If you want some great looking and practical decking in your garden then you need to plan the work carefully. Proper preparation and not rushing into things is the key to getting quality results.
In this article I’m going to give you some advice on how to design and build decking that you can be proud of.
Rule 1: Know your garden
Some people start designing their deck by looking at decking designs from other people’s gardens, and then trying to shoe horn in a design that they liked the look of. However, this is a dangerous strategy since every garden is different. What works in one garden won’t work at all in another, both from an aesthetic and construction standpoint.
So, the first step is to walk around your garden and think about some of the key features and how they will affect the design and construction of the decking. These are the things you need to think about:
- Which area of the garden gets the most sun? And and what time of day?
- Is the ground completely level and solid? If it’s not level then multi level decking might be in order
- Is the area where you would like to put the decking already paved, or it grass?
- Are there trees in the way that will need to be incorporated into the design
- Will steps be needed?
- Are railings or bannisters required for safety reasons? Or could the be added for appearance
- Is the garden an uneven shape? Will a perfectly square deck fit in, or should it be curved or irregular?
- What is the style of the outer wall which may be attached to the decking?
Rule 2: Get some inspiration
Once you have looked at your garden and noted what kind of decking will work, then you can start to look to other designs for inspiration. Now that you have a set of criteria, you can critically appraise each design you see, and decide whether or not it will work in your garden.
My favourite source for inspiration on pretty much everything is now Pinterest. Here’s a link to garden decking inspiration on Pinterest
Be careful not to set your sights too high. If it’s your first attempt at decking then keep things simple. A well designed and constructed simple layout is better than a half finished overly ambitious design, or one which is unsafe to walk on!
There are some design features that can really lift the appearance of your decking and make it more interesting. For example:
- The type of decking boards – ridged, plain, hardwood, softwood? etc
- The direction of the boards – adding contrasting directions can create a more interesting visual layout.
- Railings a bannisters can be added to make a deck seem more private and enclosed
- Including a space for a hot-tub is a modern phenomenon and can add to the appeal for some
- Consider adding ‘stepping stones’ in the same wood as the decking which extend out into the garden. This is a good way to link the decking with the garden and reduce the stark contrast
Rule 3: Get your thoughts down on paper
Don’t start buying materials or building your deck until you have made some detailed sketches to decide on the layout and design. Go out into the garden with a tape measure and get accurate measurements for the side of the house and other important parts of the garden. For example, make a note of the distance from the house to the nearest trees.
The most important drawing to make is the plan view (the deck drawn from directly above). However, if you are going to experiment with decking at different levels, then addition drawings from the front and sides will be useful too.
There are a range of different computer applications which you can use to create the drawings. I use AutoCad, but SmartDraw is a free and more simple option.
Rule 4: Create a list of materials
Once you have planned your decking and made detailed drawings, you can create a list of the different materials that you will need. Make sure you list everything including small items like nails and screws. This will avoid multiple trips to the hardware or DIY store, and also might help you to get a discount since you will buy everything at once in one big order.
Watch out for Part 2 of this article, where I’ll provide some tips concerning the construction phase.
In the meantime, why not start planning?
Images courtesy of photostock and lobster20 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Some people thing of gardens as desolate and bleak during the winter months. However, there are some ways that you can inject some life. One of the most effective ways to do this is to focus on providing a safe haven for the local wildlife.
The first species to think about are our feathered friends, the birds. Putting up bird tables and feeders is a great way to encourage birds to visit your garden. During the winter, food and shelter is more scarce, so they will really appreciate anything you can do. Being well fed over the winter will increase their chances of having offspring in the spring and nesting in or near your garden.
When putting out feeders it’s important to sterilise them and then maintain the hygiene by washing them every month.
On the ground
A lot of people over-tidy their gardens as winter approaches, but this isn’t the right thing to do if you want to embrace wildlife. Frogs, beetles, ladybirds and many others really appreciate a bit of leaf litter and a few odd house bricks. Even keeping some plants with dying stems and leaves can help some creatures to prosper
One area where you can focus some of your desire to tidy up is your flower beds. You could introduce some wild flowers to maintain some colour over the cold months. Also, you could introduce some hedging in the place of other summer plants, which will increase the appeal for wildlife. Further, you could introduce some species such as hawthorn in order to improve the natural diversity.
Spreading some leaf litter over your flowerbeds will provide a nice environment for ground feeders like thrushes to forage.
Making a splash
Installing a pond is another great way to add some variation to your garden and provide a habitat for wildlife.
Dead plants and leaves can pollute your pond during the winter, so as the cold sets in it’s a good idea to have a clean out. However, make sure that you sort through the vegetation that you remove and rescue small animals such as snails and dragonfly nymphs.
If you have a pond filter then you should remove it during the colder months. The ice can cause the filter to freeze and break.
Consider installing a pond heater to prevent it from icing over. There are different types of heater though, so make sure that you don’t get one that heats the whole body of water. You just need it to provide a little heat near the surface to fight off the ice.
Which visitors to expect
- Beetles, particularly the violet ground beetle, which you’ll likely see looking for words amongst the flower beds.
- Wrens – If you put a well insulated bird box up then you’re likely to attract a few of the little fellas as they look to keep warm
- Toads – If you have a pond, you’re likely to see some males in there. But also you might find others under any leaf litter you have lying around
- Blackbirds and Thrushes will be on the hunt amongst the leaf litter in your flower beds
- Robins – the archetypal winter bird might show its face if you live near woodland or have a lot of hedgerows
Best of luck!
Images courtesy of digidreamgrafix and James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net