Roger's Ramblings

August 2001

Whether we’re Chilling out with Chardonnay or Raving with Rioja, now is the time to enjoy our gardens to the full, and as we vegetate we can contemplate future changes. Is our Patio looking a bit tired, is it big enough, is it even in the right place?

If you are sun lovers and the back of your house is in constant shade, then the main Patio needs to be elsewhere in the garden. Alternatively, those who prefer shade need to plan with this in mind, and if your garden enjoys full sun then a Pergola is a useful way of achieving some respite. Increasingly we are building two seating areas, one in sun and one in shade, or one for breakfast and one for supper!

One way of rejuvenating a tired slab Patio is to build a deck over it. Providing the slabs are reasonably level and are laid to allow sufficient room below door cills, then deck boards or deck squares screwed to a sub-frame can be an economical alternative to complete replacement, and of course the area can be extended if desired. Where the existing Patio is satisfactory, decking can provide an attractive contrasting material for a secondary seating or Barbeque area, and can be enhanced by the addition of balustrading, planters or a Pergola. If the budget doesn’t run that far, gravel is a cheap and easy alternative. It must be contained with an edging of frostproof brick or timber, and landscape fabric should be laid beneath the gravel to prevent weed growth. Remember though that this loose surface is better suited to fixed benches or seats rather than individual chairs.

If you decide to ‘bite the bullet’ and go for a new Patio, then clearly it is important to view it in context with the whole garden. Consider future requirements such as water features, lighting or raised beds rather than wish you had later. There is a wealth of materials available, paving slabs in all colours, shades, shapes and sizes, setts, paviors and reclaimed brick, and often, if the area is large enough, materials can be mixed to great effect.

If you are going to use a Landscape Contractor they will, of course, be happy to advise you, but do choose one registered with a professional body. We belong to the A.P.L. (Association of Professional Landscapers) who ensure that their members have the required skills to carry out all types of garden landscaping.

If you decide to self-build, first draw a plan of your garden and impose your proposed Patio in various areas using different shapes and sizes before starting, and bear in mind you need a minimum of 3m˛ to accommodate a table and chairs. Marking out the area with a rope or hosepipe helps to decide on size and shape, and once you have chosen your Patio surface you are ready to begin. Write down your requirements ie: skip, sand, hardcore, mixer etc., and arrange delivery as required. 

You will need a spirit level - or it will look dreadful - and if adjacent to a building ensure a fall away for drainage. Do resist the temptation to lay on sand or a shallow base, preparation as always is the key and a good sub-base will prevent movement in the future. Depending on your soil type and finished surface, you will need to take out a minimum of 200mm of soil, backfill with 100mm of compacted hardcore and then lay your slabs or bricks on the appropriate bedding medium.

Above all take your time, plan ahead and avoid making costly mistakes (or save your time and back and call in the professionals!)

Next month we’ll continue with garden structures and if you have any questions or comments do Email me - and don’t forget the watering in dry hot weather!



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