Hard truths of gardening

Paved paths and driveways will always look good.

IN a previous edition, I asked for suggestions on future columns and a few readers requested more articles on hard landscaping as opposed to discussing plants every week.

I am happy to oblige. Starting this week, I will discuss paths, which are vital to all gardens. They link the various elements from the clothesline to the shed or garage, the compost heap or gazebo. Traditionally, the “backyard” comprised of three fences with a narrow path leading from the back door to the regulatory Hills hoist.

No thought was given even to having a larger paved area around the clothesline in which to stand the trolley or to stop dropped clothes getting dirty.

Preferably, paths need to be a minimum of 120cm-150cm wide, enabling two people to walk comfortably next to each other. This is wide enough for those who require a wheelchair or a walking frame. Or to wheel a trolley to the clothesline.

Euky chip paths blend in well for many garden styles.

The cheapest form of path for low-traffic areas in the rear garden is using fine Eucalyptus chips, usually referred to as Euky chip. This, by the way, is useless as a mulch, verified by numerous attendees at my garden workshops.

These chips pack down like layers of papier-mache and, if the ground is sloping, the water simply runs off, never reaching the roots of plants.

Decomposed granite with a paver edge is a great alternative.

But for paths in bush or cottage gardens, Euky chips blend in perfectly with the surrounds. At seven centimetres thick, they will  quickly compact, enabling walking or wheeling a barrow on this surface. It does not need compacting by machine.

Next in the economy stakes is compacted decomposed granite, often referred to as Paddy’s River gravel. It is important to have a solid edge such as timber or pavers, as illustrated here. Without this edge, compacted gravel will spread out sideways and simply not work.

Clay pavers are the most effective material for all paths, patios and driveways. The standard brick-size paver is the one most commonly used.

Concrete pavers are great for paths and patio areas or swimming pool surrounds. They are available in a variety of colours and sizes. One of the most popular sizes is 40cmx40cm, an easy size to handle.

Here in Canberra, Binks Concrete Company, of Mitchell, has been manufacturing such pavers for more than 50 years. As you walk around any town centre, you are almost certainly walking on Binks’ pavers. They are not recommended for driveways.

It is important that pavers are laid on washed river sand, never on cement or crusher dust. It fact, most paving companies will not guarantee their products unless laid on the right material.

The advantage of all the above-mentioned types of paths, as opposed to concrete, is that they can all be lifted or moved if the need arises. They may be dug up to repair sewer or burst water pipes or where tree roots have damaged the path.

DOREEN WILSON has been awarded life membership to the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. In part, the citation reads: “In appreciation of outstanding service as an active volunteer of the Friends of ANBG since 1990”. Congratulations Doreen, an award well deserved.

Did you know that…

  • in Europe, gardeners consider frosts are over once hawthorns flower? Have you noticed the rich carmine colours of the hawthorns along Northbourne Avenue now in flower?

  • the main reason for lifting bulbs is that over the years, with falling leaves, mulching etcetera they get deeper and take too long to surface when spring arrives?

  • rosemary tea is great for fresh breath?

  • that ground lovage, thyme or marjoram are a substitute for salt?

  • grass growing up to the trunk of fruit trees can reduce your crop by up to 40 per cent?

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One Response to “Hard truths of gardening”

  1. Emma S Condon
    November 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    You just really have to take all the risk in order to achieve your goals. Even though it starts with a hard time, By the end of the day you’ll surely fulfill your expectations when you see your fruits of labor.

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