Gardens are lovely to walk through, but no garden is complete without somewhere to sit down, linger a while and enjoy the atmosphere. No matter whether it's a big garden or small; you must make sure there are adequate places to rest the legs. All the best parts of the garden must have some place to sit.
Here are just some of the places where you should consider a seat:
- Where you sit and talk to neighbours over the fence.
- Beside a pool or spa.
- Beside the BBQ.
- In outside eating and entertainment areas.
- Where you sit and watch the kids play.
- Beside the workshop or tool shed.
- In the vegetable garden or other work areas.
- Under a shady tree.
- Beneath a pergola or arbour.
- Beside a watercourse
When you buy garden furniture, be sure to check out what you are buying thoroughly. Consider:
Will it last? Will it stand being outside in the weather or will it need to be brought inside when not in use? Will it need routine painting, staining or some other treatment? How many years is it likely to last?
Are there any sharp edges, splinters or protruding parts which people might get caught on or knock themselves on? Is there adequate clearance for the knees when sitting at a table? Is it well made or will it break easily when sat on.
Are there greasy spots, areas of rust, or anything else which might mark the skin or clothes. Furniture made from old or recycled materials in particular should be examined.
If you want to lift and move furniture around is it easy to do so. Heavy furniture however, can be more secure, particularly in front gardens, because it is difficult to move.
Does the style fit with the gardens' style? Lacework and carved timber can enhance the traditional style of a garden. Chunky, simple, timber furniture can fit well into a natural garden.
Seats which are dull, earthy tones will normally blend into a garden better than those made from lighter coloured plastics (e.g. white, green etc.).
Try the old "Goldilocks and the tree bears test". Sit in a seat before you buy it, and make sure it fits your body. Consider how the material might be under different weather conditions. Metal can get very cold or very hot, for instance, but wood tends to remain better insulated. Some smooth surfaces can get slippery if wet. Wood might grow a layer of slime over the surface. Other surfaces dry out, or can be wiped dry very easily after rain.
The price of garden furniture can vary greatly. Cheaper items are often not built as well. They might not support heavier people, or they might rot, corrode or fall apart sooner. Imported furniture will probably cost more just because there is import duty to pay, so something Australian made in the same price range may be better value for money.
Problems with Furniture
Even after you have bought your garden furniture, that is rarely the end of the story.
Furniture can get dusty, collect bird droppings or be covered with leaves or seeds blown in from nearby plants. Seats which can easily be cleaned by hosing down are great, but you still might have to use hot water and elbow grease occasionally.
Insects and other bugs can also be a problem. Spiders make spider webs; cockroaches, wasps, ants and even redback spiders can nest in or under seats and tables. Furniture which isn't being used frequently is more prone to such problems, as most "bugs" prefer to nest in places where they are not disturbed very often. Nevertheless it may be wise to check underneath seats occasionally for rot, corrosion or undesirable pests.
Walls, Fences and Windbreaks
These are things we use to define boundaries and stop people, or animals, going where they are not wanted. For most people, fencing is one of the first things we think about when we buy a property. Most of us want to "secure" our boundaries; but there are lots of ways to do this. Fences or walls can be built in many different ways, using many different types of materials. Windbreaks or hedges can be used to achieve the same affect.
Three steps to creating your barriers:
1. Work out first why you need these barriers:
- Keep animals in, or out, of your property.
- Keep young children safe.
- Let people know where your boundary is.
- Provide privacy.
- Block undesirable views (close or distant).
- Create mystery within the garden (provide corners you can't see round).
- Separate different garden areas.
- Provide protection from wind, frost or sun.
- Provide some degree of sound insulation (e.g. from roads, railway lines, recreational
2. Work out where to put them?
The location of barriers depends upon what each barrier is to achieve. The location of boundary barriers is simple, but for others:
- How large or small should the area be which is being enclosed?
- Will the fence affect things around it (e.g. block views, reduce light entering windows or reaching plants)?
- Are there any obstacles in the way (e.g. tree trunks or branches, rocks in soil).
- Are there any council restrictions, or covenants on the property, affecting where fences can be placed?
3. Work out the best solution
- What is the most appropriate way to construct the barrier?
- What is in your price range?
- How high or low should it be?
- Should it be able to be seen through, or completely block the view?
- Do you have the expertise to build the different types, or can you afford to have someone else do it for you?
- Do you have the time, or patience, for living barriers (e.g. hedges) to grow?
- Do your neighbours approve (i.e. for boundary fences)? Will they help you build it, or pay some of the costs?
Enclosed Gardens and Walls
An enclosed garden provides protection for both plants, and for people who sit within. They are more popular in England and Europe than Australia, but done properly, they can add a lot of character and interest to any garden. The idea is very simple in essence. Create an outdoor room within a garden by either building a wall or growing a hedge above head height and provide "doorways" for access through gates or arches located at appropriate points around the perimeter. Once the enclosed area has been defined, it's centre can be developed in whatever character you like. Because it is visually separated from the rest of the garden, the enclosed garden doesn't need to fit in. You can choose a completely different garden style if you wish, and it can provide a completely different atmosphere to escape to. (e.g. The walls might enclose a formal rose garden within a surrounding bush garden; or a Japanese courtyard while the outside garden is a more traditional English style).
Walled gardens also help to protect plants in harsh environments. They reduce the affect od strong winds (making them useful in coastal areas or on larger exposed properties); and places can be found within the walls which are protected from severe frosts, or shade from the summer sun. There can also be pitfalls though. In very hot gardens, plants in front of walls which are fully exposed to the sun might suffer from too much heat though, reflected off the wall.
