Filthy Garden SOS Episode 3 County Durham

Filthy Garden SOS Episode 3 County Durham

Filthy Garden SOS Episode 3 County Durham is a garden makeover show with a difference that was first shown in 2021 on 5 Star.

Award winning Garden Designer Diarmuid Gavin starts by telling us our gardens are our sanctuaries, private, plant filled, peaceful and green corners of this green covered land.

He goes on to tell us not all gardens are like that and the homeowners have not got the gardening bug and their gardens are shocking!

He actually calls them 'crimes against nature itself'.

Diarmuid tells us for as long as he been gardening he never seen gardens so bad.

Help is on the way with his crack team of experts starting with Garden Designer Danny Clarke who will bring out the gardener in the home owner by encouraging them to grow into gardeners which he finds as satisfying as seeing the garden grow.

Penny Lamb it is all about using power tools in the garden to clear and cut down as well as making things for the garden.

Diarmuid is on a mission to show everyone how easy it is to look after a garden to change a Filthy Garden to a fabulous Garden.

'This is Filthy Garden SOS'

Becky and Michael

Becky and Michael a husband and wife from the harbour town of Seaham, County Durham and they only moved to their house a year ago inheriting the overgrown garden.

The couple choose to close the blinds in the house so they do not have to see their garden but the couple having been going through a lot, and have had problems with infertility.

After struggling to get pregnant, last year they received the happy news they were expecting twins!

Rory and Kitty

They now have Rory and Kitty who are nearly 8 months old so they have their hands full without the new garden to tackle.

Now they are getting older they really need a family friendly garden for them all to enjoy.

They are looking forward to experiencing the journey of the garden, from start to finish so they will appreciate it more.

Penny and Diarmuid

Penny and Diarmuid are driving towards the garden and are discussing the overgrown, huge bramble patch that awaits them and there is no way the whole garden can be done but they will make a good start for the couple to complete.

Danny is already there peeking over the fence and asks them if they brought a football for the pitch sized garden.

Diarmuid goes and knocks on Becky and Michael's front door.

This will be their biggest garden to tackle and Diarmuid goes and knocks on Becky and Michael's front door.

They say their hellos and Becky says they have only lived here since last April and they love it and its close to the seafront and the local golf course.

The Garden
It is a wasteland which is a huge 650 square metres that is overgrown and full of junk and everyone has been using it as a tip!

Garden before

There are shopping trolleys to guttering all been dumped in their garden, there are massive boulders in the garden and in total it is bigger than 2 tennis courts.

The garden is too dangerous to even bring the twins into as there are trip hazards and sharp objects everywhere and it is not safe.

Garden before

Both their dads are green fingered and they would love a garden, the multi-generations could enjoy and grow plants and vegetables in.

Diarmuid, Penny and Danny head into the garden and Penny questions if it even is a garden in its present state.

Garden before

'Huge' and 'I never expected it to be this bad' are their responses and Diarmuid just looked gobsmacked.

They even consider just making a run for it and looking around more they start to come across the hidden junk dumped in the garden.

The Team

Becky and Michael have not attempted to start on the garden as it is too much for them to do with their time being taken up with the twins.

The house had been empty so people had got used to using their garden as a dumping ground.

As Penny puts it 'Lovely couple. Horrendous garden. They need help'.

Diarmuid says if they take on the project they will both also have to help out and also keep the maintenance up on such a large garden and Becky says they will learn from them how to look after it and will be outside all the time.

The hard work begins
First on site is the first of the skips and the first to put something in it is Michael and Becky as the garden clearance officially gets under way.

first skip

For the huge job there are 8 contractors working on the garden as well as Diarmuid, Danny, Penny, Becky and Michael but Diarmuid is worried that will not be enough with what they have taken on.

They have no idea what is underneath all the brambles so they have no idea how much work they have taken on yet.

Danny asks Michael about his gardening experience and he actually studied Horticulture at College and says he been lazy not making a start on the garden.


Danny is not impressed and says he going to have to put the hard work in now.

