Checkerboard paving

Checkerboard paving
Checkerboard paving alternating with pebbles and plants.

Paving forms an integral part of landscape design for the home garden, be it as pathways or focal points or features. If you happen to have a tired looking section in your garden, then the aim of this section is to be of some assistance in an effort to add new life to your garden bed. There is no need to break the bank when it comes to refreshing your tired garden beds. All that you may require to give it a little oomph is perhaps just the addition of a few pavers and some planting between the pavers. Checkerboard paving with planting or soft landscaping in between also works well in a small courtyard garden; it can provide a distinctly French look to an otherwise tired-looking garden bed in your courtyard.

How to do a checkerboard paved garden

Step 1: Prepare the area that needs to be paved. When working within an existing garden then it is essential to remove all the unwanted bits first. These bits could be old, spent plants that are maybe beyond their best by date and either dispose of it or – in an effort to not be wasteful – prune down these tired-looking plants and dig them up and keep them for later planting. When digging up these plants place them on a plastic sheet. And when replanting these plants into the desired positions or planting new plants, always give your plants additional organic fertilizer especially after pruning to encourage new growth and to encourage new plants to establish themselves quicker.

Take off a thin layer of soil only. This step would be taken in the event of sprucing up an existing tired, garden bed and not a new garden bed. Much more planning and preparation of the area will need to be done in the case of a new garden bed. Say your garden pavers that you want to use are 15 mm thick then you literally just have to take off a little bit of the soil. In the example we are using small pavers that are 15 mm thick and 250 x 250 mm. This is to maintain the correct proportions. In small areas make use of small pavers and in bigger areas do make use of bigger pavers. This will maintain a sense of scale and proportionality. Level the area where the soil was taken out. Use the spirit level to check if the area is level to achieve a smooth and neat appearance.

Step 2: Lay down the pavers. Use your spirit level and a rubber mallet to lay down the pavers. (TIP: Always level the pavers for a smooth even look.) Lay down the pavers corner to corner to achieve a checkerboard effect, always leveling after putting down each of the pavers. Maintain the pattern as you lay down the pavers - space, paver, space, paver, etc.

Step 3: Plant up the spaces between the pavers once the pavers have been laid and leveled. There are several suitable species of plants that may be used to plant between the pavers on a checkerboard paving area to serve as the soft landscaping and to soften all hard edges. If you do come across some earthworms be kind to them. They play an important role by keeping the soil in good condition, aerating the soil and their castings will improve the nutritional capacity of your garden soil. When planting up the holes between the checkerboard paving you need to make planting holes. It would be wise to use a plastic bag to put the soil in else it could be rather messy on your pavers.

Add one or two handfuls of bonemeal or superphosphate in the planting hole. The bonemeal or superphosphate will encourage root growth. Also add some organic compost to the soil to boost your plants. Then start planting. Remember to backfill the planting hole with soil after you planted the plant in it. Do the backfilling with the soil that you have taken out when you made the planting holes. (TIP: Keep the garden soil level below the top of the paver to allow the plants room to grow up.)

Options for plants to use between the checkerboard paving

For low plantings – make use of grasses like Carex commons also known as Frosted Curls. The Carex commons, or Frosted Curls is happy to grow in full sun, but can grow anywhere.

Another grass type that is also suitable is the Ophiopogan jaburan 'variegata' also known as Mondo grass. This can be quite an expensive grass type to buy, however you can split up the Mondo grass plugs to make more plants to cover a larger area. The Mondo grass will keep on growing and soon enough it will be ready for re-dividing. Mondo grass will grow in shade and semi-shade conditions.

Groundcover such as the Viola odorata is also a popular choice. Take care when planting Viola odorata between the checkerboard paving as the Viola odorata cangrow up to 15 cm in height.

Other groundcovers like Viola labradonica (will grow in sunny positions as well as in semi-shade conditions), the Dwarf Mondo grasses (in all shades from green to black) also known as Ophiopogan japonica, Lysimachia 'Golden Cluster', Mazis grass and Falkia repens also warrants some consideration as suitable plants to plant between checkerboard paving.

The groundcovers will be your permanent planting in your checkerboard paving. You should also consider planting some non-permanent plantings. Annuals should not be given a cold shoulder. They will provide you with renewal season after season and sprucing up on a shoestring budget. The ideal annual that comes to mind as a suitable plant to plant in between checkerboard paving is Torenia 'Catalina White Linen' which can grow in both sun and semi-shade. You will be afforded the luxury of swapping out plants from season to season, or just to give your home garden a face lift.

For the more adventurous home gardener the checkerboard garden can also be planted up with perennials such as the Asparagus fern, or Asparagus densiflorus as it is also known, flanked by a grass type the Acorus gramineus 'Golden Edge'. This garden achieved a wonderful balance due to the use of repetition and use of lines that defines the garden and binding it into a whole.