One of the interesting and creative aspects of landscape design is the incorporation of hardscapes. In other words, the hard landscape materials in the structures that are often included in a landscape.

What do these look like? They can be elements as simple and common as any paved areas or driveways, as well as retaining walls, walkways, and steps.

Essentially, your hardscapes are any landscaping made with hard, durable materials such as wood, stone, and concrete. In landscape design, these structures can complement and enhance the softscape, or the horticultural elements of a landscape.

A Look at Concrete for Landscaping

Concrete is often overlooked because it is so common and non-descript. River stones, rustic pavers, split rail fencing, and retaining walls often garner the most interest when designing landscapes. But concrete is a far more versatile material than many give it credit for.

If you’ve never worked with concrete before you can be forgiven for thinking that “concrete is concrete.” However, there is much more to this veritable building material than meets the eye.

Another common and understandable misconception is that “cement” and “concrete” are one and the same. Not so. Strictly speaking, cement is the basis of concrete, the latter being a mixture of cement, gravel, sand, and water.

But this is where it gets interesting!

Aside from the traditional formulation of one part cement, two parts sand, three parts gravel, and 0.5 parts water, varying this recipe or adding substances can create different types of concrete. And this means more variety and versatility for concrete-based hardscape structures.

Five Types of Concrete for Your Landscape Design Elements

When it comes to using concrete for building, there are essentially two main considerations: use and aesthetics. How the hardscape element is going to be used will largely determine the type of concrete needed. Visibility and aesthetic appearance will affect that decision, as well.

If you’ve ever completed any home improvement projects that involved concrete, then you already know and appreciate the benefits of concrete as a building material. Concrete is durable, economical, and easy to use – not mention that it’s perfect for constructing hardscape features
Here are some of the common types of concrete used for hardscape structures that you could incorporate into your own design.

1. Traditional Concrete Surfaces

With a concrete mix that simply requires water, you can easily install a small patio, sidewalk, or steps that will withstand the daily grind of a household as well as inclement weather for years to come.

Also known as poured-in-place concrete, this building material is poured into forms where it will set and then finished. This basic concrete mixture is used extensively for small structures throughout an outdoor space. And, regardless of the overall style of your landscape design, traditional, poured-in-place concrete is a reliable material because it can fit into most styles.

2. Structures Requiring Extra Strength

A current trend for creating an inviting backyard space involves outdoor kitchens, benches, fire pits, and other elements. And, while standard concrete is usually sufficient for a patio, the extra weight of these types of amenities requires a patio that won’t chip, crack, or spall. The type of concrete needed is one with what is known as high-compressive strength.

According to an article from MatMatch,

“Compressive strength refers to the ability of a certain material or structural element to withstand loads that reduce the size of that material, or structural element, when applied.”

This means using a commercial-grade blend of cement, aggregate, and sand, that is formulated to reach a compressive strength of 4,000 psi or more. This type of high-compressive strength concrete can even handle vehicle traffic.

3. Foundations for Setting Posts

Many types of outdoor structures and hardscape require posts. Whether it’s a new mailbox or lamppost, fencing, or a gazebo, posts need a sturdy in-ground base. This is because these posts need to be secure and stable in order to safely support the structures over time.

And, because many of these posts are difficult to prop up for long while the concrete hardens, a concrete product that sets quickly is a plus. Concrete for post setting is typically a proprietary blend of cement, sand, and gravel that is poured directly into a posthole and then topped with water with no mixing needed. Many of these types of concrete products can be set in less than 40 minutes.

4. Concrete for Outdoor Countertops

Outdoor kitchens, dining areas, and bars can be built with concrete countertops. However, standard concrete formulas are too thick and gritty for this type of application. In addition, the end result would be a surface that is too rough for a countertop.

Instead, a concrete mix with additives can provide an easy-to-pour product that will create a smooth, impact-resistant surface. The additives increase the flowability and give the concrete a fine texture and high compressive strength. This is often accomplished with a superplasticizer additive. According to,

“Superplasticizers, also known as plasticizers or high-range water reducers (HRWR), reduce water content by 12 to 30 percent and can be added to concrete with a low-to-normal slump and water-cement ratio to make high-slump flowing concrete.”

This means it produces a highly flowable concrete that easily fills forms and sets with a smooth finish without much work. The low water-to-cement ratio yields a durable and high-strength concrete product with a compressive strength of up to 6,000 psi.

5. Concrete Landscape Edging

Most landscape designs incorporate sections and regions that use some kind of borders or edging to set them apart from each other. Landscape edging is commonly used to frame lawns, flower beds, footpaths, and trees. Using concrete border structures can help define your distinct landscape features while providing permanence and durability.

Landscape edging uses a concrete mix that can withstand the impact of lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment. It’s formulated with synthetic fibers that minimize cracking and spalling while increasing abrasion resistance.

Your Local Landscape Expert

Don’t hesitate to contact us for your hardscape and softscape needs. We know that creating the best look for your outdoor space is important to you and we’re here to answer any questions you might have about getting started on your landscape design.

Get ready to spend more time enjoying your outdoor space with family and friends!

If you have questions, or you’d like to schedule a consultation about your garden or landscaping project, contact the professional landscape designers and plant installers at Northview Landscaping today.