Landscape Design Ideas – Patios and Garden Paths
Landscape Design Ideas
A garden without at least one of the features or landscape design ideas described in this category is likely to lack that special something that a well-constructed garden possesses. Yet to have a landscape contractor construct them for you can be expensive . . . and is usually much less satisfying than having done the work yourself.
All the garden features and landscape design ideas described here are within the ability of most gardeners, and by following the concise instructions it should be possible to achieve a professional finish to these important aspects of good garden design and construction.
Garden Patio Ideas – Building a Patio
Interesting landscape design ideas for the garden include patios. Garden patios have become very fashionable – some see them as almost a necessity nowadays – and although a lot of heavy work is involved in building a patio, the skills are well within the scope of the average gardener.
Levelling the site is the first step, and the area should be marked out with timber pegs. The top-is then removed and the area roughly levelled.
For accurate levelling a series of pegs should be inserted over the entire area, the tops of which should be 6.5 — 7.5cm (2-1/2 — 3in) below the finished surface level of the patio. Remember, however, that the finished surface level should be about 15cm (6in) below the damp-proof course of the house. Use a length of straight timber and a spirit-level between one peg and the next to get them at the right level across the width of the patio. From front to back, a small block of wood should be placed under one end of the straight-edge to give a slight fall away from the house of about 2.5cm in 3m (1 inch in 10ft).
Laying the foundation provides a chance to use up any old bricks around the garden. Ram down the soil and bang in pieces of brick, rubble or stone if soft areas are encountered. Spread a layer of rammed hardcore over the area and bind the surface of this with ballast (a mixture of sand and gravel, sold by builders’ merchants) to bring the level up to the top of the pegs. Thickness of hardcore should range from 10cm (4in) on soft clay soil, to 5cm (2in) on a sandy soil. No hardcore should be necessary on a firm, gravelly soil.
Positioning the slabs or stones is a matter of laying them on a level bed of moist sand, although a longer-lasting result will be achieved by bedding the slabs in a mortar mix consisting of one part cement to five parts sand (by volume). The mortar mix should be dry enough to support the weight of the slabs, but not so dry that they cannot be tapped down level.
Spread the mortar in a layer about 2.5cm (1in) thick, and carefully lay each slab in place so that it is level with its neighbour, with a space of about 10mm (3/8in) between slabs. To save mortar, large slabs can be bedded on five spots of mortar; one at each corner and one in the centre.
To cut a slab, place it on a level bed of sand. Tap a line with a heavy hammer and bolster (a wide steel chisel) until a v-nick is visible. The nick should go right around the slab. Continue to tap along the line, gradually increasing the weight of blows on the bolster until the slab splits along the line.
When the bedding mortar has set, all that remains is to fill the joints between the slabs with a nearly dry version of the bedding mortar, pressing it into the joints and brushing off any surplus.
Garden Path Ideas and Designs
Other landscape design ideas can be to include pathways. Garden paths can be functional or decorative, but in either case they must be well laid if they are to last long and enhance the garden. All except grass paths will require a good foundation, although this is less essential with largely decorative ‘stepping stone’ paths set in a lawn.
Concrete Garden Paths
A concrete garden path will only be strong if it has a firm base. Well compacted, solid ground or a 5cm (2in) layer of compacted rubble on soft ground is essential. If the path is intended to lie flush with the surrounding ground level, you will have to excavate the site to the combined depth of the concrete and any hardcore foundation.
Mark the line of the path with string lines pulled taut between stakes. Arrange formwork for the concrete, using timber boards set on edge and braced by stakes driven well into the ground. Form curves by making a series of saw cuts about halfway into the boards until they can be bent to the required shape.
The boards used for the formwork should be the same depth as the concrete, 5 — 7.5cm (2 — 3in) being adequate for a path. One side of the formwork should be set about 12mm (1/2in) lower than the other (on a path 1m wide) so that rainwater will drain away. Clearand other vegetation before concreting.
A concrete mix of one part cement to five parts of ballast is needed for a good path. It can be mixed by hand or in a hired concrete mixer. If a large volume is required, and there is no difficulty with access, it may be worth having premixed concrete delivered; this saves a lot of time and effort.
Pour a small batch of concrete into the formwork and spread it out with a shovel or a rake until it is slightly proud. Place a board across the formwork and make two passes with it, the first with a chopping motion, the second with a sawing motion to level it off. Proceed to the next batch.
Every 2.4m (8ft), place a thin board (slightly less deep than the formwork) across the path, and concrete over it. This will allow for any future expansion and prevent the path cracking.
If a textured, non-slip, finish is required, allow the concrete to harden for a while, then draw a stiffish broom across it at right angles. This will leave a slightly rippled finish.
In hot weather, protect the fresh concrete from drying quickly by allowing it to harden for a while and then placing sheets of polythene over it. Place weights on the edges of the sheets to prevent them flapping up in the wind.
Concrete Paving Blocks
A concrete block path is a little different. The blocks are available in various colours and shapes and are laid mostly to a herringbone, stretcher or parquet bond.
Plain rectangular blocks are usually 20cm x 10cm (8in x 4in ) and are about 6.5cm (2-1/2in) thick. The blocks should be laid on a bed of sharp sand. Solid edge supports (preferably concrete) are needed alongside the path. Sand can be brushed into the joints to complete the job. Special blocks are available for edges to avoid having to make cuts.
Cold Macadam Garden Paths
A cold macadam path must be laid on a well-compacted base. A black, treacle-like bonding agent is spread over concrete or loose surfaces. After 20 minutes, the macadam is poured from bags and spread evenly using the back of a rake. A roller is necessary to compact the surface, but it must be kept wet to avoid picking up the macadam.
If you have a cheap supply of broken paving slabs, preferably in a neutral colour, and a suitable setting, a crazy-paving path can be most effective. The technique of laying is similar to that for rectangular paving slabs (see “Building a Patio” above), but it is wise to lay the pieces out in approximate positions first. Start with the large pieces, and fill in with the smaller ones.
Unless you intend to grow plants between the paving, fill the spaces between the pieces with mortar, otherwise weeds will be a problem.
Brick Garden Paths
Bricks of suitable type can give a mellow look to a garden, but such paths are only feasible if a supply of free or cheap, very hard bricks is available. Lay in the same way as concrete paving blocks (see above), or bed in sand.
Gravel Garden Paths
Although only really suitable for a drive, gravel should not be overlooked. Weeds are no longer a problem with the advent of modem persistent weedkillers.
A firm base is essential, and a depth of 7.5cm (3in) of gravel is not too much. Rake it smooth, and roll it firm.
As with other materials, a slight camber will help in periods of heavy rain.
Stepping-Stone Garden Paths
Although rectangular paving slabs can be used, the round or irregularly shaped kinds look better. Most attractive of all are wooden rings cut from trees. If wood is used, make sure it is a durable timber such as elm (fairly easily obtained at the moment as a result of the widespread dutch elm disease).
Stepping-stones of any kind set into a lawn should be set on a firm base of sand or shingle, with the surface of the ‘stone’ slightly lower than the lawn, so that the mower clears it.
Grass Garden Paths
Only use grass paths where they are not likely to receive constant wear — and remember that they are not pleasant to walk upon in wet weather.
Where they can be used they look very natural, provided they are mown regularly. Keep them reasonably wide, use a strong-growing grass mixture, and consider the use of metal edging strips to keep a neat, firm edge.