It makes a lot of sense to re-use reclaimed materials for hard landscaping in the garden. New regulations now make builders responsible for disposing of building waste and while there’s no real market for many of these materials the temptation to throw them away or, worse still, fly-tip them, is often too great.
Fashionable Environmental Scene
But the fad for recycling and reusing materials has now reached the world of garden design and reclaimed materials were the darlings of recent garden shows. Slate roofing tiles arranged in long rows stood up on their edges were seen in a number of gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2009 and many gardens used reclaimed materials for paving and walls.
Using reclaimed materials makes even more sense if a garden is being landscaped after a building project such as an extension or other major work. It saves carting the old material away, preventing it from going into a landfill site and the associated environmental damage of transporting it there. Using these materials in the garden will complement the existing house, helping to link the garden and house visually.
Finding Reclaimed Materials
If you don’t have a building project on the go then reclaimed materials can still be put to use in the garden. Architectural salvage yards will have lots of paving materials and bricks, even the ever-popular railway sleepers, at prices which should be lower than new alternatives from a garden centre.
For cheap reclaimed materials check out small ads in the newspaper or the online equivalents in your area. Often people who have surplus building materials left over from a building project will advertise them in this way at reduced rates just to get rid of them. They will sometimes offer them for free to anyone who will collect simply because the owner simply feels it is a shame to waste them.
Sources of Free Materials
Freecycle, the online email group where people advertise unwanted possessions, will often feature building materials. You will nearly always need to pick them though, so you need a trailer or a large car that you don’t mind putting mucky materials in.
For an erratic but perhaps more accessible supply of reclaimed materials, keep an eye on skips in your street and the surrounding area. Any building material in a skip is likely to be destined for landfill but occasionally the builder or householder will have made an arrangement for a reclamation yard to take it away. This means it is best to check with the householder or builder before carting away your treasure.
Using Reclaimed Materials
Patios, paths and low walls are the obvious uses for reclaimed materials and often you will find that you have to collect a lot of materials before you have enough to finish your landscape project.
You will need to be flexible too, as you will get different batches, in different sizes, of different materials. Although you should be able to stick to a general layout throughout, you may need to change your mind as you go, as to which materials are used where, to make the best use of each batch of reclaimed materials.
Virtuous Effort Provides its Own Reward
This makes using reclaimed materials in the garden sound like a bit of a chore. It’s true that it requires more thought and planning than just going down to the garden centre and buying a load of new materials. But the satisfaction of creating your design out of reclaimed materials and the benefit to the environment should be ample compensation.