November 30, 2009

Dig up your drive

I don’t have a hope of digging up my drive. It’s solid concrete and fit for purpose, and a layer of gravel will make it reasonably attractive too. However, my patio is neither attractive nor practical. When it rains water pools on it, and the whole thing gently slopes towards the house so when it rains properly (and for the last few days it has REALLY rained) the rear of the house gets pretty wet.

The problem is made worse because the gutter drains into the water butt, which constantly overflows, and the rear of the house faces north so the sun doesn’t reach it in winter (though it does in summer because all the surrounding buildings are very low).

What we need, therefore, is to break the solid surface so that water can drain down into the ground below. To this end, we are going to dig up the patio and re-lay at least half of it, taking inspiration from checkerboard patios such as this:

The aspect of the above garden is very different so we can’t use the same plants. However, there are some plants I have already that should be suitable:

Christmas box (Sarcococca) is tolerant of shade and likes moist, well drained soil, so our damp sand should be perfect. It grows to 80cm so will go either side of the door near the house.

Strawberries are low, spread quickly, and do surprisingly well in shade. I find the ones near the fence in our garden do much better than those in full sun. These also won’t like to be stepped on so will go near the edges.

Chives are shade-tolerant and I have gazillions of them so they will get a square.

Forget-me-not may as well be a weed, covers ground rapidly and retains a low level except when in flower. Again, one for the edges.

I have some magic carpet thyme seeds, which I bought for the front garden to go in with the gravel. They will be good towards the northernmost edge of the patio where it gets more sun. Probably in next to the border.

For the centre of the patio and especially the bits nearer the house, I’m going to plant mind-your-own-business. Some say it’s a weed, but it’s a quick-spreading shade-tolerant weed so perfect for this situation.

For the other gaps I’m going to sow white clover, which is already abundant in the lawn, is shade tolerant, beloved of bees and happy to be walked on.

The corners nearest the flower bed can be used to extend the bed itself. Foxgloves can go in near next door’s house, and perhaps hollyhocks and verbenas near the bed.

I’ve also got a fairly low level geranium that has small pink flowers and likes shade and some allium seeds to sow.

The aim is for it to drain naturally, look pretty, encourage wildlife and yet still be suitable for a table and chairs and some foot traffic. Hopefully a version of the above will fit the bill and as soon as the interior is finished, it’s time to get the crowbar and spade out. Needless to say, it will spur me on to get the painting done…