Getting dirty

This is the third part of our Blog Series on how we created our large, outdoor fairy garden. 

After drafting a plan (see part 2), we we turned our attention to the lay of the land. It’s important to get this right because the soil and topography of your plot form the foundation of your entire fairy garden

We focused on two key factors:

Soil quality and preparation is key to traditional gardening success, and the same applies with mini gardens. 

This refers to what are traditionally the heavier elements in landscape design, eg creeks, rocks. Of course, these elements are lighter in fairy gardens but, even so, many large fairy garden hardscaping components are permanent.

The soil

Assess the current condition

If the soil in your proposed fairy garden plot is in good condition, lucky you. This step can be skipped. 

Unfortunately, ours wasn’t.

  • Our plot sat beneath a large gum tree so he surface was littered with bark, leaves and large twigs.
  • The soil beneath the litter was in poor condition and this was not a good omen for plants.
  • The plot’s topography (surface) was bumpy and uneven.
  • We also had a few plants dotted here and there that were scraggly and too big for a mini garden.

We had work to do! 

Our soil improvement steps

We prepared and improved the soil by: 


We raked up all the litter – bark, leaves and twigs. You’d think this could be used as mulch but it was too coarse for a fairy garden. We placed most of it under native plants in other parts of the garden. 

Plant removal

We dug up the plants that were not suitable which left us with even more craters. Had the plants been healthy we would have transplanted them elsewhere. Sadly, all were well past their prime so they ended up in the compost. 

New soil

The existing soil was so bad we opted to add a thick layer of new soil from the local nursery. It contained fertiliser and water retaining crystals which meant we didn’t need to buy these components separately. 

Adding fertiliser and water-retaining crystals gives mini garden plants a great head start. 


Lastly, we levelled the new soil so that it sat in line with the top edge of the garden border and filled all the uneven areas. When done, the plot still sloped downhill, but we had a smooth surface to work from when tackling the next step, Hardscaping


 We looked at hardscaping from two perspectives:

  • the big-picture (macro view), and
  • a details perspective (micro view), not to be confused with very small (micro) fairy garden accessories.  

1. Macro view

For the big picture view we referred to our plan and identified any hardscaping features that were large in scale and would be permanent in our overall fairy garden. Two stood out: tiers and the mountain. 

1a Tiers

Because the plot sloped downwards we needed tiers to create flat, horizontal spaces. These would add interest to the overall look and, without them, we ran the risk of having higgledy piggledy fairy village buildings, leaning downhill. Eek!

We decided to add three rock tiers that were irregular in shape (not running in a straight line from the fence to the plot border) so they’d appear more natural.

We positioned them where they’d form a border between different parts of the village, eg between the shopping and housing precincts.

The picture below shows Nathan (or rather his hands and legs) establishing the tiers. There are a few fairy buildings in this shot because we put some out temporarily to help us work out where the tiers should be placed. 

1b The dark mountain

Our plan included a mountain for ‘dark’ beings like ghosts, monsters and dragons, situated beneath the tree house.

We chose this spot for a couple of reasons:

  • it was shaded in that location and the darkness was perfect for dark beings
  • little could grow in the area because the tree house above meant it was very dry. However, succulents might survive there (fingers crossed) and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, many of which look a bit spooky. 

Steps to building the mountain

  • We made an irregular pile of soil
  • Once tall enough, we dug into the sides and added flat-topped rocks that jutted out.
  • The rocks gave the mountain a sinister look and formed platforms for evil castles, witches homes and other dark buildings.   

The picture below shows Dark Mountain being created. It’s far from finished, but I plopped a few buildings on it to give you a general idea of how the rock ledges work. When done there will be plants and paths, as well as more buildings and spooky bits. 

2. The micro view

Less needs to be said about micro hardscaping in this post. That’s because it’s dealt with on a case-by-case basis as you lay out your elements and that will be covered in an up-coming post. 

Micro hardscaping elements are not necessarily permanent and do not impact the overall lay of the land.

Hardscaping that falls within this category includes things like: 

  • buildings 
  • walls and fences
  • paths
  • outdoor seating areas
  • fairies, gnomes and other characters 

What’s next?

In Part 4a of this series we explore what went wrong when we first put out our houses, buildings and plants. A must-read if you want to avoid the problems we experienced.

And in Part 4b we got it right! 

Happy Fairy Garden hardscaping one and all!