Transforming a small backyard into a waterwise space is achieved with clever design.
Overgrown with weeds, the soil had become barren and the plants were dry and sickly.
Lots of shade and lack of drainage kept the small yard waterlogged.
After: Pavers plus mulch and hidden gravel pits keep the yard drained.
Setting the slope
Setting the fall across the yard is the most important aspect of good drainage. After establishing the high point, measure down the required fall. We used a laser level available from Builders Warehouse power tool departments. For measuring, you could also use a straightedge and spirit level, or a dumpy level. Or make a water level using 10mm clear plastic tubing, adding water and food colouring so the level is easy to see.
1 Establish fall and drainage
Use a laser level to check the fall away from the house, establishing the high point from the slab at the backdoor and providing 25mm of fall per metre to pegs set at the perimeter. Dig 400 x 400 x 400mm drainage pits at low points and fill with gravel.
- TIP Cover the pits with geo-textile fabric to prevent clogging. Alternatively you can use 80% shade cloth, which will allow water through, but not larger sand particles.
2 Prepare the sub base
Set stringlines to mark out the paved area, excavating to 150mm below the finish level. Bring in road base and rake it to 100mm thick, creating fall to drainage pits. Use a plate compactor to pack it tightly, lightly spraying with water as you go.
Screed the sand bed
Add a 30mm layer of sand over the base, spreading with a shovel and rake. Set screed rails in the sand 40mm below the finished paving height in the direction of the fall. Pack and level the sand by pulling a screed board along the rails.
- TIP Use a laser level to check the fall of the screed rails.
4 Lay the pavers
Position pavers in a diagonal brick-bond pattern, tapping into position with a rubber mallet. Start at the back door, using a length of 50mm-wide timber as a spacer and guide for straight lines.
- TIP Lift the pavers at the doorway to bed an extra sand and cement mortar mix for stability.
5 Plant groundcover
Spread potting mix or soil between the pavers using a broom, making four small cone-shaped holes in the mix to plant native groundcover beside the pavers.
- TIP Dichondra repens is a groundcover that flourishes in dappled light and takes just a few months to grow into the gaps. Builders Warehouse garden centres have a range of suitable groundcovers and other plants to enhance your garden.
6 Plant the garden
Blend quality garden soil through the existing soil to prepare the beds, positioning plants. Spread a 100mm layer of fine forest mulch over the beds to inhibit weed growth, slowly add nutrients to the soil and conserve moisture.
- TIP Good preparation is essential for a low-maintenance garden.