Monday, April 5, 2010

Poor Man's Patio Part 1

The task.

This was it: the big weekend. The weekend that I would straighten out the side yard. First thing to do: find paving for the patio. I went to my corner nursery (so lucky!) J&L ('L' is for Larry, 'J' is ?), because I saw Larry, the owner, there when I was picking up my laundry: I didn't want to miss my only opportunity. I asked him for paving -anything he had, a mismatched motley pile of whatever, and he said he happened to have some leftover slate across the street.

There was some confusion as to whether it was really there, so we went looking and lo and behold -there it was. He lent me a wheelbarrow and I hauled about 10 large pieces to my garden. I also took about 5 smalls for extra stepping stones. He charged me an unbelievably excellent price, which he let me know was for me only, so I can't mention it here. While I picked out the right stones, Larry's son, Colin, talked to me about his father's business troubles. This has been a growing problem over, I would say, the last 2 or three years. His hardscaping work is down to almost zero and the nursery has a major competitor with a parking lot about a mile down the road. Larry's prices are the best in town and I can't imagine the block without the nursery -well, I could and it's not as good. Of course, Lowe's and the Home Depot are kicking his ass price wise -and they also have parking and paint and wood and air conditioners.

But Larry, my local nursery gave me a great deal and lent me his wheelbarrow, telling me to take my time. That's worth a dollar more on bags of soil. Of course, knowing he might close the nursery fueled mighty fantasies of taking over his nursery business. I've long had this fantasy -starting my own nursery, and I nursed it all weekend while working on the side yard. Of course, I have no money, and his business is no car wash -where the money seems to flow like suds over fender.

The slate pile. Mostly gray-blue with a greenish tinge, but one or two brownish ones.

The first thing to do was remove the plants that were in the way of the patio and new path.

I dug up all the Crocus tommasinianus.

I knew I would hit some lily bulbs that I had planted last fall and were still beneath the surface.

The bucket of transplants including dicentra and aconitum.

I re-used the landscape fabric that I had placed under the vegetable boxes last year, laying it out just so after I had done my simple best to level the underlying soil, which is fairly clayey.

Then I went to the hardware store, one block away on CIA, and bought some sand. I should point out that if I had a choice, I would have bought crusher fines as the under course and gap fill. If you can find it, do that, because it is a superior material for dry laying stones. Unfortunately neither my nursery or hardware store has this material, but I think you can get it in the landscape section of the big box home centers or at any masonry or hardscape material business.

The sand placed over the fabric.

Back to the sand, which is a coarse builder's sand, often found in those plastic weave bags with a metal twist tie. I was able to buy this sand at $1.50 for a 40 or 50 lb bag -a remarkable price, and found right on my block. The owner graciously offered a hand truck to cart my 6 bags to the garden. Things were shaping up nicely and I had only spent about 60 bucks.

I laid out the stones as best as I could, trying for maximum gaps of about 1 inch, although there are always irregularities. Leveling the stones is the fun part, working them into the sand to have as little height difference between each adjacent edge. It's okay to have some difference, maybe an 1/8th-inch or so. It's also important that they do not rock or tip when I stand on them, so I checked for this as well. After leveling, I filled the gaps with sand -making sure to push the sand down into the unseen voids. I did not have any edging for the patio, so I used the clay soil, bringing it up to the stones' edge.

The not quite finished patio.

Part 2 later...


  1. I am really impressed. That's a helluva lot of work!

    And very sorry about J&L's troubles.

    Trey's article on the subject is good.

    Good looking aconitum. So esoteric...Will you be grilling out there?

  2. Ah, it was fun -although I had terrible anxieties about not going to the studio. The patio was Saturday, the planting was Sunday.

    I had a smokey joe, but someone lifted it. I am thinking of trying again- but only if I can call it braaaaiiiiiiing.

  3. If you braaaaaiiiii all you need is some stones, fire and grid to rest on the stones :-)

    I will make my fist attempt at sausage (boerwors) soon - and will be sure to send you a coil if it is successful.

  4. Great post! It's just sometimes, trouble can't be avoided same with what happened with you and J&L where your patience is tested.

  5. hi good day nice post you have . great . i hope you have a post about wind spinners
    im interested on this i hope you can help me . thank you!


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