Do The Right Thing

It’s 8:30 at night on Labor Day as I write this post.  I just got off the phone with a prospective client who needed some masonry work done to get the CO for their new deck.

After asking questions about the job it became clear what they needed more than a landscape designer was a mason.  I assured them that when the time came for grading around the deck or designing the gardens I would be glad to assist.

I recommended they call a local company for the masonry work or visit Southbury Stone and Supply for materials and to get references for masons.

Some contractors would subcontract the job or make something up on the fly.  I’ve reached the point in life where I know what I do well, and profitably, and what I don’t.  I enjoy masonry work but my detailed mind can’t get the work done quickly enough and frankly its heavy work.

I don’t know if I did the right thing or not but I listened to my gut.  If I’ve learned one thing in life it’s to always listen to your gut.

I hope I get a call to design and install some landscaping work around the new deck.  It sounds gorgeous.

*Note:  The featured image is a patio I installed in the late 90’s.  I cut granite slabs to make the rounded corners and used flamed bluestone for the patio.  The granite slabs I used for the steps had a ‘cushion edge’ to give them a weathered look.

My clients hired masons to build steps to their new french door.  When the mason stepped on the patio he looked at me and said, “Do you think you’re working with wood?”  That’s one of my favorite projects.

How to Create a Curved Stepping Stone Path

This week I finished installing a stepping stone path.

This stepping stone path is unique for a couple of reasons.

First, it provides a much-needed way to move through the garden.  There’s no way to cross the garden without it.

Second, the stepping stone path gently curves to add interest.  The path curves left to make room for a future PG Hydrangea on the right.

I’m looking forward to filming the garden when completed.

How to create a Curved Stepping Stone Path

Landscape Before work Begins
When I started there was no way to get through the bed.  The plants were randomly planted with no sense of purpose.
Laying out the Stepping Stone Path
The white line is where the stepping stone path will be.
Stepping Stone Path Completed
It took me a day to select, deliver and roughly place the stepping stones.  It took a day and a half to install them. The work usually goes faster.  I chose some odd-shaped and large stones. I’m very pleased with the results.
Laying out Stepping Stone Path
Placing the stones is a two-step process.  First I roughly place the stones.  Next I put an X in the middle with a grease crayon and space them 26.5″ on center. The first and last stone go 13.25″ from the edge of the bed. The beginning and end never work out perfectly. I spread the difference between the last few.
Completed Stepping Stone Path
Set stepping stones 2-3″ high so they aren’t covered by mulch.  Nothing is more annoying than covering your freshly placed stepping stones.
View of the Lake and Stepping Stone Path
I’ve been working on a lake the last couple weeks and enjoying some incredible views.  The mulch in this bed is pure Hemlock Bark.  My favorite.

A while back I filmed how I install stepping stones.  While I’ve gotten better at producing videos the way I lay stepping stones hasn’t changed a bit.

Old-Fashioned Craftsmanship

After a day of office work I decided to take Theo for a walk.

It was a beautiful evening.  The temperature was around 68 and the sun was shining.  I admit I wasn’t in the mood for a walk.  Too much office time drains my energy.

After 45 minutes of walking I had a choice.

Continue straight and be home in 15 minutes or take the dirt road to the right and add an hour and a half to my walk.

I chose the road less traveled.

I love dirt roads.  I love old houses.  I love walking through the forest.  I love walking in the rain?

This dirt road was right where I wanted to be.

As Theo and I headed down the road a shower started with the low rumble of thunder.

I didn’t mind.  The rain was warm.

While walking I saw some old-fashioned craftsmanship.

Stone Wall with Arch for Water
The arch through this stone wall gives the stream a stylish way through.
Close-up of Stream Through Wall
The stream running through the stone wall.  The job could have been done easier plenty of ways.  None would have looked better.
Stone Wall Built on Boulder
Here the masons used a large boulder to support the wall over the stream. I like how the masons tied the large stone into the wall.
New England Stone Wall Rebuilt
A rebuilt new england farm wall.  Modern stone walls often have wide mortar joints and randomly cut stones for quick construction.
Stone Fence Posts
There’s more to the story of this fence than stone posts and cedar rails. I’m sure that fence had different rails when it was originally built.
Sugar Maple and Stone Fence Posts
Notice how the maple tree engulfed the stone fence post. I wonder if that Sugar Maple was planted to shade the house.

Theo and I left for our walk a little before six and returned a little after eight.  We feel refreshed and renewed albeit a little damp.

Keep Dirt and Mulch Off Your Siding

A  drip edge is a trench filled with gravel that prevents mud from splashing against your home.  You install it where water drips off the roof.  I also use a drip edge when the grade next to the house is the same level as  the siding.

Install the drip edge one foot from the siding when controlling a grade and a little outside the drip line of a home when controlling splashing water.

If your grade is level with the siding install a drip edge level with the mulch.  Leave a 1-2″ gap from the top of the edging to keep mulch from touching the siding.

Closeup of drip edge.
I removed mulch touching the siding before installing the drip edge. You can see where the mulch touching the siding blocked the painters.

Use commercial grade metal edging for drip edges.  No rolled plastic from a box store.  It comes in 1/8″ and 3/16″ widths that are 4″ tall and 10′ or 16′ long.  This is heavy-duty stuff.  If you have tight curves go with the thinner metal.  There are fitting available for the edging for corners and splices to make the job look more professional.

Fill your trench with a minimum of 1″ diameter gravel.  Gravel smaller than 1″ blows out of the trench when cleaning up leaves.  The gravel also blocks sunlight and preventing weeds.

Measuring Stick
A stick cut the distance you want from the house is the best tool for measuring.
Depth Control of Drip Edge
Draw a line on the stick to control the depth of your trench. Avoid over excavating your trench.  You want soil there to hold the edging.


Sometimes You Have to be Creative
You have to be creative with existing plants when installing a drip edge.

I use gravel with earthy tones that blends with the landscape.  A river stone with rounded edges works nicely too.  The choice is yours.

I don’t use weed fabric under the gravel.  Weed fabric traps sediment and the gravel will soon be sprouting weeds.  Not using fabric also makes the stone easier to remove should the need arise.

Belgian Block Drip edge
You don’t have to use metal edging to create a drip edge.

Apply black spray paint where you cut the edging to prevent rust.  I use a Milwaukee Portaband to cut edging.  A hacksaw, some elbow grease and a lot of patience works just as well.

Time spent installing a drip edge will keep you from having to replace siding, or worse, down the road.

By John Holden