Convert that awkward sloped corner of your garden into a beautiful and tranquil area for entertaining or simply relaxing in with a cup of coffee. You don’t need much space and – if you don’t have a slope – you can raise a section to enhance your garden with an interesting new level dimension. Get to a hardware store as soon as you can – they have everything you need to help you transform your garden!
Slopes can be problematic as they do not always make for accessible gardening. However, they do give you opportunities to create terraces that add interest and structure to your garden, not to mention additional useful space. This month the team shows how it’s done by transforming one such space into a charming seating area – it was hard work but the tranquil result speaks for itself.
What You Need
10 bags concrete mix
20 bags building sand
110 concrete blocks (M190)
4 bags Builders Pride Cement
10 concrete sleepers (we used flat grey),
each 1.2 m in length
20 m Brickforce (galvanised mesh
150 x 2.2 mm)
3 x 10 m rolls Weed-Gard
40 bags small gravel
26 flagstones (190 x 390 mm,
we used Romans)
4 Syzigium paniculatum lollipops
10 bags Lush Potting Soil
20 bags Lush Compost
Tape measure, builder’s line, line level, bricklayer’s trowel, roofing square, spirit level, block brush, buckets, mixing board, spade, pick, steel rake, wooden pegs and a four pound hammer
• Prepare the area by removing all the existing plants and built structures.
• Mark out the area according to the design drawing. Use builder’s line and pegs to mark the areas for the foundations.
Building the Walls
• Dig a foundation trench 150 mm deep x 240 mm wide for the terrace wall to be built along the front of the area. Find the centre point of the foundation trench and measure 600 mm on either side (the length of the sleeper) – this is where the steps will be built with the sleepers. To accommodate the steps, dig a further 240 mm into the bank at right angles to the wall foundation.
• Combine the bags of concrete mix with water to form a workable mixture and fill the trenches. Use a straight-edge plank with a level on top of it to make sure the
foundations are level.
• Before the foundations dry out, place the first row of blocks in position. Start placing blocks from the corners of the steps and work outwards on either side. Use a roofing square to get the corners at right angles where the steps will be inset into the bank. Remember you will need to lay a foundation for each block stepped into the bank to form the sides of the stairway.
• Allow to dry overnight before continuing with the second row.
• Mix a ratio of 5 parts sand to 1 part cement with water. Add a little water at a time to form a firm mortar. Lay the second row of blocks using this mixture. • Continue laying the blocks until the wall has reached 4 blocks high, ensuring that there is a foundation for any new ‘intrusion’ into the bank that forms the sides of the stairway. Allow the construction to dry overnight.
• To finish off the walls, bag wash them using water and cement mixed to the consistency of thick yoghurt. Use the block brush to apply the bag wash.
Building the Steps
• For the first step, dig a trench 100 mm deep and the width of the sleeper.
• Fill the trench with 50 mm of foundation mix.
• Place the sleeper on the foundation while it is still wet and make sure it is level. Note: the sleeper should be at ground level when placed. • Behind the set sleeper, dig a small trench 50 mm deep and slot another sleeper vertically into this trench for the rise.
• Backfill and compact the soil to the top of this vertically placed sleeper, leaving a platform 50 mm deep x 2 sleeper widths.
• As with the first step, pour a layer of foundation mix on the platform and set two sleepers down making sure that the front sleeper sits on top of the vertically placed sleeper and is flush with it.
• Continue building the stairs until you have reached the required level.
Preparing the Tranquil Terrace
• Backfill behind the wall to just below the height of the wall (50 mm) and rake the top level.
Building the Flagstone Area
• From either side of the steps build an outline of flagstones as per the design drawing.
• Use 5 parts building sand to 1 part cement to form a mortar as per the walls. Wet the sand and apply a layer of concrete, place the flagstones and tap them into position with a rubber mallet. Make sure the levels are correct and the line is straight by using builder’s line and pegs.
• Roll out the Weed-Gard and cut it to size. Make sure the area is covered and then spread a thick layer of washed gravel over the area.
Finishing Tranquil Touches
Add plenty of Lush Compost to the flower beds before planting. We used a Syzigium Paniculatum lollipop in each of the four corners to enhance the formal structure and the durable, powder-coated Palma Bistro Set to furnish the tranquil terrace with chairs and a table. The four Addis Sardinia pots were placed in the four corners of the patio, filled with Lush Potting soil and planted with pink Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’. The two Addis Palermo pots framed the stairs and were planted with tall, elegant Sanservaria hybrids.