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How to Create Garden Floors

From the front walkway, the driveway, and the bedroom deck, to the gravel path and the back patio — all that extra floor space is a big investment in potential and practicality.

Perhaps one of the most best incentives for creating a garden floor is the opportunity to increase the square footage of usable property in the yard. While a beautiful landscape is certainly worth its weight in green, it's the floors that maximize a yard's practical uses. Master gardener Paul James and landscape designer Mark Jones explain how to establish your own low-maintenance, high-use garden floor (figure A).

"Garden floors are an area in which you can enhance your outdoor living space to serve many functions — from entertaining, to dining, to day-to-day surface," says Jones. And when it comes to garden flooring, there are lots of materials to choose from. But the material must be weatherproof.

Figure B

One traditionally favorite material is brick. "They are a nice cast product," says Mark. "They can give you a very uniform design, if that's what you're looking for, and they're also available in a lot of different colors." With brick, the design possibilities are abundant. Since bricks are rectangles, brick patterns are most often limited to more geometric patterns (figure B). Many stores carry information that shows great ideas for brick patterns.

Figure C

One of the stronger products available these days is cast concrete paver products (figure C). Pavers are available at landscape supply yards and come in all different shapes and sizes. Some pavers have pre-determined patterns, while others are like your childhood building blocks and are put together with a little fun and imagination.

Figure E

While cast concrete is a stronger product, one of the most popular choices in the garden stores is natural stone. From sandstone and dense slates, to polished granite, stones have been making their way more frequently into different outdoor patio settings. There are just as many different gauges or thicknesses as there are different rock varieties. The thick and thin of purchasing flagstone is that they are usually sold by weight, so the fatter the budget, the fatter the stone. According to Mark, size matters, too. He prefers this larger select variety, which means each piece is at least 24 inches wide (figure E). "The work aspect of using a larger stone is that you'll definitely need somebody to help you out in transporting and moving the stones," says Mark. "But after they are laid, a lot less manipulation and movement is needed with them."

Figure F

Mark demonstrates how to create a 10' by 10' sitting area between the house and the 100-year-old oak tree (figure F). The dimensions can easily change as construction proceeds, so pliable bender board is a wise choice to demarcate the area. Here are his steps:

  • Removes all debris, including mulch and plant life, to level the surface somewhat. He doesn't completely level the ground so that a slight pitch to one side will help the area drain.

  • Figure G

  • Lay weed cloth as a protective measure (figure G). On top of the cover, a thick layer of decomposed granite — or DG, as the pros say — is applied to hold the flagstone in place.

  • Figure H

    The granite is then flattened and compacted using a tamper tool (figure H), but tamping toes work well, too. Mark positions the flagstones in place. If you're using the larger sizes of flagstones, be sure to get help; the pieces can weigh upwards of 200 lbs.

    Figure I

  • Once the stone is in place, Mark chips his way around the stone. Starting at one corner and working his way around the stone with a hammer and a chisel, Mark eliminates the need for a concrete saw (figure I). Once the big stones are placed, any gaps between the large stones are filled with the smaller stone pieces. Aim for creating a relatively flat surface to eliminate stubbed toes. A handful of decomposed granite under a low stone should do the trick if one piece is too low.

  • Figure J

    "The final step we'll take is going ahead and filling any voids we have with the decomposed granite and what that's going to do is solidify and keep the flagstones from moving," says Mark. Sweep a few shovels full of decomposed granite over the flagstones to nestle the stones in place (figure J). A squirt of water compacts things even more. After more decomposed granite, more compacting, and more sweeping, you have a beautiful new garden floor. Bricks and pavers can be installed in the same way with results just as stunning. Wood can make a great material for floors as well, but some varieties need extra care, maintenance, and weather proofing. Paul suggests knowing what steps you need to take before hand for a longer-lasting, more durable garden floor.


    • Mark Jones
      Turning Leaf, Inc.
      PO Box 2343
      Granite Bay, CA 95746
      Phone: 916-997-9171
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