Garden paths and terraces

inland_garden.gif Inland Trader 46

Two weeks ago we commented that the use of stone chippings can reduce the maintenance needs of your garden. We said this for they have the following uses of interest to both resident and absentee gardeners.
The speedy and inexpensive laying of temporary or permanent paths and terraces by laying chippings four to six centimetres thick over black plastic sheeting. The latter to prevent weeds from growing through from the earth below. The plastic underlay can be solid or closely woven sheeting.
1.  The base for later solid surfaces by           
     using the chippings as a well drain   
     ing foundation or as aggregate in    
     concrete for laying stone slab sur
     faces etc.
2.  The mulching of areas between
     paths, flower beds and terraces.
3.  The mulching of shrub beds or 
     around trees set in grass or between   
     coarser chippings or in holes in solid 
4.  Citrus trees look good planted into a
     sea of chippings.
5.  As an alternative to volcanic larva
     chippings when mulching around   
     plants on rockeries.
6.  As mulches around plants in pots for    
     decoration and to reduce moisture
7.  The laying of inexpensive drives.
Chippings come in a number of sizes and colours.
In general we suggest the following chipping sizes for the various uses listed above.
5 millimetres – Uses 4,5 and 6.
1 centimetre – Uses 1,2,3,4 and 5,
2 centimetre – Uses 1,2 and 7
3 centimetre – Use 7.
The most typical colours are white, a pinky white, yellow brown and grey. Naturally what you choose will depend on your personal choice in relation to the overall design of the garden and what is available locally from quarries, garden contractors, builders yards or in small quantities in bags from garden centres. Personally we find greys rather drab for most Spanish gardens.
In all cases we suggest you underlay the chippings with woven plastic sheeting or solid black plastic sheet for terraces and paths and large unplanted areas. The only maintenance required is a regular rake or brushing especially under trees and an occasional weeding of small weeds. This can be done by raking, hand weeding, use of a flame or infrared wand. We prefer not to use weed killers especially as the number of weeds are likely to be very few.
When first moving into a new house stone chipping paths, terraces and larger areas are the best way of quickly covering and stabilising apparently rock hard soils that can soon become a mud bath – especially if you have a red clayey soil - during heavy rainfall. What were at first planned as temporary paths and terraces can obviously become permanent or the chippings can be left as the foundation for solid surfaces or mixed with sand as aggregate if laying a concrete base for other surfaces. We describe a wide range of possible final surfaces in chapter 2.4 of our book ‘Your Garden in Spain’.
And lastly four important benefits of using stone chippings are that you:
Only need to dig out all the unwanted builders rubble and rocks in those areas planned as flower beds.
Can rake back holes in areas of chippings in order to plant shrubs and trees. After planting the chippings can be replaced or the trunks surrounded with a small circle of rocks . The circles can be left as bare earth or mulched with a different size and colour of chippings.
You can change the size and shape of terraces and larger areas by removing areas to fit in features such as fountains and rockeries or extended and reshaped by merely laying extra pieces or cutting off pieces of plastic underlay and brushing or raking the chippings to create the required shape.  Many possibilities can be tested before you make a final decision.
They are relatively inexpensive especially if you buy direct from the quarry.
In two weeks time we will look at the purchase, care and maintenance of citrus trees.
© Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2006.

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