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Create a Checkerboard Garden

This simple design of paving stones and plants can be used to create a dramatic courtyard or a fun space for children. Plant it up with turfgrass, chamomile or low-growing herbs, such as thyme.

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
checkerboard design for courtyard landscapeHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

When to Start: spring
At Its Best: all year round
Time to Complete: 1 day

Materials Needed:

  • turf or low-growing plants
  • rake
  • wooden boards
  • tape measure
  • string and sticks
  • sand and mortar mix
  • mallet
  • level
  • square paving stones

Compact the Soil

Clear the area of stones, weeds and grass, and rake it to create a flat surface. Lay down a wooden board and walk across it, moving it along systematically to level the whole area.

walk across wooden board to level area of soilHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Mark Out the Squares

Measure the paving stones, and using string and some sticks, mark out the area into squares of equal size. Cover squares that will be used for paving stones with a 2-inch layer of sand.

cover squares for stones with layer of sandHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Level the Sand

Using the back of a rake, tamp down the sand to compact and level it. Don't worry if some sand spills out into the surrounding squares; any surplus can be mixed with the soil for the plants or turf.

tamp down sand to compact with back of rakeHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Apply Mortar

Mix up a wet mortar mix of four parts sand (half-and-half sharp sand and builder's sand) to one part cement, or use a prepared mix. Place a trowel-full in the corners and in the center of a paving stone square.

use mortar to secure paving stones to groundHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Bed In Paving Stones

Position the paving stone on the mortar and use the wooden end of a mallet to gently tap it into place. Check that it's level. Mortar in each stone the same way and leave them to set for a day or two.

use spirit level to check each stone for levelHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Plant Up

Fill between the paving stone with topsoil and plant up the herbs or turf. If using turf, lay it slightly above the paving stones so you can run a mower over the whole area. Water in. Keep plants watered until they're established.

plant herbs or turf in between paving stonesHow To Grow Practically Everything ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010

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