It’s not easy to find good new build garden ideas.
It’s been three years since we bought our new build home. In this post I wanted to share some before and after photos of our new build garden, and also provide an overview of the things we’ve done.
Like most new houses, we moved into a house where the garden was a rectangle of grass, and a small 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?
New Build Garden : Before and After Photos
I feel like I’m slightly cheating showing the before and after pictures of my new build garden. Although we’ve lived here for three years, the garden makeover is a very gradual process. But here’s where we are up to:
We’ve extended the patio to make space for seating and a fire pit. Next we added a big parasol for shade, some wooden screening for privacy, and a rug. Then pots and plants for colour.
Here we’ve double fenced the back of the garden for privacy, and added a large wooden bed at the rear of the garden. Some of these plants are now getting nicely established. This summer we added two 6 foot trees, which will help the garden to dry out and, over time, give us privacy and shade.
At the other side of the garden, we added a hockey goal (because kids) and we’ve also attached a projector screen to the fence. Our next project is to plant two trees along this fence for privacy, and add some bedding plants.
Want to know more? Here’s a step-by-step of what we did to transform our new build garden.
1: Do Nothing!
When we first moved in to the house, 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.
This gave our grass time to establish and also work out which bits of the garden tended to hold water, where the grass dried out and where the sun fell at different times of day. Although you naturally want to get started on the garden when you move into a new build, I’m glad we waited.
2: A New Build Garden Ideas Wishlist
After 19 months of living in our new build home, we were much more settled than when I wrote this 3 month house update. We were finally ready to start planning our garden! It’ll be fun – did you know that gardening is great for your mental health?
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 space:
- I wanted an outside seating area, we both like to sit out in the afternoon and evenings, with friends
- The builder put in fencing that has huge gaps, which meant that we have zero privacy – we wanted to fix it!
- The garden felt really bare, it needed planting and raised beds to give it a bit more of a lived-in feel
- We wanted 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!
3: Extending the patio in our new build
As with many new properties, our builder provided the smallest possible patio area. As you can see from the photo above, we could fit our seating onto the patio, but only by putting it in front of the French doors. Not very practical!
We paid a builder to extend the patio as far as the fence to the left side of the house. This gave us much needed space to move our seating backwards about 3 metres, so we’re now able to use all the doors to the garden. To add an additional 15 metres to the patio area, including labour, cost about £700. Crucially we could move the seating and that made the patio doors usable – hurrah!
We did originally look to extend the patio down the side of the house. We have a little space between the houses where nothing grows. 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.
4: Creating a seating area in our new build garden
We knew the spot where we wanted our seating area to be, so the first thing we did was ask our electrician to add in a double socket outside, so we’d be able to have lighting and music, later on.
Next, I started looking for garden furniture. Man, it’s EXPENSIVE. I found some great, affordable options on Aldi and Asda but they were all out of stock. 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. I ordered replacement foam cushions online for about £40 because the included cushions were very thin and cheap. We also invested in an egg chair from Aldi, which my teen was thrilled with!
I also found a cover set in the gardening special event at Aldi for under £20, which was a bonus! Our egg chair is also from Aldi, and was a great buy at around £290.
5. Adding a cosy firepit
A fire pit wasn’t originally in my garden wishlist, but my mother bought 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.
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!
Our garden backs onto two other gardens, and we have houses at either side – that’s a lot of room for the dog to find (and bark at) cats! 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!
7. 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.
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 shrubs from Dobbies, along with a few “pot luck” plants from the ‘almost dead but 75% off’ section. Here’s how it looked right after planting:
And a year later (on a much less sunny day!) here’s where we are. You can see some of those plants are now reaching the top of the fence, and we added two 7-8 foot trees to help add privacy and shade into the garden. Finding trees was easy – we visited a local nursery and asked for advice based on the sun and soil situation- we’ve ended up with a silver pear tree and a red plum tree. Both have pretty blossom in the Spring, then colourful leaves through the summer and berries (for the birds) at the end of the season.
We have a very large lawn for a new build house – our grass area is 12m x 12m and another 12m x 3m for the patio. Thank goodness for cordless lawn mowers that make life a little easier – even so we pay £20 a week for a local gardener to cut the grass and trim the edges. Our ultimate dream would be to have a robot lawn mower, like this one from Gtech, although I found this amazing bargain on Idealo – a robot lawn mower for under £300!
Now the patio is extended and finished, we’ve also invested in some pretty pots and plants to add more interest to the area, and it’s nice to have little shady spots where the dog can lie!
I especially love these custom wooden raised beds from BlocX. You can basically choose your preferred size and shape of planter and the company sends you the blocks you’ll need to build your planter, along with personalised instructions. It’s a bit like building a giant Lego model – I went for these simple shapes (total cost around £400) and they took less than 45 minutes each, to build.
7. Adding Privacy and Shade
When we first moved in, 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!
After a year, I switched things up and bought super-affordable wooden trellis panels from Wickes. They cost £11 each and I painted them black using a tin of garden fence paint. I can now string lights through them, and I’ve hung a few baskets with flowers. Here’s how they look at night:
Finally, we added an outdoor rug (total bargain from Asda!) and lots of plants to make this seating area feel like a little oasis of calm. And for shade, we bought a large parasol from B&Q that covers the entire area when the sun gets too fierce.
Future Garden Plans: the Pergola Project
Next for my new build garden, I would absolutely LOVE a pergola, but budgets are still tight, so it probably won’t be something we look at until next year.
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’d love to add some smart lighting like this Hue system.
We’re looking to achieve something along these lines, although about 50% narrower – this is a photo of the garden next door, they’re a bit ahead of us with their pergola planning!
This summer, our gardener is going to add a gravel border to the grass to help with drainage. We are lucky that the garden slopes away from the house. However, that does mean the bottom of the garden gets quite wet and boggy during the winter months. We have to fence the garden off, or the dog turns the whole thing into a mud bath. Adding around a foot of gravel will – we hope – help this to be less of a problem.
I’d also like to add around some more beds and planters along the boundary between the patio and the grass – ideally with a curved shape to make everything less square!
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 couple of years 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.