10 tips to prepare your new-build garden for spring and summer

7 March 2019

someone in red wellington boots pushing a pitchfork into the ground

If you’ve recently moved into a new-build home, you may have started to think about planting trees and shrubs to create that idyllic outdoor space. Spring is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to start!

Plants make great ‘fillers’ for a gap and provide privacy as well as interest to your garden. But before you get carried away, remember that roots often extend to distances in excess of the height of the tree and they can take moisture from the soil. 

If you’re new to gardening it may seem overwhelming, so here are some practical tips from NHBC, the UK’s leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes, to help you prepare your outdoor area for the spring and summer season:

  • Your new garden may not have a lawn yet. If that’s the case, once you’ve prepared the ground, and levelled it as much as possible, it’s time to start laying new turf. It’s important to start laying it from a straight edge, making sure each roll is firm against the one next to it. To make sure the turf takes root, press it into the soil beneath it.
  • The level of soil around your home should be kept below the damp proof course (generally 150mm or two brick courses). Paths should also generally be kept around 150mm or two brick courses below the damp proof course, except where these have been designed to provide level access into the home. If you are not sure where the damp proof course is, ask your builder to show you. Where air bricks, permanent ventilators or perpend vents are provided, they should not be blocked or covered by soil or paving.
  • If the soil is clay, new planting may cause it to shrink, while removing existing trees and shrubs may make it swell. Therefore, plant news trees away from your home. Find out how tall the mature tree will be and make sure it is positioned at least one and a quarter  times this distance from the house.
  • If you're planning to grow your own fruit, order your fruit trees now ready for planting in the spring and continue planting trees and shrubs while they are still dormant.
  • High water demand trees should be planted no closer to the home than one-and-a-quarter times the mature height. High water demand trees include elm, eucalyptus, oak, poplar, willow and some common cypress species.
  • Avoid planting climbers such as Ivy and Virginia Creeper against house walls, as they hold on using suckers, twining tendrils or aerial roots which could damage mortar and may cause damp. Plant these at least three metres away from your home.
  • Allow enough room for trunks and large roots to grow safely. Be particularly careful if planting near drains or lightweight structures.
  • Although you do not need to, when planting new trees in your garden that will also be near you neighbour’s house, be considerate and ask your neighbour if this is ok. As you could be liable for the cost of repair if the trees you plant cause damage to their home.
  • Regular pruning of fast growing, thirsty trees such as Cypress Leyland, will help to reduce the amount of water taken from the soil.
  • And last of all, although the UK is fortunate to have plenty of rain, do ensure trees and shrubs are watered sufficiently to give them a good start in life especially those that maybe sheltered by other structures. If you haven’t got one already, consider purchasing a water butt ready for the summer. Rainwater is particularly useful for watering acid-loving, ericaceous plants as opposed to tap water which is often slightly alkaline.

Further advice for homeowners on property maintenance and other issues can be found in NHBC’s useful publication, A Guide to your new home - a practical guide to looking after your new home, freely available at www.nhbc.co.uk/homeowners.