Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Solving the problem of holes in concrete


The area we have designated as our patio had one glaring problem - a massive, hideous gap in the concrete that flooded during heavy rain. Solving the flooding problem was a must, but digging up the concrete to install a new drain of some description wasn't an option I was prepared to even consider incorporating into the frugal budget, so here's what I did.

The day we moved into the cottage

This is what I refer to, very loosely, as our patio. It's a concreted area outside the back door that stretches for about 10 metres. It's ideal for parking planters, junk, log store, bins and coal bunkers, but it had the problem of a huge gap in the middle, which I quickly filled with gravel in an effort to make it less hideous.

It didn't take too long to clear out all the junk, most of which was recycleable in some way, shape or form, so we have had the use of this patio area for sitting out during dry weather. On numerous occasions, we've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner out there, as it's often warmer outside than in, especially during the sunny winter and spring days. It's an absolute suntrap, so all the tubs and fishboxes got moved along the south facing wall and used for sowing seeds. But the problem remained - a muckle great hole that was both unsightly and a bit of a 'tripping-up' point when carrying stuff about the place.

This is the ghastly 'hole' filled with gravel raked from elsewhere to prevent anyone falling into it. At its widest and longest points, it's about a metre wide and about 3 metres long.

Last month, I began raking out the stones in the hope of finding concrete beneath it but, instead, found rocky soil! Instant appeal, as I'd just found myself another little patch of potentially productive growing space! Cue hand tools - a spade was useless as it was too rocky.

The soil I found underneath wasn't too bad, it certainly wasn't worth ignoring or covering in concrete - we can't eat concrete and no comments, please, about my rock buns! :)

Raking about in the ever-increasing heap of junk that was being piled high in the garden, I found a length of plastic, possibly off an old waterpipe. That fitted nicely around the far end of the 'hole' and gave me a template from which to work. I'd to wedge it with rocks to stop it springing back out but it eventually stayed in place and allowed me to follow the line with my incessant digging.

There were some pretty big rocks got dug out from here, I can tell you. Some were more like boulders, fit to be built into the dry stone wall that borders our garden.

It took a full day of raking and digging to empty concrete canyon, but I saved the best of the soil for later use.

Next stage was a simple progression, as I couldn't see any of the bird tables from the kitchen window. I movedone and placed in the middle ofthis new 'patio garden, separating my hole in the ground into two holes in the ground.

Among all the rubbish that was here, we had salvaged several lengths of drain pipe, so a piece of that was incorporated along the edge in the hope that surplus surface water would be channeled off further from the seating area. The other reason, of course, was to provide some sheltered hiding place for the lizards, toads and frogs that frequent the back garden - this might tempt them out of the woodpile, for a start!

We got plenty of rain for the next few days, so the pipe theory of sending the water away proved to be very effective. Keeping everything in place was a simple matter of strategically positioning the rocks that had been dug out of there.

Next was what to plant. I had been reading about herb spirals on some of the permaculture newsletters and these sounded very interesting, although completely impractical, being 2 metres across when I had only a 1 metre near-circle, but I couldn't see any reason why I couldn't adapt the design to use up more of the rocks. So, my first spiral, or circulal, garden was born.

I built it up in the middle by making a smaller circle with log slices, filled it with the recently removed soil then began transplanting some of last year's strawberry cuttings, along with some thyme and some lupins that needed splitting. I even treated the new garden to a sprinkling of compost! This is at the far end of the patio, so any surplus rain water shouldn't lie, it should, hopefully, keep these strawberries watered.

Now for what to do with the other side, which flooded. It seemed simple to me... dig out a mini-pond! It would need to be ultra-frugal, as I had no pond liner and only what was lying about the place as materials, so more digging got done. I then laid some old fleece (previously used as curtain linings) along the bottom, taking the rough edges off the remaining rocks and stones.

On top of the fleece, I laid several feed bags, from the poultry grain. Over the top of that, I laid a layer of bubblewrap (we NEVER through out bubblewrap) and then a large polythene bag that had been saved from the sheepwool insulation... this seemed to do the trick and looked water tight, so now it was time to try filling it up with water.

I laid the drainpipe right to the edge of the mini-pond, so the rain water that pooled in that area could easily overflow the pond and run down into the circle garden. It took a variety of materials to hold down the plastic and I had the straight edge stepped up a little using a length of discarded wood. The ledge would hopefully help any critturs to safety if they inadvertently landed in the water.

The little patio garden was coming along nicely, multi-tasking as a wildlife 'playpark', bird feeding station and some extra growing space.

I kept adding bits and pieces that I found around the garden, surrounding it all in rocks, which we have plenty of here. I even transplanted several weeds from the side of the stream and sat the pots into the water on rocks. A square of plastic mesh got placed along the shallow end, allowing anything that climbs in the ability to climb back out again. Finally, a length of log, a baton of wood and two old steel hoops, possibly from a long forgotten cloche, were secured in place to hold the makeshift pondliner.

The final result looks very effective, considering it had cost absolutely nothing to construct. However, the first time Floppity rabbit saw it, she spent most of her time munching on the strawberry plants, so a remedy had to be found for that!

A quick search for 'companion planting' brought me to the conclusion that I needed something leafy, hardy and bunny friendly, so I have sown perpetual spinach around the outer edge of my circle.

The area is currently out of bounds to rabbits until the spinach grows big enough to distract her from the strawberries! I hope it works!

Since building this, I have now spent a hefty £8.29 on a solar fountain and we have been lucky enough to have had plenty of sun to keep it flowing.

Within the space of a couple of weeks, the strawberries are flowering and the spinach has begun to sprout. There are now also radish seeds sown and I raked up some old pine needles and moss to mulch the plants to try to protect them from the frosts we are still getting.

NYK Media


  1. Wow that looks amazing, wel done xx

  2. It looks lovely :) sf x

  3. Great to read your blog posts again Frugaldom. I like your gardening efforts. Have you any plans for garden lights?

  4. Dave, at some point in the future, I'd like to have some solar lights. I've looked at a few on offer but then think to myself, that could be another sheet of ply or plasterboard. LOL

    So much to catch up with on here, so I'll make a start on the herb spiral, so you can see how simple it really was when NOT following instructions. :)

  5. Brilliant, lots of hard work but at virtually no cost.

    Sue xx


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