Man planting plants in a checkerboard design garden.

How to Create a Checkerboard Design in Your Garden

This simple design of square paving stones and plants could be used to create a dramatic courtyard or a fun space for children’s playground games. Plant it up with turf, chamomile, mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii) or low-growing herbs, such as thyme or Corsican mint (Mentha requienii).

When to start: Spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 1 day.

You will need: Turf or low-growing plants, rake, wooden boards, tape measure, string and sticks, sand and mortar mix, mallet, spirit level, square paving stones.

Compact the soil

Clear the area of stones, weeds, and grass, and rake it to create a flat surface. Lay down a wooden board and walk across it, moving it along systematically to level the whole area.

Mark out the squares

Measure the paving stones, and using string and some sticks mark out the area into squares of equal size. Cover squares that will be used for paving stones with a 2 in (5 cm) layer of sand.

Level the sand

Using the back of a rake, tamp down the sand to compact and level it. Don’t worry if some sand spills out into the surrounding squares; any surplus can be mixed with the soil for the plants or turf.

Apply mortar

Mix up a wet mortar mix of four parts sand (half-and-half sharp sand and builder’s sand) to one part cement, or use a prepared mix. Place a trowel-full in the corners and in the center of a paving stone square.

Bed in paving stones

Position the paving stone on the mortar and use the wooden end of a mallet to gently tap it into place. Use a spirit level to check that it is level. Mortar in each one in the same way and leave them to set for a day or two.

Plant up

Fill between the paving stone with topsoil and plant up the herbs or turf. If using turf, lay it slightly above the paving stones so you can run a mower over the whole area. Water in. Keep plants watered until they are established.