Choose your Wall or Fence
Timber slats, woven, pickets, trellis
- Easily worked with.
- Durable if treated with preservative and regularly maintained.
- Solid timber fences provide a good visual barrier and protection against weather.
- Moderate cost.
- Different types can suit both formal or informal gardens.
- Variety of shapes, textures and colours.
- Cut or uncut.
- Huge variety of colours and textures. Long lasting if done right - can suit both formal and informal garden types depending on construction and material used. Can be cheap if collected yourself. Should only be done on private property with permission - not at all on public land. Some states prohibit removal of naturally occurring rocks even on private property. Purchased rocks can be moderate to very expensive depending on type chosen and your locality (transport costs).
- Heavy material creating solid wall, mainly used for shorter walls. If used for taller ones then must be mortared, and should have strong stable base to prevent falling over.
Types of Fences and Walls
Concrete or clay brick walls are:
- Strong and durable.
- Usually require cementing together.
- Provide good protection from weather, and relatively good noise insulation.
- Earthy colours which look natural in gardens.
Wire mesh fences are:
- See-through unless planted over.
- Good for climbers.
- Cheaper than most other types.
- Not always as aesthetically pleasing as most other types.
- When covered by climbers they can encroach on garden space.
Colour bond metal fencing is:
- Durable, especially if base not in contact with ground.
- Available in a variety of colours (some merge well with garden).
- Can heat up in the sun.
- Solid types provide a good barrier against weather.
- Cost is moderate to high.
- Comes in large sheets, easy to construct and has low framing requirements.
For semi-rural and rural properties where larger grazing animals from neighbouring properties or paddocks can force their way into garden areas. These can be simply erected from kits obtained from specialist companies, or from rural produce suppliers. They can be either permanent or temporary in position. They can be powered by mains, by generator, from batteries, by solar power, or a combination. They need to be regularly checked to ensure they are operating.
Wire Strand - barbed or not
Wire strand fences are:
- A good barrier for larger animals.
- Relatively cheap.
- Provides little low protection against weather, unless covered with climbing plants.
- Doesn't provide visual barrier, but doesn't block desirable views either.
- Barbed wire can be a problem if children likely to climb through/over fence.
Lawns are great but not always the easiest thing to maintain in top condition. If you love the idea of a perfect lawn, why not establish a few small patches and give them lots of attention, rather than trying to create and maintain a vast area of grass?
If you're not so concerned about the cost or the work involved, you can have larger areas of lush green grass all year round. Alternatively, treat your lawn in a more functional way, planting hardier grasses even if they don't look so great, and mow the weeds when they appear, letting them become part of the lawn cover. A rough weedy lawn can be quite functional, particularly for a young family, and there's no reason to get too fussed about making it a show-piece if all you need is something green, clean and tidy.
There are three ways to establish a lawn: sod, seed or sprigs
Seed is generally the cheapest and easiest, as long as you water it regularly until it gets established. A few things can go wrong, but if they do, at least you haven't blown a fortune.
A heavy downpour of rain can wash seed away before it germinates, but if it's raked in properly so it's covered with soil, and if the area has good drainage, this is not too likely to happen. Birds or wandering dogs can sometimes disturb a newly planted lawn; but criss crossing the area with strings between posts can help prevent this. Tie a few old rags to the strings, so the animals can see them.
Sod (i.e. Rolled up pieces of growing lawn) can be laid over the prepared surface easily to give an "instant lawn"; but the roots are often scarce in the sod, and without plenty of attention at first, they will soon dry out and the sod can die. Don't think instant lawn is foolproof and easy. It must be laid over an even, well drained, fertile base of soil, and it must be watered, fertilized and mown (not too low) until established.
Sprigging involves taking pieces of a creeping grass such as couch or kikuyu and planting them directly into the ground. Many of these grasses can take a while to establish enough to compete with weeds though, so it's often a good idea to sow seed over the top (or else choose carefully the time of year you plant the sprigs to ensure fast growth).
Lawns grow best on well drained sandy soil; in fact, that's exactly what is normally used in bowling and golf greens. For large home gardens, it's not always possible to provide this ideal, but small areas of grass in home gardens can be made closer to the "perfect lawn" by paying close attention to the soil preparation.
Choose the sandy loam you are going to use carefully before starting. Make sure it isn't contaminated with salt or weed seeds and that it will absorb water when dry. (Some sandy soils repel water when dry). If you buy soil from a reputable supplier it may be more expensive, but it's generally better quality and won't result in costly repair bills later.
Remove all weeds from the area before starting work. A spray with roundup is often a good idea.
Before putting on the sandy topsoil, loosen and grade the surface of the ground so that it is sloping from a crown in the centre. Mix a little sandy topsoil with the existing soil so there will be a transition from one soil type to the next.
Lay at least 10cm depth of sandy loam over the surface, using a level to ensure a slight slope over the surface from the centre outwards. The lawn will thus become an area raised above the surrounding ground and higher than the original soil underneath. This improves drainage further.
Plant the grass as soon as possible after preparing the soil, and "pamper" it for at least 2 to 4 weeks, until it has established a complete cover of grass.
One word of warning though: The perfect lawn does need ongoing attention. It must be regularly fed, weeded and watered. Good soil makes good results possible, but it's not as easy to keep a lawn going in the perfect soil without attention; because the perfect soil for turf can also be the perfect soil for weeds.
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