Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Holiday project: On the path to garden nirvana

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Justin Newcombe continues his central city garden makeover with a paving stone path and low-maintenance lawn.

Plain pavers were the solution for a garden fit to lounge in. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Plain pavers were the solution for a garden fit to lounge in. Photo / Paul Estcourt

This makeover started with a simple question. How do we get from the steps to the gate? I'm always on the lookout for the opportunity to do something grand and the path component of this design was no exception.

Project 2

Paved path

There are many different types of pavers available - textured and coloured concrete pavers, ceramic mosaic or terrazzo, honed and polished with mother of pearl, river pebble or paua shell. Bunnings just about has the lot. Concrete also comes in every colour under the sun.

I initially decided on plain Jane concrete pavers, no colour, and no fuss. However, as we expanded into artificial turf walls and laminated boat seats, things changed. The path got fancier, pavers became coloured, concrete became natural stone, then ceramic tiles.

Finally the plan was to cut up perfectly good pavers into random shapes with random ceramic tile inserts. What? It was all getting a bit, well, random. Time to breathe out. All I actually needed was a path that added to the whole, without taking attention away from the other elements.

How about a plain Jane concrete paver? Bingo.

Step 1

Mark out the path with spray paint and excavate. We used the excavated soil in the raised planter box.

Step 2

Set up a string line to work to. The string is used to create final paver height, fall and alignment. Check all these elements before starting.

Step 3

Install and compact the base material. We used recycled concrete from a roading gang working in the next street. Make sure you allow for the paver and 10mm of mortar. If you allow more than 10mm the pavers could slump unevenly.

Step 4

Mix the mortar and begin laying the pavers. The mortar should be uneven to allow the paver to bed into place. If you have trouble bedding in the paver with more than a few taps of a rubber mallet, lift the paver and start again. A little bit of trial and error at the beginning is to be expected.

Step 5

Make sure you work to your string line. You need to get the paver as close to the line as possible without actually touching it. If the line moves it will all add up at the end. Go over them with a level and tape measure. Measure all directions to check you are still on track.

Step 6

I allowed a 7mm gap between all the pavers for grouting. A gap allows for any deviations in the pavers. Every millimetre counts. You can use tile spacers but I used a tape measure.

Step 7

Grout and sponge to finish. Make sure you get all the cement off and change the water often.

Project 3

Tiger Turf lawn

Everybody wants the ultimate lawn but most of us can live without the ultimate maintenance that goes along with it. In a residential situation, to have a gold standard lawn requires dedication bordering on obsessive compulsive.

The best residential lawn examples I've seen were roped off from the public, including, I presume, the family. That must be the outside version of having a plastic cover on your sofa. If you've achieved this gardening nirvana for anything longer than a year I salute you, you must have too much time on your hands. Nevertheless, consider yourself elevated to demigod status. As for the pastoral riff-raff that make up the rest of us, we're going to have to rely on feral cunning to get some green glory.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the emerald shagpile, but all that work for a 6sq m lawn? In this garden I decided to go artificial. I didn't want that flat sports look, nor did I want six metres of faded bristles. After some quick research I found Tiger Turf. Tiger Turf has a massive range and the turf I selected is nice and long (but not the longest), has some serious UV protection, and is easy to keep tidy - you can hose it or even run over it with the vacuum
cleaner. It's also surprisingly comfortable to lie on and the thatch is two colours so is very convincing. I found myself wanting to tell people to get off the grass.

Step 1

Use ground-treated timber to form a frame around the edges of your turf. The edges of the turf will be stapled on to the timber

Step 2

Prepare the base much the same as you would for paving - compact 100mm of gap 40 covered by 20mm of gap 7.

Tiger Turf has a range of rubber underlays to add comfort. For more specific instructions, contact Tiger Turf.

Project 4

Tiger Turf box

The Tiger Turf also wrapped around our sculptural box a treat - try getting real lawn to do that. Even if you achieved it you'd still have to maintain it and that certainly would fall outside anybody's description of reasonable maintenance. Even a demigod.

Step 1

Make the frame using treated timber. Fence rails are fine as the box will be above ground.

Step 2

Cover the frame in treated plywood. I used a three-ply from Bunnings, which was on special. I left a small gap at the bottom of the box, about 300mm. This is so I can slip sand bags into the bottom of the box to hold it in place.

Step 3

Cut your turf to fit. I was able to cut a single piece that covered front, top and back. I cut smaller sections for the sides.

Step 4

Glue the turf in place using a speciality glue supplied by Tiger Turf. Get good coverage, as you don't want any movement in the turf once it's in place.

Step 5

Smooth the grass down making sure there are no wrinkles and that all the turf is flat. Staple in place.

- NZ Herald

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