It gladdens your heart when you send out a plea to the industry to help revamp a pre-school’s playground and so many come to the party.
When this makeover started the playground was a dustbowl – testimony to the daily pounding it gets from all the little feet. Two trees that provide essential shade for the children were probably the ‘last straw’ for the grass that originally covered the playground, and the other reason that it wasn’t any use trying to put in more lawn, even if it could be protected for a while.
We wanted to provide seating around the trees and make a feature of cordoning them off at the same time, but their roots presented a bit of a challenge. We overcame this by constructing low, daisy-shaped walls around them. We filled the beds formed by these walls with bark mulch. As there was no option of replanting the grass, but there was a clear need for a tough ‘green’ area for the children to play on, we decided that synthetic turf would fit the bill. The areas to be ‘carpeted’ were defined by edging them with cobbles and then filled with crusher. This was compacted, after which the turf ‘carpet’ was installed. A slide and a playhouse completed the makeover. The smiles on the faces of the children were the most memorable of finishing touches.
Cobbling the edges:
SmartStone donated the cobbles used for this makeover. SmartStone cobbles are renowned for their durability and come in an impressive 15 colours. The Victorian cobble is 73 mm thick, making it ideal for commercial applications and strong enough to withstand the wear and tear it will be subjected to on a playground. To replicate our cobble edges you need:
77 linear metres of Victorian cobbles
6 bags cement
20 bags building sand
What to do
Use a builders’ line and level to make sure the line of cobbles is perfectly straight. Mix a ratio of 4 parts building sand to 1 part cement, plus enough water to form a cement mixture with a stiff texture. Using a trowel, lay a line of this mixture on the ground, then place a line of cobbles on it and tap them slightly into the mixture, using a rubber mallet. Make sure they butt up against each other. Each cobble has a built-in spacer that keeps the small space between it and the next one identical.
Building daisy walls:
Choosing to build asymmetrical, slightly daisy-shaped walls made it possible to avoid the roots of the trees –the contours of the walls were simply adapted to accommodate them. To build the equivalent of our two daisy walls you need:
200 x M140 blocks
10 bags concrete mix
2 bags cement
8 bags building sand
What to do
Plan each wall by positioning a layer of blocks around the tree in a loose daisy shape, using the roots of the tree as a guide. Mark the outline of the wall and remove the blocks. Dig a trench, 200 mm wide and 150 mm deep, and line the base with a concrete mixture to create a solid foundation for the blocks. To make the concrete mixture use a bag of concrete mix to every bucket of cement (1:1 ratio), plus water. Allow the concrete to dry (it takes 2 to 3 days) before laying the blocks.
Lay the first row of blocks, cementing them together with a mixture of 1 part cement to 4 parts building sand, plus water. Fill the holes in the blocks with the cement mixture before beginning on the second row. When both rows are completed mix enough cement and water together to form a fairly wet paste (slurry). Use a block brush to apply the slurry to the wall, coating the outside, the top and halfway down the inside of the wall. Allow the slurry to dry before doing any further work on the wall.
Installing the turf:
Van Dyck Carpets supplied Garden 24 Turf – a soft pile, fibrillated polyethylene product that is 100% UV resistant – and thus perfect for a playground. Mark Cousens and staff from DuraPutt Sport and Leisure did an awesome job of installing the turf. Garden 24 is one of four synthetic turf products that make up Van Dyck’s Leisure Range of products for outdoor projects (see Van Dyck’s website for more details). To lay Garden 24 Turf over an extended area, as was done here, you need:
2 tons small gravel crusher
220m2 Garden 24 Turf
Joining tape, outdoor waterproof glue
What to do
Prepare the surface on which the turf will be laid. In our case the area was already bare sand and there was no need to remove any grass or vegetation. Have the crusher poured over the area when it is delivered, then spread it out using a metal rake. It must then be compacted solidly – the best way to do this is with a plate compactor, which can usually be hired from a tool rental company. After compaction the layer of crusher must form a base that is at least 10 cm deep.
Lay out the turf like a carpet, aligning it first with the straight edges formed by the cobbles. Use the utility knife to cut the turf where this is necessary for it to fit neatly against the walls. When it comes to joining the sections of turf make sure the two pieces fit exactly together. Place joining tape coated with a generous amount of glue underneath the two edges to stick them together so that the two pieces form one. When cutting the turf, change to a new blade as soon as the knife seems to be tearing the material rather than cutting it cleanly.
Earth2Earth donated loads of Bark Nuggets to fill the ‘beds’ created by the daisy walls and to cover other areas that have to remain easily accessible (like drains and pipes). The Bark Nuggets will allow the rain through to reach the soil and the roots of the trees, and in the very hot summer days they will help the soil to retain moisture. Bark Nuggets and the other screened organic materials from Earth2Earth are ideal for controlling moisture and stabilising soil temperatures.
A slide, another exciting gift for the kids, was supplied by River Rock. The slide was attached to the jungle gym that was already installed the playground. River Rock manufactures a wide variety of tough fibreglass products for the garden, ranging from pots and water features to slides for jungle gyms. Being fibreglass, these products are weatherproof and durable and make long lasting features in any garden. If you are on the lookout for a jungle gym and fibreglass slide combination visit www.durbanpoles.co.za.
MIT Distributors provided rolls of Weed Gard for this project; Weed Gard is a versatile product that has all kinds of gardening applications. We used it to line the areas that we covered with the bark nuggets. Weed Gard is permeable to water and nutrients, but suppresses the growth of weeds so it makes the perfect base for mulch, pebbles and pavers.
Keter provided a Magic Playhouse for the children as well as a Kiddy Go, which they can use to cart around their goodies. Keter supplies a wide range of hard-wearing plastic toys and furniture for kids, along with a range of outdoor storage trunks and containers, furniture and gardening products, all moulded from sturdy, high quality, weather resistant plastic.
Everyone at The Gardener extends their sincere thanks to all the suppliers who generously donated products and their time for this makeover. Thanks must also go to the good folk at Birches Pre Primary, for coping so well with the disruptions. Please consider these suppliers when you are next in the market for the products they stock or the services they render.