A Beginner’s Guide to Building Garden Steps
Building garden steps is a great do-it-yourself project for any home gardener. An attractive garden is not just pleasing to the eye, it will make gardening more enjoyable. Knowing that you built the garden steps yourself also adds to the enjoyment level and makes it a very worthwhile endeavor.
Building Garden Steps – Planning and Supplies
Before taking any steps toward the actual building of the garden steps, it is important to have a plan in place. The plan should cover all the bases – most importantly what the finished steps will look like. This is when you make all of the decisions – how tall the steps will be, exactly where they will be placed and what materials will be used to build them.
When choosing materials for your garden steps, be sure to consider the width of the steps when measuring. You do not want to make your steps too narrow or too wide. Test out a few samples if you can, to determine if they are wide enough for an average adult to easily walk up and down. Also, look into the way the materials react to damp weather and try not to get anything that will be extremely slippery or dangerous when exposed to water.
The next step is to clear out the area where you will be building the steps so you can get proper measurements and also begin to form an idea of how the completed project will look. Once the area is clear, figure out all of the lengths and widths so you can determine what type of material will work best for your project. Most garden steps are made with stone or bricks, and they come in all different sizes.
One of the most important steps to a DIY building is to get all of your supplies together. Gather up your tools and all of the building materials and keep them neatly together so that you will have what you need when you need them.
Building Garden Steps – Clearing and Building
Before the building begins, clear the ground and prepare the area where the steps will be built. Be sure and pack the ground beneath the steps down really well before starting any installation. This will prevent the pavers from sinking after they are put in place.
Build the pavers and risers out of wood to provide more stability for the material you are using for the steps. Lay a piece of wood on either side of the steps to help hold the pavers and risers in place as you are building them. Once they are complete, you can remove the 2 side pieces of wood.
Next lay the bricks or stones in place on the steps, making sure the area around the materials is clear and even. Once the materials are in place and you are certain that the steps are level, apply the mortar to the bricks or stones to secure them into position. If things need to be shifted around at all, do it while the mortar is still wet because once it has a chance to dry you will no longer be able to move the bricks or stones.
Once the bricks or stones have been laid and mortared, block off the entire area. Keep everyone off the steps for at least a couple of days to give them a chance to completely dry and settle.
Planning and Building your Garden
Designing your Organic Garden
A garden can be created and managed organically whatever its shape size or location.
Site assessment: when designing your organic garden there are a few basic steps to go through when planning your garden layout.
- Consider soil condition and fertility by inspecting existing vegetation and wet or compacted areas.
- Observe the position of the sun throughout the day, taking into account potential seasonal variations.
- Identify potential environmental issues such as large screening buildings, and also identify positives in regard to the potential visual appeal of your garden.
- Make note of potential hindrances such as cables, pipes, drains, etc. Taking particular care with future access issues.
Any well-planned garden should be an extension of the living areas of your house. Balancing functional elements such as washing lines with other areas such as flower beds and vegetable cultivation areas.
A Garden must remain practical as well as visually appealing. Relaxation areas and alike should be placed well away from the house whereas a play area for small children is better suited placed within easy view of the house or kitchen window.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is one of the main reasons for developing an organic garden. If space is a consideration in your garden vegetables, fruits and herbs can be incorporated into existing flower beds and borders. Another decorative touch can be added by lining garden beds with herbs or annual flowers, this also has the added benefit of attracting beneficial insects.
Compost & Recycling
Setting aside an area to compost kitchen and household waste is an essential ingredient to a successful organic garden. Compost bins can eliminate the need for keeping your compost area hidden and out of sight. Other composting systems such as worm composting for kitchen scraps can be best located near the kitchen. Autumn leaves stored in sacks can also make great leaf mold.
Greenhouses are a great way to grow exotic or out-of-season plants. Several different methods are available from the visually appealing to the functional.
By choosing the right plants for the growing environment found in your organic garden, and by selecting plants that fit into your garden space you can cut down on watering, feeding, pest, and disease control. In a natural environment, plants are never artificially watered or fertilized. They obtain all their nutrition from their surroundings. Achieving a balance close to that found in nature is the aim of any Organic garden.
Providing shelter and natural feed for wildlife such as birds and predatory insects can help you maintain a thriving garden free from pests and diseases. A garden designed along the lines of the natural environment, with materials such as mulch, bird-attracting plants, and thick shrubs for nesting can attract the right wildlife to your garden.
Fruiting trees and shrubs such as hawthorns, rowans, and crab apples are specific examples of colorful additions to your garden which also act as a vital food source for wildlife.
Good garden design involves creating a good structural layout, ensuring your garden will look good in winter as well as summer. The overgrown opulence of summer can be contrasted with the crisp lines and straight paths of winter.