The fly tipped rubbish is now all in the skip and can be taken away but the boulders and brambles in the garden are going to need some muscle to move them, luckily it is mechanical.

They have so far only scratched the surface and now its time for the big guns, the diggers to take over.


A load of diggers and dump trucks arrive bringing the total workforce up to 18, is this still enough for this overgrown jungle?

Getting the garden cleared to a blank canvas is the most important part of this makeover and all the Brambles needs the root removed or they will come up again in Spring..

They have no idea what is in or on top the ground so who knows what they might uncover clearing this space, once its clear Diarmuid can do his design.


Day 1 is complete of this 650 metre plot and getting it all clear has been an enormous achievement by the team of 18 adding up to 100 man hours!

The Plan
Diarmuid can now see the area and start his design ideas.

It is to be a family-friendly, safe low-maintenance garden split into different activity zones.

It will be split levels connected by decking areas and lawns with plenty of room for the extended family.

The Plan

The bottom area will be the work area for vegetable growing in raised beds and also a greenhouse.

The garden will have beds of shrubs to add colour as well as privacy but are they going to be able to maintain such a big garden?

They hope as they are taking part in the build the couple will then look after the garden.

The couple though never realised just how big a space it is now its all been cleared.

Looking for inspiration
Diarmuid takes Michael and Becky to nearby Leamside Plant Nursery to get ideas for their planting scheme.

Diarmuid  Michael and Becky

Diarmuid says they break down the plants to the job they need to do, so they start with trees for privacy, block the view and focal points.

Climbing plants next to go up all the fences they have, next is some shrubs to bulk out the garden.

Lastly it is the flowers for instant colour.

Diarmuid gives them both a large trolley and sends them off to select some plants and they go round together discussing the merits of various plants and trees.


He suggests you come with ideas in mind and group the plant choices by colour, height or when they flower it is also a good idea to know what will do well in your area.

Now its time for Diarmuid to see there plant choices and he pleased they have the wonderfully scented evergreen climber Star Jasmine and this needs a sunny south or southwest wall.

Their choices were fantastic and they had a good reason and knowledge for their choices.

A work in progress
Day 2 starts and some Composite fencing has already started being installed and they reveal the plan for 2 circular decks, the vegetable growing area and shrubs and Lawns.

Diarmuid gives them the bad news there are perennial weed roots that need digging out of the plot by hand.

You can use a small drone to take photographs of the space and the plot is an awkward shape with weird angles as it tapers towards the end of the garden.


Diarmuid wants the area to be interesting so he is using Ellipses, 2 big ones and then linked together with steps in the shape of a fan!

It is time to lay the turf but before that Diarmuid does his soil preparation shuffle dance and gets poor Michael and Becky to join him.

The Landscapers dance

The Landscapers dance is done by putting all your weight on your heels and shuffling slowly in a line over the soil to flatten and firm it.

He then makes everyone join in and they shuffle up and down to everyone's amusement, 'Hey Macarena' shouts Diarmuid. 

As soon as the turf starts going down the garden is beginning to look like a garden for the first time as it greens up.

Diarmuid given Michael and Becky the task of placing out their plants in the garden and they started with the trees at every odd post along the border.

Diarmuid Michael and Becky

Diarmuid says if its for privacy you have not read the plant labels at all so they do not know which ones are evergreen and provide all year privacy.

They have also used symmetry which is very old fashioned but the garden should flow and contrast.

It is not all bad news they have worked so hard and are very keen to learn how it should be arranged as Diarmuid shows them.

The final day and just the planting to complete and Diarmuid decides which areas gets the most plants as the garden is too big to be able to fill every bit with enough plants.

sloped area

The sloped area is heavy clay so moisture loving plants are going to love that area including surprisingly Roses!

The split levels are helping them create different zones with the planting. 

Danny takes delivery of the shed and greenhouse combo and helps carry the heavy sections all the way down to the bottom of the garden.


To make the structure waterproof its a good idea to paint them using specialist paints or stains then they should last 10 years plus and Danny going to paint this one before it is put up.

