The Back Yard

Justin Newcombe's tips for creating a gorgeous and productive garden

Beautifying your backyard (Part 2 of 3)

By Justin Newcombe

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Part two of our guide on how to make the area around your pool look like a million dollars, with Justin Newcombe.

Last week, in part one of our pool makeover, we concentrated on making pool fencing exciting and turning a hammock into a real highlight.

This week we're going to focus on a seating area and, in particular, timber edging and paving.

To go on to the seating area I picked up a hardwood bench seat from Bunnings. It's a beautiful nutty colour, turned out in a modern design, but most importantly it's created from sustainably sourced timber. Perfect.

Laying sleeper edging in the garden

Borders and edges usually have a practical purpose, such as retaining soil, bark or mulch, or providing a mowing strip in a lawn.

They are also used for definition and clarity and can become strong design components in their own right. This is especially true for small or confined areas such patios, courtyards and swimming pools.

Strong borders can also give a sense of stability and organisation, making small areas seem more important and somehow larger than they are. I often use sleepers, but not always.

Plantings such as hedges can be used instead of hard landscaping materials like stone.

In this garden I went for macrocarpa sleepers. I find sleepers are easy to install with a strong look that can traverse a wide variety of styles.

Borders and edges don't have to cost a fortune. I've successfully used recycled concrete, large logs and rocks or even a combination of all of the above. Create some strong shapes and be clever with your planting and you can get away with just about anything.

Step 1

Set up a string line along the intended edge of the sleeper. Make sure the line goes past the beginning and end point of your sleeper so that the peg doesn't get in the way. The line should be set at the right height from the ground. The sleeper I'm using here is 150mm deep.

The line is set at 100ml because the bottom 50ml will be in the ground.

Step 2

Trim the ends off the sleeper, which often aren't square, then dress with a plane and sand if necessary.

Step 3

On the bottom of the sleeper, in the middle and at either end, hammer in two large nails.

Step 4

Dig a trench for the sleeper to lie in with three holes in the trench that line up with the nails in the sleeper.

Step 5

Place concrete in each hole and position the sleeper on top so that when it sets, the nails will hold the sleeper to the concrete. Make sure the sleeper lines up with the stringline.

Step 6

Place any remaining concrete around the base of the sleeper to help stabilise it. Make sure the concrete won't be seen once the soil is reinstated around the sleeper. Stain the sleeper if required.

How to lay paving stones for seating

Seating areas need to be flat, practical spaces with good access and enough room for comfortable living. Even in a small seating area, keeping these basics in mind is important. Something more textural, for example, may look a little more interesting but could create some rocky problems for tables, chairs and bench seats. Conversely we don't want the seating area to be too bland and we certainly don't want it looking like a seating area from a public swimming pool in the 1970s.

Luckily for me, Bunnings has an excellent range of pavers.

I decided on a plain design with a slight texture, in a light sandstone colour - this was just enough to take away the natural concrete colour while blending nicely with the stain I'd used on the edgings and fence. These pavers can be placed on sharp sand as long as underneath the foundation is a strong, compacted base and the edges are stable.

I recycled some old brick and concrete I found on site as a base course. I then placed the pavers on a slightly thicker than necessary bed of new concrete to compensate for any instability. Besides that, ready-to-mix bags of concrete are much faster and tidier to use than barrowing in base course and sand.

I do have a small confession to make.

Initially, I wanted to give these pavers a tile finish with grout in between each one. I constructed my timber edgings accordingly but I was so absorbed by how great it was all looking, I forgot about the grout finish and butted the pavers together.

Once I realised my error, I'd gone too far to pull them out.

Instead of leaving the resulting gap on the edges, where it would have been much less visible, I decided to be more assertive and placed the gap in the middle of the paved area, where it will now become a smart mosaic feature.

Step 1

Dig out your intended area. Work out how deep it should be by adding the depth of the paver, the mortar and the base course.

Step 2

Add the base course and compact. I recycled old concrete and brick and compacted it with an old weight.

Step 3

Use a level and string line to mark out the edgings and the finished level of the paving. A chalk line is good for this.

Step 4

Mix concrete. Be careful not to make this mixture too wet or the concrete will slump under the weight of the paver. Shovel the concrete into place and screed out to about 10mm above the required height and about 10mm inside the edge of the paver.

Step 5

Line up the paver with your markings on the timber edges and check with a straight edge that the paver height will correspond with the heights of the subsequent pavers. Gently tap down with a mallet or block of wood. Don't bash the paver down, it will crack. If the paver won't go down to the required height pull it up, scrape out some of the concrete and re-lay it. Repeat this and check after each paver .

Step 6

Once the paver is installed immediately wipe off any cement or concrete with a sponge. Repeat until area is covered.

- NZ Herald

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