Tommy’s Tips: Garden Spring Cleaning

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It’s that time of year again!  Although it’s still grey and cold outside, the odd day throws up a warm sun, with thin cloud, and if the wind drops, or your wind protected, it can fill exceptionally pleasant.  That’s exactly what I was doing with my wife when I told her to sit outside in our garden, I brought her a lovely cup of tea and some biscuits, enjoying the moment, then out came the pad and we started making a list of things that needed doing, and I have to say, it became so long, that my tea went cold! 

We have a wonderful sunken sandstone and limestone terrace, with old second hand stock brick retaining walls, all around the sunken terrace section.  And 2mtr high brick walls around the whole perimeter of the garden.   About six years ago, I installed different height raised oak sleeper beds, with a fantastic raised decking area, mixed with stone, leading to the newly built Victorian styled garage / studio to the rear of the garden. We also have a fish pond, off the deck (with no fish in it!) The rest of the garden is laid to lawn.  The whole garden looked lovely last summer, but it now looks a real mess, and I’ve got to fix it? 

The first job was to clear all the old leaves, dig over the raised beds, removing all the weeds, prune back all the fruit trees and bushes.  The lawn is a bit of a problem though. As you know we have a lovely 10 ½ stone Rhodesian ridgeback, and although I take him out for at least 1 ½ hours every day, he still tends to view the lawn, as his own “personal relief area!”  Alfie (that’s the dog’s name) tends to wee in the same places every time, and that’s taken a severe toll on the lawn.  I’m going to try and salvage the lawn, and I have bought some After-cut-patch fix grass seed, which it says is; “pet urine resistant” I will try it but I don’t feel very confident and may end up having to cut out the damaged sections, and replace with new turf, (simply achieved, by skimming off the effected surface, with a flat spade to a depth of approximately 30ml to allow, for the replacement turf sections, to bed in level with the existing lawn). 

The raised oak beds, are capped with a wider but thinner oak board, which are suffering from a bit of rot damage.  These will require replacing mitring the ends, to match the returns, fixing them with “Spax truss fixing’s”.  The decking and the sunken terrace require a thorough cleaning, I could use a chemical cleaner “Brick clean/Disclean”, which are essentially forms of hydrochloric acid, which require rubber gloves and safety glasses when using, and areas must be rinsed thoroughly after application.  I am however a bit reluctant to add these chemicals to the water table, so I much prefer to use a power washer, with the purpose-made patio and deck cleaning accessory.  I use a Karcher machine, and achieve the most marvellous results with it, everything comes up brand new looking, using only pressurised water so no damage to the environment! 

My sunken natural stone terrace has been down about nine years and my decking area is about six years old, both are suffering from moss and weed growth requiring attention, I am afraid there is no real alternative than getting down on your hands and knees, and scraping it all out by hand, I use a multi-tool scraper purchased for only a pound from Poundland and it does a fine job of raking out any growth between the joints. Clean everything thoroughly, then re-point the paving, with a dry mix of soft sand and cement, at a ratio of 3 parts sand : 1 part cement.  Here is an old pro tip to successful patio pointing! Fill a watering can, remove the rose, and pour copious amounts of water into the open joints, go and have a cup of tea while the sun (this must be done on a warm sunny day) dries out any surface water spillage. Wearing a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves, pour some pointing mix onto the patio, force the material into the joints, by gloved hands, sweeping the surface clean as you go with a soft broom.  Every ten to fifteen square meters, go back over and rub the joints with a pointing tool, or a piece of bent 12mm copper pipe or an offcut of stiff hose, this process draws up the water from below, by capillary action, and creates a wet mortar joint between the slabs without staining them.  Leave the whole area, to dry for a good few hours, then carefully remove any excess surface material with a soft brush and pan, which should leave you with a weed free patio, for another ten years. 

I am now cleaning my front drive steps and paving, all laid in second hand York Stone, and I have to admit I am so impressed with the results, it actually looks better than brand new. So I have spent three days over hauling the front and back gardens, now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sun, What’s that tinkling sound I hear?  Oh yes its ice going into a glass, oh what a pleasant sound!

Tommy

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