I’m on the hunt for new build garden ideas.
It’s been just over a year since we bought a new build home. Like most new houses, the garden was basically a rectangle of grass, and a patio. We couldn’t include our garden in our new build snagging list, because when I completed on this house, the turf hadn’t even been laid! Designing a garden for a new build home is tricky because there’s often just GREEN and fence. If you’re new to gardening, where do you start?
When we first moved in, someone advised me to leave the garden be. It was just approaching summer and apparently this is not the best time to plant new things. Rather, they advised me to leave the garden until Spring, which would give me a chance to understand how the light falls, and where gets most light at different times of day, in different seasons.
Our New Build Garden Ideas Wishlist
That made lots of sense and conveniently fitted in with my lack of ability when it comes to gardening! It’s been a year and we’re now much more settled than when I did my 3 month house update.
Also, we’re now in lockdown, and might not get a holiday this summer. We might be spending more time in our garden this summer. So it’s the perfect time to give our new house garden some TLC.
I started by making a wish list for my new build garden, based on my idea of what we’d likely be doing in the garden:
- We’ll need an outside seating area, I like sometimes to sit outside and chat with friends
- Our builder has added fencing with gaps in, and I’d like the garden to feel more private
- I want to start to add some low-maintenance planting, to make the space feel less bare
- We need to keep grass so that Flea has a place to practice hockey and the dog can play
- Our garden faces South/East, so we want to add some shading, the afternoon sun is fierce!
These are what I call my Year 1 priorities – things I know we want to sort as quickly as possible. Of course, having just bought a new house, funds are limited, so these are also things I’m confident we can achieve on a budget.
Creating a Seating Area
I looked around at a lot of furniture sets looking for something that would fit the space without costing too much.
We knew the spot where we wanted seating, so we asked an electrician to put in an external double socket that we could use for lighting around our planned seating area.
At first, all the seating sets I found were way outside my budget. After hunting around, I found some really great affordable garden sofa sets at places like Asda and Aldi. Then I found out that a neighbour owns a garden furniture company and I got a great deal on the sofa seating set above.
This set costs £350 and includes a corner sofa and table. If you like, you can add extra seating modules as needed. It’s perfect for the two of us, along with some wooden chairs my parents donated. I found a cover set in the gardening special event at Aldi for under £20, which was a bonus!
Light my Fire (Pit)
My Mum got me a fire pit for Christmas, from Amazon. It’s this one and it’s perfect because it’s not too large, and it’s pretty portable. It’s good and heavy, and I don’t worry it will get tipped over. It’s the ideal spot for a bit of evening marshmallow toasting. If you want a super portable fire pit, we also use this one from La Hacienda for camping and beach trips and I would 100% recommend it as easy to use, simple to clean and GREAT for barbecues. We just throw the bag into the car on camping trips with a BBQ bag, and we’re all set.
To help create the right mood, we have arranged fairy lights around the garden, including along the guttering above our seating area. It adds a little more warmth
Extending the Patio
Like many builders, our builder gifted us with the smallest possible patio for our garden space. As you can see from our photos, you can just about fit our seating onto the patio but only if we put it in front of the French doors – it’s not ideal.
We have booked our builder to come in a few weeks time to extend the patio as far as the fence to the left side of the house. This will give us the space to move our seating backwards about 3 metres, meaning we’ll be able to use all the doors to the garden. We’ve identified the flags that the builder used to make the patio, so we can extend it quite cheaply – to add an additional 15 metres to the patio area, we’re looking at a cost of around £600, including labour and materials (the flags cost £30 per square metre)
We did originally look to extend the patio down the side of the house. We have a little dark space between the houses where nothing grows, and we’d thought of putting a storage container down there for garden equipment. Extending the patio this far would have cost an additional £800, which seemed like a LOT for an area we never use.
Instead, I used an online calculator to work out how much gravel we’d need to fill the space. We ended up buying a bulk bag of buff gravel from Travis Perkins, which cost £110. We cleared the area then put down super thick plastic sheeting, which cost about £10. We borrowed a wheelbarrow from a neighbour and it took about an hour to gravel the space. We mixed a small amount of concrete into the gravel to help it settle more securely, and it’s now given us the base we need to pop a storage box down here. It’s also stopped this area turning into a jungle of mud and weeds.
Like lots of new build gardens, we had fencing with gaps between the boards. The builder told me this is to reduce the risk of wind damage, but I have a feeling it’s also about cost. After all, if you have more gaps, that’s fewer boards you need to buy!
