Basic Landscaping for the Home
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.— Marcus Tullius Cicero
You do not have to be a landscape architect to design your garden. However, you do need to have a certain flair and vision to plan an attractive garden. Whether you plan on starting from scratch or borrowing ideas from garden magazines, it is best to have an understanding of the basic principles of landscape design before “digging” into your garden, so to speak. Brush up your understanding of unity, balance, symmetry and proportion in designing. Landscaping is similar to interior designing although the thrust of landscape design is the development and physical location of flora, fauna, garden structures and other manmade objects in the garden.
Whichever way your garden landscaping goes, the important thing is that each aspect of the landscaping should blend for a beautiful, restful and soothing garden. The size of your garden is immaterial. What is important is that each element of the landscape is in synch with each other.
Designing the Garden
Take a good look of your yard. Picture the kind of garden that you want. Inspect every inch of the potential garden noting which areas receive the most and least sunlight during the day. If there are existing trees and structures such as ponds, fountains or trellises, work around them. If you plan on adding a patio or deck or swimming pool, mark the intended area so you can layout the path for the garden.
Take a pen and graphing paper and sketch a scaled drawing of all the permanent features and outdoor living structures and furniture in the yard. Include the footprint of the house and other auxiliary areas such as pathways, driveways, sidewalks and other existing garden features and structures.
Once you have evaluated the availability of sunlight in the different areas of the yard, mark them on the scaled sketch. This is important so you will choose the correct plants for specific spots. For example, a rose garden needs at least 6 hours of sunlight during their bloom time. You cannot plant roses in a spot that receives a meagre amount of sunlight in a day. Note the water run-off so you will know where to slope the garden for natural drainage. Note the location of the water supply too.
Make sure that the soil is healthy. If not, conditioners and additives are needed to ensure plant growth. If you cannot determine the state of the soil, take a sample to a local garden centre for assessment.
Are you planning to be a dedicated gardener or a weekend gardener? It is important to determine at this point the amount of time and maintenance you want for the proposed garden. If you have no inclination to mow the lawn, better not plant grass on all areas of the yard. If you are not partial to weeding and pruning, better consider a water garden or xeriscape garden that calls for low maintenance.
Take a second tracing paper and superimpose it on to the initial scaled drawing and re-design the existing yard. Mark in your preferred location for the shrubs, plants, vines, fountains, outdoor furniture, fire pit, deck, patio, trellis or gazebo. Include walkways and connecting pathways from the front of the yard to the back. Get creative and curve some pathways and plan on lining them up with flowers. Raise parts of the yard for flower beds. Make provision for pebbles and flat rocks to shore the raised flower beds. The flat rocks and pebbles will keep them from run-offs during rains or when watering them.
For last, the landscape must be in tune with the overall design and ambiance of the house. Choose pavers, edging, stone accents and retaining walls in shades that will enhance the house’s exterior. A garden wall is another good idea as an element of landscaping.
What is a garden wall?
A garden wall serves varied purposes. It can be built as a boundary line. It can be put up to retain a slope of land. It can be built purely for aesthetics to complement a garden. It is a good idea to even fill up a garden wall with soil and plant flowers and small shrubs for a unique raised flower bed.
A garden wall design has to be completely synch with the general style of the house and garden. Choosing the stones or pre-fabricated masonry need not be difficult as there is a variety of types available. Though the actual construction of a garden wall is easy for a regular DIY-er, it is still best to seek the services of a skilled mason to do the job if the proposed garden wall is more than a meter high.
A garden wall for accent or for lot boundary should be a non-bearing wall with a maximum height of 18 inches or 500 mm. At this height there is no need for footings or foundations to support such structure. The most practical material for a non-bearing garden wall is interlocking bricks that do not require cement mortar filler. Interconnecting this type of brick is simple enough for an avid DIY- er to do. If preference is for natural or synthetic stones, here is a short list of options.
- Natural stone are usually stacked or overlapped for a great effect. Examples are sandstone, limestone and large flat stones. Mortar filling is usually required to stack these materials.
- Man-made stone are different colored concrete stones textured and patterned to simulate natural stone. Mortar is needed to hold these materials together. Bricks are usually interlocked to form a garden wall.
- Poured Concrete and concrete hollow blocks are best used for garden walls exceedin 1 meter in height. These materials are heavy that proper concrete footing and foundation is required. Concrete mixing can be done in batches using concrete mixer. If the perimeter is long, then ordering pre-mixed concrete is best.
Once the material for the garden wall is settled, decide the exact location of the garden wall. If the garden wall is for setting up a low border between two adjacent lots, then locate the legal boundaries of the lot to set the garden wall. It is best to inform the neighbor of this intent. If the garden wall is for design accent in a garden, it is best to visualize its location while taking into consideration the slope of the lot and other existing structures in the yard.
Steps in Building a Garden Wall
Make a list of all the materials needed. Do a rough estimate of the materials needed and add 10% in excess of the estimated materials for breakages.
Excavate about 600 mm deep of soil for a 500 mm high garden wall. A deep trench is needed to address the drainage. Tramp down loose soil after excavation.
Fill the excavation with gravel to serve as foundation. Draw a taut string from one end to the other as guide for the first stone course. Level across the width and length of the stone to make it more straight. Chisel out any protruding part. Use a mallet to tap and seat the stone in place. Do the next course keeping in mind to level each course for a straight and even garden wall. Make sure to backfill the garden wall with packed soil and gravel as you go along for reinforcement. Fill the garden wall with quality garden soil.
Once the basic garden wall is done, finish it with cap stones with the same width and depth. Use a 1:3 mortar mix for this job. Grooves on the final top layer of the stone wall are necessary for anchoring the mortar. Allow 1-2 days for the mortar to set before incorporating plants and other garden ornaments.