Landscaping help!

perennialgal(5b-6)June 2, 2012

For the past several years, I've struggled with a small patio, walkway, driveway outside my very small old New England house (ie. "cottage.") I've attached pics below. Here are the issues:

1. the patio area (actually, the whole garden) is very small. Patio itself accomodates two chairs, maybe a third, if it's small. Gets walked on a lot when gardening. I used to have flagstones there, with the vision of thyme or something growing in between. Total failure. Soil too compact? Not enough water? Don't know, but it was a failure.

2. Last year, I ripped everything up, including the ugly broken up cement walkway. Transfered the flagstones from the patio to the walkway. Created two tire tracks from recycled cobblestones. The vision: no grass, but creeping thyme, irish moss (not real moss), etc. growing everywhere, including the patio, so that it would be "soft underfoot."

3. Aside from the plants growing in between the flagstones, and lots of weeds growing in between the two cobblestones tracks, it's been a total failure. (This could have to do with the "pulverized stone" that got delivered instead of the crushed gravel I had asked for, a cement like base that got mixed in with a lot of the soil?)

4. Just last week, I've re-dug up the ground in the patio and between the cobblestones, amended, added humus, etc... with the hope that this year, the plants will take.

Before I add more plants, and spend more $$$, I thought to ask the community here.

My questions:

Given the fact that the patio, when used, is small and gets a lot of foot traffic, am I just beating a dead horse trying to get something to grow there? (The ground does feel very tough, even with all the amendments.)

Should I just go for pebbles or flagstones and call it a day? (I disliked the flagstones before b/c they were uneven and the chairs were always rocking).

Same with area between tire tracks. Should I just put pebbles and call it a day? (I dislike the idea of pebbles in driveway b/c I live in the northeast, ie. winter, snow, shoveling, etc.). And I don't want to deal with grass.

[I've posted the exact same question on another board, and since I'm not sure how to post pics here, I'll just point you to a link to that board, with pics:]

Pics on Houzz

Thanks in advance. After three years of failed attempts, I'm at my wits' end.


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You try to design some stamp and use Porousstone bricks install the patio.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 8:15PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

The only thing you've told us about the conditions you're trying to grow ground cover in is about the soil. Certainly being driven and walked on would dissuade some ground covers, but sun/shade matters too.

The other thing is that you have to understand weed growth in order to prevent it. Until the ground cover grows in, you have bare ground, and soil is always either already full of weed seeds that will sprout when they get sun, or a grateful recipient of any other seeds that blow in - which they do, in quantity. So until the ground cover grows in, you need to either keep the rest of the soil covered (mulch, newspaper, old carpet, or what have you) or weed/hoe often.

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 11:11PM
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Thanks for this.

The very small patio gets sun then part sun throughout the day. I've built a raised bed all around that is pretty lush. The thyme seems really happy there.

The thyme and Irish moss also seem very happy between the flagstones. Again, pretty sunny throughout the day.

The area between the two tire tracks is the one where a lot of weeds came up. I tried growing Irish moss from seed there, and although it worked last year between the flagstones, it did not work this year. Except for the weeds.

I guess my main issue/question is about the patio area. It is really small and is walked on a lot. When I garden in the raised bed, if/when I sit out there reading, etc. Wouldn't that compact the soil? Or is it that with the right soil and watering, once the plants are established, walking on it would not be a problem?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 8:51PM
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If the area is very small and it gets walked on a lot, you need paving -- there's no living "ground cover" that's going to take that kind of abuse and survive, much less thrive, and that includes the toughest ground cover of all, good old lawn.

Looking at the photo and reading between the lines, it seems to me that your problem isn't as much about establishing plants between paving materials as it is about proper preparation of the surface on which you're laying the paving materials.

In such a small area, I, personally, would want a simple, even surface. Dig it out, level it, use proper underlayment, level again, tamp and set the flags or whatever paving material you use properly for an even workable surface.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Thank you for your feedback marymd! Yes... I think I'm coming around to that. Now I'm just going back and forth between gravel and flagstones. I think I'll go for flagstones, and do it right!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 11:43PM
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