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Terrace Garden, Lilydale



For many people a lawn is a place to sit, relax and offer a palate from which the garden design works around. For others it means mowing, maintenance and no flowers.

Many people have been known to rip up garden beds in order to put down a lovely turf. Others are know to rip up lawn in order to put in more plants, herbs, flowers, etc.

This garden in Victoria the owners wanted to do the later.

For 10 years this area struggled as a gently sloping lawn, surrounding a washing line. The mowing was difficult and constant walking around the washing line resulted in dead patches. In desperation the owners decided it was time for a completely fresh approach.

The first step involved spraying the turf with glyphosate weedicide (Zero® or Roundup®). This is a systemic weedicide (systemic meaning it gets into the roots, and kills all parts of the plant), that reportedly breaks down in the environment within a very short period, so that any future plantings will not be affected. The grasses growing at the site included ryes, bent and fescues.

Shortly afterwards on the same day, the area was covered by a freely draining sandy loam. The soil was tested to make sure the pH was appropriate for the future plants to be installed. This soil was then mounded and shaped to create a series of flat sections (ie. terraces).

It is interesting to note that the technique used to kill and cover the grasses with soil worked exceptionally well. No grass varieties were noted as surviving this treatment. However, if the site contained creeping grasses like couch, then this technique may not have worked as successfully.

Once the basic earth shaping was done, a patchwork of pavers was then laid to cover around 50% of the area. The pavers were laid over 2-3cm of cement mortar (1 part cement to 7 parts concrete sand). The home owners said it was easy to get the pavers level by sitting a builder’s level on the surface, and gently tapping them with a rubber mallet.

The pavers were arranged to create paths of varying widths, enclosing irregular shaped pockets of soil, into which plants could be planted.

Two days after paving, the pavers were strong enough to walk on. The pockets of soil were then able to be planted. All of the plants used were low growing bushes, creepers or clumping plants. These included several types of thyme (Thymus spp), Chives (Allium spp.), Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca ‘Semperflorens’), Iris (Iris spp.), the low growing form of Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostrata’), Sandwort (Arenaria montana), and Violet (Viola odorata). The existing garden beds of taller shrubs provided a solid backdrop along the low sides.

The final task was to cover the area with a thick lucerne hay mulch. This helped keep the roots moist and cool, minimised any erosion, and over time, provided nutrients as the mulch decomposed.

The net result was to create an area that requires no mowing and very little weeding. With a garden seat at one end this makeover now provides a very attractive garden corner to sit, read or just relax, with the added benefit of culinary herbs.

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