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Gravel Your Garden

If you own a holiday or permanent home in Bulgaria, you may wonder what to do with your weed-filled garden to make it more attractive and less work.

One perfect solution, particularly if you are not resident in the country is to create a gravel garden. These cost effective gardens will not only enhance the look and value of your property, but will cut down on endless work and maintenance, leaving you free to enjoy your time in this wonderful country.

From a bed of weeds to cultivated land

The first step when making your garden is to measure out the land you wish to gravel. You will need to know these measurements when buying your membrane and ordering your gravel. Then cut back to ground level, all of the weeds that have taken over your garden using a strimmer or scythe. If you plan your gravel garden to cover small areas you can work sector by sector rather than trying to tackle a full 500 sq m in one go. The garden then has to dug over - a tiresome and strenuous task, which can be delegated to dedicated labourers in your village or to a man with either a rotavator or horse and plough. A small area like that shown ion the picture will cost around 30 - 50 lv. to plough. Some rotavator owners may not wish to take on the job if your land has many stones and bricks resting beneath the stubble and you may find that you have to clear the area of rubble before-hand. Rake over the ploughed land to ensure the surface is flat and does not rise above any concrete areas.

Applying the membrane

Not all of the hard work has been done, but you can take it easy by laying your membrane. The best material to use is the black felt or UV stabilised membrane, which allows water to drain away but does not allow for weed growth. It is available in generous amounts in the UK. This same membrane can be purchased at Bulgarian DIY stores like Mr Bricolage and Praktika but costs around 30 lv. for a small amount. Another alternative is to lay strong sun resistant plastic sheeting available from builders' merchants, whilst this will not last as long as the black membrane it still stops the weeds from reappearing for several years to come. Fix the membrane to the ground using either plastic membrane screws or just hold the membrane in pace with bricks. Try to lay the membrane on the same day that you expect to receive your gravel to avoid it becoming wet from a night's rainfall.

Covering the garden with gravel

Order your gravel from a builder's merchant or quarry who can deliver to your home. Most have a reasonable variety of colours from red, white and grey to muli-coloured hardcore, which blends particularly well if you house is painted in a beige, cream or yellow tone. Gravel is rarely sold in bags as it is in the UK because it is still considered a material used in the building process rather than as a decorative adornment to your garden. Your merchant will be able to calculate the amount you need to cover your ground from the measurements of your garden, but beware gravel seldom goes a long way. The garden pictured here took 20 tons of gravel to complete. Your delivery will be dumped onto your driveway unless there is clear access to your land. You will then have to barrow the gravel from the drive to the garden creating little mounds all around. Work methodically by creating your mounds down the length of the side furthest away from the gravel mountain. Once you have several mounds spread the gravel to cover the membrane with gloved hands and top up where necessary. Once you have covered the membrane with gravel fill a bucket and walk slowly around your plot covering any forgotten patches as you go.

Accessorising your gravel area

A large expanse of gravel may keep the weeds at bay, but will not look particularly attractive, but you can add more interest to your space by adding strategically placed pots and tubs. Other interesting adornments are large stones, which you can find strewn all over the countryside in Bulgaria or interesting tree stump formations planted with a few small evergreens. You may wish to add a water feature or a statue, which you can purchase from a Bulgarian DIY store or garden centre. Alternatively you can cut into the membrane and plant evergreens around the garden. The best way to do this is to purchase the plants in advance and then lay them around the garden making changes until you feel you have the best formation. An additional interesting feature to add some variety to your graveled area is to build a rockery as a centrepiece. If you plan to do this you need to build the rockery before you lay the membrane as the rockery will not require any cover. Once you have added your alpines you can cover the gaps between the rocks and the plants with contrasting or the same coloured gravel. You can also lead the eye through your gravel area by strategically placing decorative paving slabs around the garden or by breaking up the vast expanse by using a contrasting texture like bark. If you adopt this feature you will need to ensure that the bark does not mix in with the gravel by using plastic garden edging dug neatly into the ground but protruding slightly to divide the area.

Maintainance

There is very little maintenance if you have covered your ground well with a good quality membrane however passing birds will drop seeds onto your garden and these will grow into weeds, which you need to pull out occasionally. Animals running across your garden will also disturb the gravel and you will need to rake it now and again to ensure that it doesn't become patchy. Plants, particularly those in containers will need regular watering and if you are not permanently resident here, you are best employing a gardener to take care of these jobs for you. Other than that it's time to sit back and enjoy the fruit of your hard labour!