I mean, this sort of fencing gives you no privacy at all!
Our garden backs on to two smaller gardens behind. So for the past year we’ve been able to see the families in the garden behind. More importantly, our dog can see their cats. This means hours of the dog pressing her face against the fence, and barking at anything that moves. We tried some bamboo screening but it’s made no difference.
One of my first new build garden ideas, then? FIX THAT FENCE.
We hired a landscaper to double board the fence at the back of the garden. It is quite long (13 metres, or 40 feet) so the timber cost close to £750. Luckily, the fence to our left is the back of another house’s garden, and that neighbour just double boarded the boundary. So we now just have one fence that’s the original, open boards. I can live with that for now!
Planting a New Build Garden
While the landscaper was doing the fencing, he also created a flower bed. He laid sleepers with a raised bed immediately behind. It looks pretty and adds character to the garden. It is also one more barrier between Teddy and the neighbours’ cats! Teddy is devastated, but it’s made a massive difference to the barking.
As with lots of new build gardens, the quality of the soil isn’t amazing in my garden. It’s basically clay, and I think it was quite seriously compacted during construction. I’ve added new topsoil and fertiliser from a local farmer, and the landscaper also dug down to about 25cm to break up the soil and remove building debris.
For planting, I got a lot of cuttings from my Mum, when we dropped off their groceries last week. I picked up some hebe shrubs from Dobbies, along with a few “pot luck” plants from the ‘almost dead but 75% off’ section. Fingers crossed they make it!
It became clear almost right away that I needed some of that edging mini-fence to protect my baby plants. As you can see, the dog thinks the raised bed is an obstacle course. We ended up buying a long roll of 2ft edging that you can cut to length with pliers, and it’s worked really well. Find similar on Amazon here.
To add a little more privacy on the remaining fencing, we bought some artificial leaf trellis to sit on the fence between our patio and the neighbour’s patio. I bought two really pretty lemon leaf trellis from Amazon and then found two more in the Aldi gardening event. The Aldi ones are great quality if you can find them in stock!
We have woven some fairy lights into the trellis because you can’t have too many fairy lights, if you ask me.
The Pergola Project
Our pergola will probably not get completed until next year as the pricing is more than we can afford right now.
You can buy ready-made pergola kits from Amazon from around £450, but you’ll need a professional to fit them as the legs really need to be sunk into holes and secured with concrete.
Our gardener advised that by the time we’d paid him to build a kit, it would be more cost effective to have him build a pergola to our exact preferences. To create a 4x3m pergola with a flagged base would cost a total of £1,000 including materials and labour.
We’re looking to achieve something along these lines, although a little narrower – this is a photo of the garden next door, they’re a bit ahead of us with their pergola planning!
Our plan is to put our pergola along the left side fence outside our kitchen seating area, which will give us a good flow between indoor and outdoor seating area.
I am looking forward to planning the next stage of my garden. I think having a new build house actually gives you scope to try things out more than I could in my older, period properties.
Phase 2 of my Garden Design
At the moment we’re saving up to add the pergola to our garden but this summer our project is simply to add a bit more definition to the garden areas. Once our patio has been extended, I’d like to add around eight feet of raised wooden planters along the boundary of the patio and the grass.
These troughs will act as a support for some outdoor screening. I hope that when we’re eating out on a summer evening, some light screening will give us a bit more shade and privacy. I love these designs from Screen with Envy, which are a bit different from the standard ‘lattice’ designs you see in garden centres and would give you a planter and screening in one, at £280.
New Build Garden Ideas: Top Tips
I’ve learned quite a bit over the past few months about garden planning in a new build house. Here are my top tips:
- Adding aromatic plants can add personality to a new build garden. Try things like jasmine or azalea.
- If you extend the patio, ask your landscaper to check the existing patio is adequately laid, and slopes away from the house allowing water to run off into proper drainage.
- If you have clay soil in the garden it will compact during construction. Take extra time to dig and turn over the soil. Dig down at least 25cm to break up the soil and remove building debris. Always look at ways to add nutrients to the soil in a new build house garden. Horse manure from B&Q is very cheap and effective.
- If you have large grass areas, like we do, the lawn might need some TLC. Builders don’t always lay the BEST turf, and they don’t always adequately prepare the soil underneath. We hired someone to come and treat the lawn in the autumn, but in major cases, you might want to lift the turf, prepare the soil, and relay the grass.
- When you’re choosing plants, check on the RHS Plant Selector site to get ideas for what will work well in different positions and soil types.