To Grass Or Not To Grass, That Is The Tarmac.

So I thought I’d just give you a quick update on where we are up to with the mid century inspired garden.  It’s been a long couple of months trying to get the tectonic plates into place that will allow us to get to the final stages but over the course of the next 72 hours we will finally have our pergola installed and a lawn.  The latter of these two has probably caused us the greatest consternation as my partner was fully subscribed to the concept of astro turf whereas I mostly wasn’t. 

 The day we moved in.  That concrete car crash you can see behind you is what we laughingly referred to as our garden at the time.
The day we moved in.  That concrete car crash you can see behind you is what we laughingly referred to as our garden at the time.

The background to this is that the plot was originally a carpark (if you haven’t been following the blog you can see all the original images of the space in earlier entries).  The main question was how do you lift and dispose of asphalt and what do you then do with what this exposes? The simplest solution was to buy fake grass and almost treat it like a big rug that we lay over the problem.  For me however I’d know that it was still there underneath it all and that would jar with me.

So off I merrily went to get quotes to remove the asphalt and have it disposed of, assuming that this would involve several men, digger machines and skips.  Little did I know that actually the entire process could in theory be done with just a pickaxe and crowbar.  This realisation dawned on me when the first gentleman that came to quote gently tapped on the asphalt to test it and a clump just popped up and clean off.  One quote for £460.00 later, a quick trip to the local DIY store and £20.00 lighter I was merrily hacking away at my driveway like a demented lunatic. 

 Not an easy job, but surely worth the effort right?
Not an easy job, but surely worth the effort right?

I’d say in total it took me about 8 hours to lift and remove 25 square metres of the stuff.  Add to this the cost of the sandy loam, which is a preparatory soil mix that you lay before turf, and the turf itself, the total cost of the lawn will come in at £181.60.  Of course there will then be upkeep to consider, which you don’t have with fake grass but then I feel there is a deep value in using authentic materials and honest design resolution which I don’t feel I would have achieved using the other route. At any rate, we’re already quids in as the fake stuff was likely to cost in the region of £700.00 before fitting.  We may treat ourselves to an automatic grass cutter with the savings!

 I've added some bamboo and twisted willow to the kitchen terrace to create some structure and define the area.  Also to make it feel like less of a stage!  We are quite looked over by neighbours currently.
I’ve added some bamboo and twisted willow to the kitchen terrace to create some structure and define the area.  Also to make it feel like less of a stage!  We are quite looked over by neighbours currently.

 

My last blog focused on sourcing appropriate, well priced containers and some of the pieces I pointed towards are on there way to me as I type.  One thing did occur to me however when revisiting the garden design and that was that I didn’t want to end up with a container heavy area, but do need space for the gunnera, banana trees and other giant species to spread their roots. For this reason I decided to be resourceful which is code for make things for free. 

 I've gone bamboo bonkers with the patio furniture featuring it in each of the seating areas.
I’ve gone bamboo bonkers with the patio furniture featuring it in each of the seating areas.

 

One of the benefits of having a mid sized van is that you can stop off whenever you see some good wood in a skip and recently I lucked out with a collection of roof joists. Creating raised beds out of them along the perimeters of the plot will allow me to train some of that fabulous evergreen Clematis over the fencing and hopefully soften the blow of our boundaries, but will also give me that much needed planting space for some of the larger specimens whilst keeping the over all design relatively clean.  These beds are yet to be stained to tie in with those of the kitchen terrace.

 I think this raised bed will be home to the banana trees.
I think this raised bed will be home to the banana trees.
 Made from reclaimed timber, this bed literally cost £2.00 and I think will be used to home the gunnera.  As they like it boggy I have lined it with thick plastic.
Made from reclaimed timber, this bed literally cost £2.00 and I think will be used to home the gunnera.  As they like it boggy I have lined it with thick plastic.

