What Do You Need to Build a Garden?
Landscape supplies can be a major cost in developing any garden.
If you want quality soil, timber, rock, pavers and other materials, you will need to pay more for them.
There are always cheaper alternatives of course, but often money saved today can result in greater cost in the future.
- Cheaper materials may be less durable.
- Cheaper materials may be less pure (eg. mulch or soil may contain weeds).
- Cartage is a major cost, so sources that are closer (eg. quarries) may be significantly cheaper, even though the quality is no different.
- Don’t plan to use something until you know it is available.
- The exact materials available will vary from one locality to the next.
- Even if you are prepared to spend more, it still might not be available.
- Some things take a long while to supply (even if available, you may have to wait weeks or months).
Soil is a crucial factor in how well your plants grow. If you decide to add soil to your garden, you should select soil that will complement the existing soil. To avoid damaging the existing soil structure, new soil should be laid over the top or mixed in to the existing soil profile.
When selecting soil, look for an even texture. Poorer soils may be full of clay clumps or stones. Smelling the soil will give you an indication of whether it contains stagnant water or undecomposed organic material or toxins.
Rocks can be a great feature in the garden. They can make a garden look more natural, particularly with plants spilling over the top. Alternatively they can be used to create sharp edges and clearly define different parts of the garden.
The type of rocks available range from yellow sandstones, through to grey volcanic rock, depending upon the area you live in. Rocks covered in moss or lichen can look as if they have been in the ground for many years, even if they have just been put into position. If you are using rocks for a garden wall, it will be important to select rocks with an attractive “face”.
Gravel has two major uses in the garden landscape. It can be used as a base for paving or as a feature in its own right.
The gravel used for supporting paving need not be aesthetically pleasing, but it should contain different particle sizes. This means that when the gravel is compacted to provide a support for the paving, it will provide a stable base.
Coloured gravel or pebbles can be used as either a spectacular feature or as a mulch in the garden. When creating a garden feature, select gravel or pebbles of the same or similar size. It can be either a uniform colour or a mixture of colours. You can control weeds by using a porous weedmat under the gravel.
There are many different types of sand that can be used in the garden. The types of sand available will vary according to where you live. There are different coloured sands and different particle sizes. Sands can come from quarries or be mined from sand dunes. Sand can be contaminated with salt, dirt, rocks and other unwanted materials. River sand or washed sand should be free of contaminants.
The sand you choose will depend upon the job you are doing.
- If you are using sand for a child’s sandpit, it is important to make sure that it is clean. *Bricklayers sand includes clay to help the mortar bind together.
- Coarse washed sand is suitable when you are using sand as a base for paving.
There are two basic types of mulch – inorganic and organic. Inorganic mulches include materials such as gravel and pebbles. Organic mulches are those made from plant materials and animal manures. Selecting an organic mulch will depend on what is available in your area and the time of year. Some mulches such as lucerne hay are only available at harvest times. In the warmer parts of Australia sugar cane mulch is readily available, while pea straw is popular in southern Australia.
Wood chips are a widely-used mulch. They can be made from bark or from timber. They tend to break down slowly and come in a variety of sizes. The larger the particle size, the longer it will take to break down.
One of the problems with organic mulch is a process known as ‘nitrogen draw down’. If mulches have not been properly composted, they will decompose in your garden and rather than adding nutrients to the soil, they will take nitrogen from the soil as they break down. You should only use decomposed mulches or add fertiliser when your mulch your garden.
Timber is an important material for retaining walls, fences and other structures within the garden.
Pine is a softwood timber that is cheap and easy to work with, but it is prone to bowing and is not very durable unless it is treated. Treated pine is an excellent material that will resist termites.
Hardwood timbers are usually solid and durable. Both the original material and the time it has been dried determine the strength of hardwood timbers. A classification system is used to describe the strength and durability of different timbers. Ask your timber or garden supplier for details.
Paving is an important component of many gardens. Paving can vary from a series of stepping stones to a broad path or driveway. It allows all-weather access to the garden and provides a contrast to the plants. Paving materials need to be hard wearing and durable, such as bricks, concrete and stone.
Paving is an expensive component of the garden. If you are on a low budget, or the paving is for an out of the way area such as behind the back shed, consider using seconds grade pavers or even second-hand materials.
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