Paths and Seating Areas
Paths, terraces, and paved areas are long-term additions to your garden and should be planned with care. Considerations such as the environmental impact of the production of the material should influence the choice of material you use. Reconstituted stone paving slabs, railway sleepers, and offcut timber planks are examples of enviro-friendly construction materials.
Windbreaks and Screens
Screens provide shelter and privacy to your garden as well as decorative considerations such as creating intriguing garden rooms and hidden areas. Brick walls are more permanent additions and provide solid anchors for climbing plants and trained plants. Hedges and natural screens provide a more attractive option to treated timber fencing, although these can take some time to develop.
For a screen to act as an effective windbreak it needs to be around 50% permeable, solid barriers simply divert the wind upward creating turbulence on the other side, This makes hedges ideal in this application.
Principles such as Focus (drawing the eye to an important feature), Scale (avoiding plants out of proportion to your garden), Unity (elements relating in harmony to one other), Rhythm (Patterns and repeating elements) as well as Contrast (color texture and pattern) are all ingredients that go together to produce a well planned, functional and visually appealing Organic Garden.
Building the Garden Framework
A truly organic approach to building a garden should extend beyond selecting the right plants and include all the elements that comprise a garden, from landscaping materials, and pathways to furniture.
Choosing Timber for the Garden
Timber is potentially the most environmentally friendly building material for your garden. It is often ideal for walls, screens, and borders. The organic gardener needs to select wood sourced from environmentally sustainable methods.
Many species of timber are already naturally resistant to disease and pest infestation and are ideal for use in the organic garden.
Huon pine is especially resistant to water while some species are particularly resistant to fungi and termites. Recycled timber from sources such as old fences or railway sleepers is ideal for use in the garden as they are often made from these species of timber and are already weathered, looking great in the garden.
Areas such as paths, patios, and driveways account for large areas in a garden and can consume the lion’s share of building materials required.
Stone and Pavers
Natural stones provide a very durable surface however are usually limited in supply and costly. Stone is often produced from destructive quarrying methods that can be quite environmentally destructive. These surfaces, however, tend to last for longer periods which can offset initial environmental concerns.
Gravel and Crushed Rock
Gravel and crushed rock are also derived from harmful quarrying methods. These can also be produced from equally destructive sea dredging which destroys marine environments.
Reclaimed aggregates such as crushed rubble from building sites can provide a friendlier alternative and make attractive durable surfaces.
Timber and Wood
Wood makes an environmentally (depending on eco-conscious sources) sound surface, however, it can be treacherous as pathways, etc when wet.
Timber is often the material of choice for decking and reclaimed timber is especially suited to this purpose.
A little planning can go a long way in gardening. Before you even head to the nursery, start by looking around your yard and taking note of which areas get a lot of suns, which are shaded all day, and which are sunlit for part of the day. Also, notice which spots tend to be damp all the time and which dry out very fast. Now you can use that information to choose the site of your new garden and the plants that will fare well there. When you select plants that thrive in your conditions, you have to care for them less.
Prepare your new garden beds before you buy your plants. Loosen the soil with a shovel, garden fork, and/or tiller 6 to 8 inches deep, and add several inches of compost to it. If the soil is sandy, mix in an extra helping of compost. In most climates, vegetables, fruits and herbs grow best in raised beds, which are built up 4 to 6 inches above the surrounding ground. Most flowers thrive in raised beds, too. The soil in raised beds drains quickly so plants never sit in water, and the soil warms up fast in spring.
You can build a raised bed by adding a lot of organic matter to the soil and fluffing up the soil with a garden fork, then raking soil from the areas that will be paths up onto the beds. Many gardeners like to enclose their raised beds in wooden or plastic frames; others just mound up the soil. (Please don’t frame your garden with what’s commonly called “pressure-treated” CCA wood—it contains arsenic and other toxins that can leach into your soil.)
Garden Buildings aren’t Limited to Sheds
If you are thinking about installing a new building in your garden then the immediate thing that comes to mind is going to be a shed. However, this is a very limited idea as there are many different types of buildings that you can construct outside your property. Many of these can be a wonderful addition to your home, and not just be a place for storing tools, but become something so much more.
The range of buildings that you can install outside your property is only limited by your imagination, and perhaps planning permission, but there is no question you can be very creative. Many people choose to install an outdoor jacuzzi building as this offers a great place to relax away from home. It can also be a great thing to entertain guests with and allows you to relax outside in all seasons.
Alternatively, if your garden is large enough, you can build a place to house guests. A small building will allow you to sleep extra people in your home and this can be great if you are planning to host people, or if you want to establish a bed and breakfast.
A great option to install would be a summerhouse. This is something that will be practical and also beautiful in your garden. There is a wide range of different types of summerhouses available and you will find that there are sizes to fit all different types of gardens.
A summerhouse will double as a place for storing outdoor tools and also being a great place for relaxing in the warmer months. If you are someone who enjoys barbecuing and sitting outside, a summerhouse would be a perfect addition to your property.