Improve Curb Appeal with Hardscaping

Image by Tim Cooper from Unsplash

If your lawn and garden area is full of lush, thriving trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers, you’re probably proud of it’s appearance and of all the hard work you’ve put in to get it that way. However, you may also have a nagging feeling that it’s missing something, but you can’t quite put your finger on what that might be — and that something could very well be hardscaping elements. Hardscaping is anything that provides aesthetic appeal and/or functionality to your outdoor living space that isn’t in the form of vegetation. It provides dimension, texture, and boundary definitions. The best hardscaping combines functionality and appearance. Here’s how you can make it happen:

Paved Pathways

Paved pathways can be installed using a variety of materials, including brick, cobblestone, and polished concrete. Design possibilities are almost endless. Some homeowners prefer the sophisticated appearance of polished concrete, while others like to create a picturesque ambiance with old-school cobblestone. Paved pathways also protect your shoes from mud and other debris as well as protect your lawn from the damage that heavy foot traffic can cause.

Decorative Arbors

Decorative arbors provide a delightful way to dress up the entrance to your property or introduce a backyard herb or perennial garden. You can grow vining plants up and over them, such as rambling roses, clematis, or even switch it up every year by planting different vining annuals such as morning glory and nasturtium. During winter, you can keep things interesting by stringing holiday lights on it.

Garden Benches

Garden benches give you and other household members a relaxing place to sit, read, dream, or simply get a rest from lawn and garden chores will enjoying the sunlight on your face and listening to the birds sing. If you opt for a wooden bench, choose one made of weather-resistant wood such as teak or cedar. Stone benches are good choices for areas that receive significant amounts of precipitation — you can always add cushions for softness during the warm season.

Water Features

Waterfalls, ponds, fountains, and raised birdbaths are just three appealing ways to turn your backyard into a personal oasis by adding water features. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll spend hours enjoying the antics of your feathered friends as they splash in the birdbath, and if you could use a serene respite in your life, a flowing fountain or waterfall provides soothing sounds and serendipitous visuals.

Other hardscaping possibilities include garden statuary, trellises, decorative gates and fences, pergolas, and footbridges.

Elegant And Easy – Dry Stacked Stone Walls

Have you admired dry stacked stone retaining walls and would like to add a similar hardscaping element to your landscape? Dry stacked stone walls are relatively easy to build and provide a natural looking retaining wall to control hillside erosion, define a property boundary, or provide an attractive edging to flowerbeds. However, if improperly designed and constructed, stone walls can be a lot more trouble than they are worth. Prone to collapsing, poorly constructed dry stacked stone is often in need of re-stacking. To avoid problems when building a dry stacked stone wall, it is wise to keep a few points in mind.

Selecting Stones

Whether you gather stones from your property, harvest stone from a public area or order stone from a masonry contractor, be sure to choose a stone that compliments your home’s building materials. If you have a stone fireplace or stone trim on the structure, choose a matching stone.

Sort Out Your Stones

Go through your stone pile and make separate piles of the largest stones for cornerstones and building the base. You will need a good supply of long, narrow stones for anchoring the wall, and a healthy supply of smaller stones to fill gaps and crevices.

A Solid Base

To retain structural integrity, a stacked stone wall needs to sit “in” the ground, not “on” it. Dig a four to six-inch deep trench where you intend to construct the stonework. The trench should be at least six inches wider than the wall, allowing approximately three inches on each side of the base.

Line the trench with landscape fabric. The width of the fabric should be two times the width of the trench. Add two to three inches of gravel to the trench. Tamp down the gravel and level with a garden rake. After leveling the gravel, wrap the excess fabric over the top of the gravel, placing the first layer of stone on top of the gravel layer. Wrapping the gravel layer in landscape fabric prevents soil and root intrusion, which can hinder drainage and cause frost heaving. When laying down the first layer of stone, select large, flat stones to create a solid base that is easy to build upon. Fill spaces between the larger stones with smaller stones.

Anchoring The Wall In Place

Failing to anchor the wall in place is the most common mistake made by do-it-yourself homeowners. To effectively anchor your wall to a hillside or slope, start with the third layer, and in each successive third layer, placing long and narrow stones as anchors. Position the anchor stones with the narrow side flush with the front of the wall, and the long side jutting out perpendicular to the wall, into the hillside or slope. Position anchor stones about six feet apart.

Lean Into It

A dry stacked stone wall needs to lean. The wall may be required to hold back thousands of pounds of soil, which requires an inch of angle for every 12 inches of vertical height.

Fill In Gaps As You Go

Failing to fill in the gaps between stones is another common pitfall in stonewall construction. Gaps between stones allow soil to build up and moisture to collect, causing the wall to buckle and collapse, so fill in the spaces between rocks as you go.