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How to design a picnic bench island in your backyard

Transform a meadow into a place with micro-spaces to sit and enjoy with friends. We will tell you all the steps.

From the first moment I look at an already landscaped area that I need to beautify, correct its defects, add advantages or decide on the most appropriate maintenance system, I am faced with a blank page. Of course, I am afraid of making a mistake, but I also feel the security of knowing my profession as a gardener since I finished my studies. I always say that for me, "gardening is a feeling." It is a service activity. If you are unwilling to serve and make life easier for others, leave it. From the moment you are presented with or discover a problem in a garden, your efforts must be directed towards offering a solution. This project, in Madrid, makes a homogeneous garden with little rhythm more habitable. You can do the same in yours by following these simple steps if you want.

Before and after, from meadow to garden, for some time now, I have been in charge of the maintenance of this beautiful pine forest in the middle of the University City of Madrid for the School of Industrial Organization (EOI) an important Spanish educational institution. The idea of this school, which can be extrapolated to any private garden, was that the numerous benches and tables randomly arranged throughout the park would become more identifiable, orderly, and coherent rest areas.

The moment you see the table and benches unloaded from the truck, you know that the main problem your garden will face is their difficult mobility, as they weigh over 100 kilos. The lawn under them will suffer a lot, and also, their use will mean that the footprints will always be in the same places. Also, keep in mind that the sprinkler irrigation system will be running every night in spring and summer. The starting idea was to create a clean micro landscape for each group. Sketch this one for guidance.

Once the treatment for these sets is composed of a table and two benches, it is necessary to think about their placement on the ground aesthetically and practically simultaneously. I intended to transform a simple meadow into a garden with only six picnic tables. The challenge was served. In the drawings, you can see the decided arrangement. In any case, for a medium-size garden, you can use only one or two tables.

Meticulously prepare the surface. The first task will be to remove the surface layer of grass. Then carefully delimit the land, digging the perimeter trench of the flower bed where the plate for the separation of soil and aggregates will go. But do not lay it yet—the materials. Once we have decided that we are going to create six islands in the garden and that we will distribute them throughout the meadow logically and harmoniously, it is time to define with what and how we are going to do it, what materials we will need, and how we will work with them. In this project, I opted for:

  • Anti-weed geotextile mesh (left) for the base.
  • Flexible resin plate 20 cm high (center) for the edge.
  • White decorative boulder of rhodonite or sandstone, sieve 4-6 cm (right).

Follow an order. The first task should be to cover the ground with the geotextile weed barrier mesh. In the market, you will find it in black or white, which was the color chosen to blend in with the stones. To cut it to the size of the flowerbed, it is best to spread it on the surface itself and cut it with a blade following the shape that we have already defined when digging the trench for the plate. Remember that everything must be buried in the housing trench delimited by this framed plate and that the ground must not be uneven.

Do the work in winter. After laying the mesh on the ground, it is necessary to place the plate that will serve as an aesthetic frame and separator. This work is best done during a cold and dry season not to damage the lawn and ensure that the work is carried out on the firm ground.

Once this is done, the stone distribution begins. The white 4-6 cm sieve bolus that we have chosen is the most appropriate to be trodden without too many incursions of the stones in the lawn, which is not advisable for the mowing machine. The blades could be seriously damaged.

The result: clean and comfortable areas. The finish of each island is visible. Clean and pleasant habitability has been gained amid a beautiful, modern, and coherent aesthetic; clean and comfortable areas, with an attractive profile, where the influence of the lawn, with its humidity and particular dirt, is practically non-existent.

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