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Build your own patio
by Julian Brandram

A patio is a good place to chill out in the summer, somewhere to have a barbecue or a place for small children to play. You can have flowerbeds round it, stand plant pots on it, or even leave gaps in the paving and plant creeping plants in them.

Materials and Design
Imitation stone paving slabs are quite expensive but plain ones can look good if you mix them with different sorts of materials. You can space out the slabs by filling the gaps between them with bricks or cobblestones. Waste material can be used to make patterns – old tiles or crockery can be broken up and used, adding colour. You can either lay them in a random way or plan a simple design perhaps incorporating plants. Plastic bottles can be used to make simple patterns, by cutting off the ends and sinking them into cement or concrete before it sets.

Laying the slabs
It is important to have a firm surface to start with; this can be created by having a layer of hardcore such as broken bricks, small rocks or other rubble. On top of this you will need a thin layer of grit sand or a sand and gravel mixture. This needs to be compacted so that it does not settle once the slabs have been laid on top of it. The best way to do this is to hire a machine called a ‘whacker plate’ which you trundle all over the area and it vibrates all the loose lumps down into a solid mass. Then you lay each individual slab on five blobs of fairly sloppy mortar and tap gently to get it level. Laying a patio is a bit more complicated than this but there are some really useful free leaflets available from the DIY stores, which will help you plan your project.

Planting
Once the hard landscaping is complete, then you can think about plants to go round or in it. If you are only going to use it in summer then perhaps things which flower then will be enough but if you see it from the house in the winter than you could mix in some winter flowering shrubs, heathers or evergreens. If you want shelter from wind or privacy from the neighbours, you could erect some trellis and grow climbing plants up it.

Be careful
Before you lay a slab or mix any cement, remember that it is all really hard work and can cause very painful back injuries! So get help when lifting and use a concrete mixer instead of doing it by hand.

If you have any ideas for gardening articles, please contact the Messenger. Happy gardening!

 

Patio illustration.

   
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