I have moved the poly tunnel also as it was literally in darkness for most of the day as well as being constantly hit by wind coming down the side of the house.  In it’s new position I rarely even hear the rustle of plastic, and It gets the benefit of early morning sunlight right through to about 3pm. Ultimately my aim is to replace this structure with an Eco Dome – ideally one that I build myself, however that’s a WHOLE other set of blogs!  At £55.00 delivered, this 4 metre by 2 metre giant will do just fine in the meantime!

 The view from the southern perimeter.  Basically it just looks like a big mess currently doesn't it!
The view from the southern perimeter.  Basically it just looks like a big mess currently doesn’t it!

 

So what do you think? Can you see Improvements? It’s so difficult when you’re working on it day by day to stand back and notice change!  All your advice so far has been invaluable and has and will continue to influence the outcomes of the area so please do comment and get involved.

2 thoughts on “To Grass Or Not To Grass, That Is The Tarmac.”

  1. Hi Paul.

    I must have missed your more recent blogs. The last we communicated, you had just installed the timber fence (it’s aging well and looking great, by the way). The last photo included above is the first I’ve seen of your whole yard, and what a great space it is!

    I fully concur with your decision to go natural grass over astro turf. Not only is real grass the natural choice, which is always preferable, but it will allow infiltration of rainwater into the groundwater system, doing your bit for the environment and eliminating the need for you to install extensive surface-level drainage systems to deal with the run-off created by the non-permeable paved surface that an astro turf covering of concrete or asphalt essentially is. Of course, natural grass will require regular maintenance, and this is the only "real" argument in favour of astro turf, although I believe the many advantages of real lawn outweigh this consideration, including the cooling effect of lawn in Summer over the heating effect an artificial covering of concrete/asphalt would have. Besides, a regular mow can be satisfying, and provides you with regular exercise, and that’s a good thing. Does your lawn area receive good sunlight? This will be essential for the ultimate success of your lawn.

    You talk about installing a layer of preparatory sandy loam soil mix under the lawn (it’s called "turf underlay" where I come from) which is a sensible move, but first you should have analysed the soil beneath the ashpalt before the installation of this underlay, to see if is free-draining. You don’t want to find that your underlay provides for good drainage, only for the water to remain blocked from permeating the layer of existing ground soils underneath because, for example, they are heavy clays. If this is the case, you may find your new lawn and soil underlays become anaerobic and rot as the oxygen required for healthy soil ecosystems become saturated. Good drainage is always essential to the successful installation of lawn and most garden areas.

    I also noticed you used recycled timbers to create raised garden beds. This is a very good, cost-effective and ultimately environmentally responsible solution, however, you will have to check that the timbers you used are (1) suitable for outdoor use (exposure to sun and rain), and (2) are resistant to being in permanent contact with the soils that fill your raised beds, which will often be wet, moisture being the natural enemy of timber. I see you lined some of your raised beds with plastic, but this may not be enough, as moisture can also become trapped between the plastic liner and the timber itself.

    I also notice you use your fence as the "back wall" of your raised garden beds. Again, be careful that the soils the fence will come in contact with do not cause accelerated rotting of the timber as a result of this contact and cause you problems (and expense) in future.

    Good on you for having a go and removing the asphalt yourself. As you have discovered, with a little common sense, will power, and knowledge, you can do many of the landscaping tasks yourself, saving you money and providing you a great deal of personal satisfaction.

    Did you ever draw up that garden plan I advised you to do?

    I look forward to following your progress in future editions of your blog.

    Cheers,

    Rick

  2. Hi Riccardo
    , great to hear from you! You raise some interesting points. Well it’s so far so good with the new turf. I checked the space for drainage before I laid it and it all seemed to be fine so fingers crossed on that front. We are on to day three and there’s no signs of water logging or yellowing so I hope that all is going well. Regarding the raised beds, they have concrete blocks behind them so there’s no contact with the wood and I am hoping that with the plastic in between the concrete and the compost there won’t be too much damage to anything overall. Time will tell on that front I guess! Today the pergola goes up! I am so excited about it, but equally ambivalent as it’s all in my minds eye currently…..

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