It is that time again, for another installment of “the Adventures of Blu Gill Urban Farmer.” This week we examine the topic of laying bricks to make a nice garden edge with basic tools and no mortar. Let’s review a pictorial of the steps recently followed at Blu Gill Urban Farm.
Preparing the area
1) Using a hoe, rough out the starting area for your brick edging. 2) Remove any large debris and level the area. I recommend at least one-half inch to 1 inch below grade. 3) I highly recommend using a large nail or stake and string or twine to maintain a straight line. 4) Be sure the area is level or if water drainage is an issue, you can use a level to ensure th eslope is falling in the correct direction. Normally, your edging will be level left-right and up-down. For the edging near the perimeter of the house, a slope away from the house is extremely important. For other areas of your yard you can follow the slope of the yard as necessary. Bricks could be stepped down and stacked for larger slopes, but mortar would probably be needed.
5) Your area is prepped and generally leveled or sloped sloped. I also use a hand-fork to comb through the surface of my prepared area to ensure the soil is not packed tight and all larger rocks have been removed from the area.
Laying the Bricks
6) I prefer loosening the soil which allows me to compact it to the desired level at time of installation. Rather than use a rubber mallet to pound the bricks into place, I use a left-over concrete pave stone. I find it actually works better than store bought tools. It has the perfect amount of mass and area to lay bricks. Earlier in the project, using a rubber mallet had an unfortunately outcome. The mallet came in contact with my index finger, seriously smashing the tip of my finger, probably requiring stitches. But, I cleaned and bandaged the wound and a couple weeks later the finger healed nicely. Please take precautions around the use of any tools and consider protective wear, such as gloves and safety glasses. Also, take your time, plan, and if you become tired, take a break. In the summer heat, be sure to drink lots of water and wear a brimmed hat and sunscreen lotion.
7) Once the initial bricks are lain, use a level to check the width and length. On the first attempt, the two initial bricks appear dead-on level short-way; 8) long-way shows a slight slope toward us. 9) Carefully lift the brick from its placement, add fine soil or mason sand to the needed area. 10) Once again, use a mallet (or make-shift tool) to pound the top of the bricks to an even level. 11) Pounding on the edges where the two bricks meet ensures each meets each other at a similar level. 12) Check your handy work again, and when both directions indicate proper slope, move onto the next brick. 13) Lifting the first brick shows the well-packed soil beneath the brick.
14, 15, 16, 17) Continue repeating the above steps again and again, pounding the top of the bricks to reach the desired level, and pounding the sides to pack in each new brick into your pathway.
Making more permanent
18) After about an hour the path will begin to form, progress can be seen. If your soil is clay-like and sandy, sift the soil around you and sprinkle on top of the completed brickwork. Or, purchase mason’s sand and sprinkle over. 19) Use an old broom and sweep the sand into the grooves of the bricks. 20) Eventually the sand will fill the gaps. 21) Carefully spray a fine mist of water on the recently sanded bricks to allow the sand to become moist. 22) The moist sand water will accumulate in the crevices to form a bond to one another like mortar. Let dry and repeat if any obvious gaps remain. The bricks can still be pulled apart with enough force, but the adhesion should withstand any normal wear and tear.
23) After several days the bricks will make a very nice semi-permanent edge.
The finished product
24) Continue to lay your path, properly prepare the area, lay straight level twine for the best edges, spread loose soil or sand, pound bricks into place, and leveling each one, and within a couple hours, the garden edge will begin to shape. 25) After several hours and a couple days’ time, the backyard will truly begin to take shape.
26) A nice grass edge and pathways will materialize. 27) Until finally, the area is fully formed, with lovely red brick edging for a well defined grass area.