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replacing lawn with stones and slabs

Hi all

Well, after almost a year since I last posted about my new lawn not taking I have sadly admitted defeat :( .  Despite no walking on the lawn, ariation, seeds, and other attempted advice I now only have sodden soil with the odd blade of grass peeking through.  People have advised adding artificial grass which I am not keen on or decking which I was tempted with but less and less enamoured by.  I don’t want to pave my garden as I want to keep it green(ish) and natural.  Then a brainwave!!!   :)

Laying slabs down, making patterns with bricks and filling with loose coloured stones type thing.  Essentially trying to keep it rustic and natural looking with plants, pots and ornaments popping up from the ground in various places. (hopefully you can picture this)  :/

Originally, I thought of simply removing a little top soil, loosely flattening out and then laying down stones, slabs etc to make little paths and designs.  I realise this means it won’t be level and weeds will grow through the gaps (I plan to have gaps between paving with the hope of grass/moss appearing) but not sure if there are other issues I need to be aware of.  I have been doing research online and all guidance seem to state to add a mesh layer with sand and create strong bases.  Is this really necessary or is it needed for reason I am unaware of?  I intend to have a few chairs and a table with the hope of people being able to stand around and chat with a drink or two in the sun so nothing heavy or strenuous is envisaged for the garden. 

I hope this makes sense and I look forward to any advice from those who may have attempted something similar.




  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,354
    That sounds lovely! Doesn’t matter if the pavers and bricks are a bit wonky, plants and low-growing herbs planted between then will soften and smooth the edges and will be part of the charm. If any slabs rise too much and become a trip hazard you can always lift that slab and level it off again. I would probably pay a bit more attention to the seating area, though, lifting the turf, levelling the earth and laying slabs on compacted sand. By mesh layer do you mean builders reinforcing mesh? Not really necessary if you level and compact the sand well, levelling each slab in place with the help of a spirit level and rubber mallet. You might want to create a supporting edge around the patio area, to stop the end slabs slumping and avoid falling off your chair  :)
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,023
    I wouldn't skimp on the prep if you want paving of any kind. Get a good sub base for it with either hardcore or a thick layer of builder's sand to lay it on.
    It depends on the type of ground you have though. Here, I have heavy clay, which doesn't dry out, and the original space was all gravel and ugly slabs [rather than nice paving]. It was laid on a very thick layer of red, coarse sand and was solid.
    If you don't have that, you need the base first to prevent it all moving and becoming uneven. You can also use a bit of mortar to set the paving - a big blob at each corner is usually sufficient - once you have the footings.
    I've also laid a path doing something similar to what you have in mind, after having an extension built. Paving with gravel inserts, to save cutting any, and I reused the old slabs to do it, laying them on sand with some mortar for them when needed.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Hampshire_HogHampshire_Hog Hampshire Coast 100m from the seaPosts: 1,089
    edited February 2019
    All sounds great, As Nollie says no need for ground mesh, depending how stable the ground is maybe a ground stabilising fabric otherwise I would suggest sharp sand rather than ordinary builders sand I made the small area below last year slabs are on a sharp sand base and is perfectly stable and suitable for light use.

    "You don't stop gardening because you get old, you get old because you stop gardening." - The Hampshire Hog
  • HazybHazyb Posts: 336

    Lots of options.

    pretty sure one  of the Gardner’s World  winning small gardens had a paved and slabbed garden 
  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,445
    I have seen patios and paths made with all sorts of odd stones,bricks and slabs etc.
    You can use things you already have to hand and then get all sorts of other bits new and old and put them together.Leave pockets for planting and make it whatever shape you want!All you really need is a good base to lay them on and some imagination.
    Some ideas here:-

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,050
    Geof Hamilton did an excellent video on laying an area using all sorts of things - from broken slabs to slate to terracotta pipes. Worth tracking it down. Do you mean weed suppressing fabric under them rather than builders mesh? I wouldn't bother as it will be a pain to plant in. Level the ground, tamp it down well on the bits you are laying slabs on, a couple of inches of sharp sand under the slabs and you are good to go. 
    How big is the area?
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Thank you all for your replies.  Really helpful with some great ideas.

    I love the pictures with Hazyb's the look I am aiming for with loose fitted slabs and using abstract materials as has been suggested.   i have added some pictures at the bottom of my own thought.

    My main concern about how to prep has been alleviated and if I have understood correctly then a clean up with a good base of sharp sand will do the trick.

    my garden is below (as it looked when it was first laid about a year ago).  It is about 21ft  x 15 ft but no longer green  :/ 

    So now to my sketch pad to jot down some ideas and see what materials I can source.

    Happy to receive any new ideas and suggestions and I will for sure update you all over the coming months as this progresses.

    Thank you again


    Image result for replacing grass with stonesImage result for garden stone design ideasImage result for garden with coloured stones and brick
  • HazybHazyb Posts: 336
    Sorry but I don't like those (but the middle pic is better).  Too busy for your garden which appears calm and serene.

    I think your lovely space needs larger slabs not loads of itty bitty things.
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,050
    I agree with @Hazyb - the bottom 2 pics are too bitty. Your garden is a fine size - was it done professionally last year? If so it may be worthwhile to go back to the landscapers/designers and get them to draw you a plan. And you do the work yourself. You need to think on a bigger scale. Fair enough to have a lovely wide sinuous path leading through the middle which is made from reclaimed material, but the rest I would plant up - perhaps have another seating area in the shade - that would use up a bit of space. Or have a circular bench round the big tree? Don't discount artificial grass - if the thought of having that much planting worries you, you could always work a small circular lawn into your design. 

    Perhaps you would prefer a more formal layout - squares/rectangles rather then informal - curves and circles. Or a bit of both - informal planting in a formal layout. 

    The internet can be a great source of information but it can be rather random. I have said this before on this forum to newcomers - nothing beats good books on the subject. There are loads of books available to buy or from your library that will give you great  ideas for your garden. 
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • KT53KT53 South WestPosts: 7,297
    The lawn looks as if it is pretty heavy shade most of the time so it's really no surprise that grass hasn't been a success.  As the area will take pedestrian traffic only a good bed of sand should be fine for slabs.  I'd be more concerned about the areas where gravel is going to be used.  If the ground is generally wet, gravel will tend to get pushed down into the underlying sand over time.  When I laid a path in our garden I laid a bed of sand, covered that with heavy duty weed membrane, then put the slabs and gravel on that.  It worked OK for many years.
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