out and removing any existing concrete/paving first.

It is Important to decide early on if any materials can be re-used, I.e. topsoil (for lawns or beds) or hardcore (for sub-bases).

As you demolish the old work, a certain amount of sorting can be done if schedule and room allows. A tarpaulin is a good idea to store such materials on – so that the mess and creep is confined, however it is important not to put them in the way as you do not want to move them again – a little forward thinking goes a long way at this stage!

The skip can be used in the same way: e.g. stack all the good soil at one end and usable sized hardcore at the other end… Often the skip is a great storage place for these materials, making them readily available when the time comes.

Then use fencing pins and set up an orange brick line to accurately mark out the area – the stretched line can be used as both level and edge so accuracy is important.

You will need to bear in mind surface drainage at this point (very important for garden construction). A good drain will be required on your drive or patio, either onto the garden or into a drain/channeling. – so this will show in at least 2 of your lines. Use a good long level to determine a healthy fall along the lines.

Next, cut some spacers from timber battens to the depth required of the dig-out. Depending on ground conditions, a block drive for example, would need a 150 mm to 200 mm compacted sub-base of hardcore or roadstone, 50 mm of sharp sand plus the 50 or 60 mm block thickness, making a total of 250 to 300 mm for your spacer. A patio would not need this much groundwork, it`s rather up to the individual to assess the ground conditions first and then to make the appropriate decision.

Using a mattockshovels, or mini digger: chop out the waste ground/rubble/turf, load into barrows and cart to the skip or dumping area checking all the time the depth!

Work methodically (again), leveling a small area at first then proceeding, clearing up as you work and keeping mess to a minimum.
Garden Construction Groundwork 2.
Man-holes are nearly always something to be addressed on patios and are nearly always encountered in garden construction. If breaking up concrete around a manhole make sure you always lift the lid up first – this is so you can keep an eye on debris falling into the sewer and remove it before it gets washed down and  inevitably blocks the drain.

A youngman board can be hired to run barrows safely up into the skip (this is a sturdy length of scaffold plank).

Being particular and fussy at the groundwork stage of garden construction may seem unnecessary but this will reflect through to the finished article.

(c) Copyright 2013, Mark Cook, All Rights Reserved. Written For: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and

How to Plan for Garden Construction

garden construction

You will need to plan your garden for garden construction…

At the beginning of any English country garden construction project (possibly involving both front yard gardens and back yard garden construction) comes the planning of the garden for construction – to build a garden that is ultimately reflective of all requirements.

This can cover a huge amount of information but for the purpose of this post it will be condensed to a standard garden size (small property) given predominantly in a town or village.

Generally, we find it is best at first to list the priorities needed in your garden. For example: Patio/path, borders (shrubs, herbaceous, bedding) arbour/pergola, lawn, water feature etc. etc.

For front yard garden construction it almost always revolves around off-street parking – this is becoming more relevant in recent years with council restrictions, parking permits etc. We believe that a good drive for most small houses should take 2 or more cars, with room for the occupants to get in and out of the vehicle without standing on grass/borders etc. This will need to be planned out carefully as it has to be right.

As with the back – lawns, paths, borders will reflect off the drive and should also relate to the house, i.e. front door, side gate, bay windows etc. etc.

We believe that in the back [garden] the aim is to create a focal point for the vista from the house. This will basically mean making a main feature in the center or at the end of the garden, with maybe a curved path (leading to and from) and also borders incorporated with a lawn (as you wish).

The feature could be a seating area with an arbour over, a raised brick border with specimen planting, a decorative sun dial/statue or free-standing fountain standing on bespoke paving or simply a planted shrub border of say, evergreen shrubs of varying heights…. it’s entirely up to you!

If you have small back garden, one option we feel is to not have a lawn but have a large seating area instead (either paved or gravel), with planting around either raised by stonework or sleepers, or more simply, just level with the paving – this gives the planting the less formal effect of melding into the seating area.

A very small lawn can be bitty and awkward – sometimes not worth the bother of owning a lawn mower (especially if there is no lawn in the front garden) this is of course subjective to the individual. However, our own experience shows that a lawn under 20 M2 generally lacks impact and takes away from a small layout.

All the above points need to be carefully considered when the goal is to plan your garden for construction with the overall aim (of course) being successful English country garden construction eventually occurring.

Please look out for future posts about garden construction on this site. They will help you to get a very good idea on many aspects of landscaping.


(c) Copyright 2013, Mark Cook, All Rights Reserved. Written For: