Oak in the garden- Our top 5 ideas!

As we come into spring, and more peoples thoughts turn towards their garden we though that it might be useful to share our 5 favourite ways that oak can be used in an outdoor environment. All of these ideas can easily be adapted to your personal budget or the amount of space you have available. Oak makes a wonderful material to use in the garden due to its inherent longevity and the vast array of ways it can be cut, shaped or moulded.

1. Raised Beds

Raised beds are a great way of growing a whole variety of fruit and vegetables, as well as growing all sorts of plants. The main advantages of creating raised beds are that they improve drainage, offer increased access for people with limited mobility, give the opportunity to easily introduce a different soil type into a garden and improve soil temperature for plants.

The creation of a raised bed is very simple. First of all you must identify how big you would like your beds to be, for the vast majority of  cases we would recommend a bed size of 2.6m x 1.3m as this eliminates wastage on the sleepers used to construct the beds, as well as providing easy access to the middle of the plot, vital to avoid dead space.

The next element to consider is which sleepers you would like to construct your raised beds from. Our personal recommendation is normally our 250x75x2600 new oak sleepers, as we feel that these give the best compromise between weight, cost and stability. Other popular choices are the 200x50x2600, which gives a lighter weight bed, or the 200x100x2600 which will give a very substantial bed, capable of being built to a height of 1m or more. Once you have picked you sleeper size then you can consider the height of the finished bed, 400-500mm is standard.

The final things to consider are how to fix the sleepers together, which is normally achieved either by the use of strips of timber on the inside of the bed, or by timberlok screws fixed down through the sleepers.

Once you have the beds constructed all that’s left to do is fill them with the growing medium of your choice, here we would normally recommend a blend of topsoil and 10mm compost. but this will depend on what you are planning on growing and the soil conditions your currently have.

2. Decking

Whilst softwood decking has been widely used for the last 20 years, more and more garden designers are now turning to oak or other hardwoods. This is because the increased lifespan, and more oak deckingattractive appearance once weathered makes hardwood decking a far better material for the job. The vast majority of these woods, such as balau and ipe are harvested from tropical countries, in a way that may not be sustainable in the long term. By contrast all of our oak decking comes from properly audited and managed suppliers in France, which will guarantee a long term, sustainable supply.

Oak decking can be supplied in 2 main forms, either as a pre-machined board which is reeded on one side and smooth on the other or as a rough sawn board, which as the name suggests is rough on both sides.

Pre-machined oak decking is directly comparable to both softwood and other hardwood decking, and has all of the disadvantages of these products, most notably that is can be very slippery if not correctly maintained.

The rough sawn decking, typically 220x50x2600 sleepers, offers a cheaper and more robust alternative. These planks reduce the need for support underneath, increase lifespan and offer a very strong and sturdy final result. Although thus form of decking has so far mainly been used in commercial environments there is no reason it wouldn’t work brilliantly in a domestic setting.

3. Buildings

There are few sights nicer in a garden than a properly constructed oak framed building. From the moment of installation they add age, character and practicality to any setting.

F03 kit form buildingIndividual requirements will naturally vary greatly, depending on what the space is going to be used for, the amount of land available, budget and any planning constraints. However a building like the EO2 gazebo is so versatile that it can be used for any number of different functions.

These buildings make great covered seating area’s for barbecues, or simply to relax in. Alternatively they can easily have walls added, to transform them into a perfect home office. The roofs can be tiled or covered with slate or cedar shingles, to create a waterproof canopy or for a different take you could grow climbers over the roof structure, to create a stunning natural roof covering.

For those people blessed with more space there are a whole host of options to consider. An oak framed garage will add charm and value to almost any house, as well as providing valuable storage space and a secure area to keep your vehicles. In addition to this buildings such as the BO3 can be converted to have offices or living accommodation above, subject to the necessary planning permission.

Finally for those with longer gardens a pergola, such as the F02, can add a great focal point, as well as providing a great frame to grow plants on.

 

4. FurnitureIMG_0057

Due to its longevity outside, its resistance to the worst effects of the weather and the subtle grey colour oak mellows to it makes a great choice of material for outdoor furniture. This can take many forms, from waney edge oak benches to oak sleeper tables, but they all share these common characteristics.

The main advantage of oak furniture comes from the minimal amount of maintenance that is required. There is no need to take it indoors over winter, or even to cover it up, simply leave it where it is, and come spring a quick clean will have it ready for service again.

The other key point to remember when looking at oak furniture, especially the sleeper tables, is the weight of these items. This means that the days of your garden table blowing down the street in a mild breeze are long gone!

Finally you have to consider longevity. All of our oak garden furniture should comfortably last for 10 years, and in most cases far longer. Not only does this mean that you won’t have to keep buying replacements its far better for the environment as there is less waste going to landfill.

 

5. Hard Landscaping

This category covers all kinds of ideas, from terraces to fences.

Oak sleepers are one of the best materials for creating walls in the garden, due to the low initial costs and the ease of installation. To create a retaining wall, or to terrace a garden, is as simple as creating a level surface for the sleepers to sit on and then placing sleepers in position until you have achieved your required height. This means that there is no more messing around with concrete, no expensive brick walls to lay and the entire job can be done in a weekend, dramatically reducing costs.

The other advantage of this approach is that the wide range of sleepers we offer means that there is always the right size for the project you have in mind. Our 10″ x 5″ sleepers are perfect for heavy duty retaining walls, where their weight and size ensures a stable and effective barrier. For smaller projects, such as creating a small step in a garden, the smaller 8″ x 4″ or 10″ x 3″ sleepers may help to reduce cost and effort.

Other uses of oak as a landscaping material include steps, typically made of short lengths of 10″ x 5″ sleepers, or border/path edgings which can be constructed using 9″ x 2″ sleepers.

Oak fencing is another area which we are seeing more and more of our customers exploring. Typically woven from small section green oak strips these fences offer a different option to the standard softwood panels which are commonly used. For more information on which materials may be suitable, or a recommendation for a landscape gardener to help with your project then please contact us

Conclusion

We hope that some of the ideas in this blog have been useful to you, or have inspired you to think about a new project in your garden. If you have any questions, or would like any more information on the products featured here then please don’t hesitate to contact us.