GLOSSARY OF GARDENING TERMS
Base material: the inorganic material used under a path as a foundation. The choice generally depends on what material is cheapest in your area. It should be well rammed or rolled down before laying the finished surface. The stones or broken bricks you may have to remove from your garden over the years may be used, but if buying-in, consult your builder’s merchant. If demolition work is going on locally, hardcore (broken brick or stone) should be easily available, but in other areas the cheapest type may be various types of quarry waste, hoggin, slag or clinker.
Bricks for paving must be of a quality that will not be damaged by frost when sodden. Do not therefore let cheapness be your guide in the choice of clay bricks for pavings. Bricks specially made as ‘pavers’ will be safe in this respect, and are often made thinner than normal bricks and to a different plan size.
Concrete: ingredients and mixing: There are three ways of buying concrete: Firstly, you can buy the ingredients separately and mix them by hand on a level surface (such as a garage floor or a large sheet of exterior quality plywood).
This is much the cheapest method, but also the most laborious and most demanding in terms of storage and working space.
Secondly, you can buy a mix in bags from a builder’s merchant and simply add the water. This method is expensive but convenient. Say what you want it for and the suppliers will recommend the correct mix. Store the bags in a dry place. Do not use too much water. The wetter the mix, the weaker the result. Use the minimum water compatible with a mix that can be worked to shape.
Thirdly, you can order concrete already mixed and delivered in the wet state by a lorry. Suppliers will advise on the most suitable mix to have delivered if you state your purpose. This technique is only relevant if you have a suitable offloading site accessible to the vehicle. Order by the cubic metre. Remember the labour of harrowing the concrete into position before it hardens, and do not order too much at a time.
Never start concrete work when there is frost or frost threatens.
Hosing and brushing: All types of exposed concrete can be much improved in appearance if the surface film of grey cement is removed to reveal the stones from which it is made and to provide a rougher surface that weathers more agreeably. A simple way of doing this is by brushing the surface with a stiff broom and washing with a hose at the same time. Good timing is vital—if you do it too early, your work may be literally washed down the drain; if you do it too late, it does not work. The time varies according to temperature. In a heatwave, concrete may be ready in six hours; in cold dark weather it may take twenty-four hours. Test by rubbing the surface. When it is only just possible to disturb the surface by rubbing, then it is ready. It is recommended that beginners do a test panel—or two—first.
Double turfing: the technique of providing a good firm edge to grass bordering a path. It ensures that the lawn surface is higher than the path— this looks better and is easier to maintain. Lay a first line of turf 30 cm (1’) wide alongside and level with the paved surface, and then lay a second layer on top of the first. The two layers grow together to form a guiding edge for the rest of the turves or for the level of the workedfor seeding. Gravel and hoggin: Be careful to see a sample and say what you want to use it for when ordering ‘gravel’. The term can include washed shingle, which is difficult to walk on. Most gravel paths are made from hoggin which has a clay content that binds the path into a hard surface when rolled. Material sold as hoggin today is generally coarse-textured, containing some large stones. It is a cheap base material and reasonable for the surface of a rough path. A finer grade of hoggin is often sold as ‘path gravel’. If you find your path is too sticky when first laid, it means that the clay content of the hoggin is too high. This can be corrected by top dressing with a sprinkled layer of ‘crushed gravel aggregate’ or ‘pea shingle’ and rolling it in. Breedon Gravel makes a fine but more expensive path; it is a quite different material made of a rock with self-finding properties, resulting in a hard surface when watered and rolled.
Mortar for bedding or for the pointing of joints in brick or slab paths can be bought in bags as ‘bricklaying mortar’, but if you want to save money you can mix your own. Never use just cement and sand, and remember that a mortar that is stronger than the materials around it will crack away from them. A relatively weak mortar is best for garden work. The strongest mix suitable for garden jobs is 1 part (by volume) of Portland Cement and 1 parts (by volume) of hydrated lime to 5 parts (by volume) of sand; but for simple footpaths the purchase of materials can be simplified by using a mix of 1 part hydrated lime to 4 parts of sand.
Sand should be free from salts, and for this reason sea-sand is not suitable. Builder’s merchants stock ‘sharp’ sand and ‘soft’ sand. Sharp sand is used for concreting and for levelling off foundation works, but soft sand is essential for making a good bricklaying or pointing mortar.