I’m on the hunt for new build garden ideas.
It’s been over 18 months since we bought a new build home.
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?
First, do nothing!
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.
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 a new garden, I’m glad we waited.
New Build Garden Ideas Wishlist
I’m now almost 2 years into living in the house, and much more settled than when I wrote this 3 month house update. I’m now ready to start making some changes to 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 garden:
- We need 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 means we have zero privacy
- The garden feels really bare, it needs planting that gives it a bit more of a lived-in feel
- 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!
1. Creating a Seating Area
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. I also found a cover set in the gardening special event at Aldi for under £20, which was a bonus!
2. 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.
To help create the right mood, we have arranged fairy lights around the garden, including along the guttering above our seating area. You can never have too many fairy lights, right?
3. Extending the Patio
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.
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.
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.
You can see the extra space extending the patio has given us in the photo below – we’ve extended from the left side of the doors to the fence.
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!
5. 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. After a year, some of the plants there are starting to get established and my hope is that in another year or two, some of the bigger shrubs will reach almost to the top of the fence.
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!
6. Adding Privacy and Shade with Trellis
To add a little more privacy on the one remaining ‘open’ length of 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!
They are perfect and now although we can see if our neighbours are outside, we can’t see what they’re doing, so our garden feels much more private. We’ve also added some regular expanding trellis (£10 each from Dobbies) and we’ve put some climbing plants underneath – over time these will add more privacy.
Finally, we added an outdoor rug and lots of plants to make this seating area feel like a little oasis of calm.
We’re not quite at summer weather yet but 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!
The 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.
Also, I’d like to add around eight feet of raised wooden planters along the boundary between the patio and the grass. We’ll then add trellis above, to give us shading in the day, and privacy from the houses at the back of the garden.
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.