Small Garden Ideas
Tips for Steps in the Small Garden
As a general principle, it is wise to avoid the use of steps rather than to create them because they can be difficult to negotiate. However, there are occasions where steps are necessary on steeply sloping sites. If you have a gently sloping garden, it jars slightly to insert vertical steps but if you can create a steppedaround a border up a slope this is quite an effective feature. The direction changes of a flight of steps can create a pleasing sculptural feature with attractive planting or tubs on the landings.
The rise of a step is the distance one step is above the next and should not, in general, be more than 20cm (8in). The tread, the flat part of the step, should not be less than 30cm (12in) in depth, as a rule. The total flight, that is the length of the steps, should be roughly two to three times long as it is high. Measure the length and angle of a slope before calculating the number of steps. Wider steps look more natural than very narrow ones. In the small garden, if you wish to create an illusion of height, begin with wide steps at the base of a slope and narrow the width as the flight rises. This will give the impression of the path going further than it does.
There are various materials you could use to build steps. Natural stone looks very attractive and reduces the formality of garden steps. Old kerb stones used as the front of the step with crazy paving as the tread also look most effective. Granite setts orwith timber risers also look attractive and can be arranged at random on a long sloping path. There are many manmade surfacing products such as preformed or paved concrete, or bricks, which can be used in combination with bricks as risers making attractive, if formal, features.
A small point worth noting is that if a flight of steps rises from a lawn it is best to set an extra tread at the level of the lawn as there is nothing more unsightly than a worn patch of grass where people tread off the flight of steps. If steps are built into a bank that has a retaining wall, then plants can be allowed to tumble down over the corners to take off the sharpness. Care should be taken to plant out the squareness or disguise the feature in some manner. If the steps are wide enough to have planting gaps, then small plants such as thyme that exude scent when walked on can be included on each level.
If you prefer to leave rolling banks and gently contoured mounds without steps, retaining walls or marked level changes, then you may need a ramp, either to negotiate steeper patches with wheelbarrow or lawnmower or to prevent parts of the lawn becoming worn. The gradient should be no steeper than 1 in 10. The surface should be rough enough to offer some grip. Rougher bricks or concrete and pebbles are two possible materials.