The painting is going well but will need 2 coats so he is enlisting Becky to do the 2nd coat later in the day.

Now the greenhouse is all painted it is time to build it at the bottom of the plot which will be the working area for producing fruit and vegetables.


Preparation is key and it all been organised before the construction begins and as its a self build kit the tools you need are a spirit level, screwdriver and a someone to hold it.

It is a multipurpose structure as it has the greenhouse to start seeds off in and for tender plants but also a shed for storage.

Danny is giving Becky a lesson in how to grow Tomatoes and they are potting on some already grown plants.


He starts by teasing out the roots and putting them in the pots.

He shares some tips like to water them regularly and pinching the leaves out to keep the light and air circulating.

Next to the greenhouse Danny is planting up the raised beds that have been filled with a mixture of compost and topsoil.


They are being planted with easy to grow salad and vegetables like Lettuce and Courgettes to give the couple a good start.

There is 40 square metres of decking to do a square and circular deck and Penny is using timber locks that are stronger than screw to secure the joists together.


Now the frame is complete she is laying the decking with Deano and they are using Composite decking as this will not rot or require maintenance.

It is a combination of wood fibre and plastic making it non slip and long lasting as well as being sustainable.

circular decking

The circular decking now needs shaping and she has made a temporary compass which will give her the perfect circle.

Penny been keeping a project secret from the couple and its something in memory of Michaels Grandad for the birds that visit the garden.

Using reclaimed wood to make a bird bath and she used a chainsaw then chisel to make a bowl in the stump before sanding it.

bird bath

Next job is to oil it to protect the wood before adding a waterproof sealant.

Penny last thing to do is to etch 'For Grandad' in the top with a burning pen and puts it in place by the steps.

The final push to complete the garden and Penny is laying the turf on the steps between the areas and her tip is to cut it with a saw as they have difficult angles.

Michael and Becky
They start work hand digging out the perennial weed roots and its a long and dirty job! 

Diarmuid asks Michael about his family and gardening and he says his Grandad loved gardening but sadly passed away on December but feel blessed he got to meet the twins.

Michael and Becky

He would love the garden and wanted them to start it so Diarmuid says his spirits with you as you work in it and will help him live on in the garden.

Not everything in the garden is to be replaces there is a wooden fence in situ that has broken slats that need replacing.

Becky starts painting the fence to match the Composite fence as light shade of grey to match the other fencing.

Becky brings the twins Rory and Kitty on their first ever visit to the garden and their dad shows them the grass they will soon be playing and picnicking on.

twins Rory and Kitty

Diarmuid comes to say hello and says how the green has a calming effect and its lovely to see the babies in the garden that they are going to enjoy in the future. 

All children deserve some green space to play and roll about in.

On the final day they disappear so they do not see the finished garden until the grand reveal.

The final push and at last their biggest garden project is complete.

The Grand Reveal

Michael and Becky here is your garden

'Look at this' 'oh my God' 'I love these steps' 'It's incredible' 'look at that' 'Wow'

The now private family friendly garden is complete

finished garden

Split level easy to maintain lawns


Growing area with Greenhouse, Shed and raised beds

finished garden

2 different decking areas

Michael, Becky Rory and Kitty look round the garden finding the extra things for the twins like the slide.

They are over the moon with the garden then Michael sees the Birdbath and they love it and will tell the Twins all about him every time they see it.


The family arrive for their first look at the new garden and are all totally shocked at the transformation and Michael Nan gets emotional seeing the Birdbath for her husband .

The team of Diarmuid, Danny and Penny are so pleased with the garden and they did not think it would be possible to get this one finished and looking so good given the size of the plot.

Michael and Becky were amazing and now they are reaping the award having their first visitors to the garden as the team hand the garden over to them with the gift of a fork and trowel to carry on their good work in the garden.

All Photographs are copyright of Channel 5

Project Manager
Thea Pitcher

Anthony Berry
Rick Ford
Morgan Grainger
David Johnson
Lee Jones
Dino Salles

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