If you want to expand your living space without building an extension or a conservatory, you can add decking to the exterior of your home. While using decking is typically restricted by weather, it is a much cheaper way of extending your home. It also gives an area in your garden that can be dedicated to seating, or to children’s toys and games. While typically a deck is built next to your home, you may wish to have it elsewhere in your garden; for example in a sunspot, or in a shaded area.

To build a deck, you should follow these steps. Alternatively, you may wish to hire a landscaper.

  • You will first need to level and prepare the site. Any weeds should be removed – while they would be unable to flourish under the decking, it is easiest just to remove them. The area of your decking should be dug down to between 100-150mm. Once you have dug, levelled and de-weeded the area of the decking, you should lay down a membrane to prevent weed growth. The membrane should be pierced to allow drainage.
  • Spread sand around the base of your foundations, and place concrete slabs in the corners, to provide a solid foundation for your decking.
  • You can now place the deck frame. A rectangular frame is the most simple to construct, though if a rectangular deck frame is not ideal, other shapes can be built, too. Essentially, you should first build a ‘box’, which will form the boundary of your decking. To the box you should add joist hangers, which will support the cross beams. The cross beams should be placed no more than 400mm apart. ‘Noggins’ should be placed in between each beam also, to prevent warping.
  • You may want to add a fascia to the front of the decking, to hide the beams. The fascia should match the wooden deck boards.
  • You may now start securing the main deck boards to the beams. Use galvanized or tri-coated deck screws, 2 on each beam. Leave a gap of between 2 and 3mm between each deck board.
  • You may want to add banisters and railings to your decking, for additional safety and security. Several pre-made solutions will be offered, and you should follow the manufacturers instructions for installing them with your decking.
  • Finally, you should stain your decking to your taste. You may need to use several coats to get the best results. In future, should the decking become faded, or should algae start to grow on it, you can rejuvenate it using a deck cleaner. You should also apply a clear water repellent annually, in order to keep the deck looking good, and to prevent rotting.

Arbours For Your Garden

Arbours are a novel way of growing plants and vines, and are also useful for providing shelter.

An arbour is basically a shelter with no roof, but with beams in place. The beams allow creeping plants such as ivy to grow around them, providing shelter beneath the arbour. Some plants will also flower, making a colourful haven in your garden.

Arbours are common in Europe, and in some places can often have vines with fruit growing upon them. Depending on how mature the growing plant is, it can also provide almost complete shelter from the sun, which gives a pleasant environment. The arbours often attract wildlife also, which generally makes them a pleasant place to sit on a cool summers evening.

In the UK, planting an arbour with honeysuckle is a popular option, as the honeysuckle gives off a pleasant scent, and is quite colourful.

You should add seats to blend in with the arbour; in some cases you may wish to put an entire furniture set in, while others may wish for a simple bench. The choice is yours.

Hard Surface Landscaping

The growing fashion for hard surfacing and structural features in landscaping is in tune with the modern shift away from plants as the principle focus of a garden. It is a trend fuelled by the popular media, as glossy magazines and garden makeover shows continue to promote hard landscaped urban gardens with a zeal previously reserved for floral colour and natural beauty.

The trend has its roots in modern social and lifestyle changes brought about by the move towards high-paced, high-density urban living. As today’s homeowners become ever busier, with less outdoor space in which to express themselves, they are increasingly drawn to more functional and efficient garden designs that are easier to maintain and more accommodating of city living. In this sense, it is as much a town planning issue as a matter for landscapers.

Nevertheless, the implications of this phenomenon are starting to concern some senior figures in the world of landscaping. What is the future for plants in a society that favours heavily built gardens, and what effect will all this have on our urban environment? In short, just how do we keep our gardens green?

It is important to recognize that there is no inherent problem with hard landscaped gardens. Apart from being a reaction to urban development trends and modern lifestyle choices, they are also, like any garden design, a reflection of the way we see ourselves, and the values to which we aspire as a 21st century society. Gardens that feature a strong built element tend to be more extroverted and expressive than their traditional counterparts.

As such, they are a natural consequence of increasing individualism, and, at their best, they can still demonstrate an understanding of garden history as well as the place of shape, form, colour and texture in the garden. Indeed, there are countless historical examples of gardens that valued built elements as heavily as plants. The Renaissance, Islamic and Modernist schools of landscaping all relied on built features, and they are even apparent in some aspects of the English garden tradition.