The first step was to dig out the area roughly 3" with my helper. I like to wait until it is 95 degrees to do manual labor outside.
I realized why we couldn't grow grass. Our hardscapers put down landscape cloth and crushed stone beneath only a couple inches of topsoil. Thanks guys.
Then we lined up the Belgian block flush with what we hope will someday be grass so that it didn't create a tripping hazard. We used post-set concrete to set it. You just drop the concrete powder in, place your block and then add water. It'll set pretty quickly. Use a level and a staked string line as you go.
Next up I laid out all the leftover slate pieces we had and tried to come up with a design. This was way more difficult than I thought. I ended up with this layout.
Because I have a short attention span and not a head for details I would have just left them here and filled the gaps with river rock but Sean likes do things the right way. The nerve. So next up was laying sand and screeding. To screed you lay 2 level and perfectly straight objects for guidance (we used pipe but you could use wood) on either end of the surface. Dump the sand in the area. Take a 3rd level object (we used a long piece of scrap wood) to drag across the pipe sections in the sand pulling the excess sand off. This will fill in all the gaps in the dirt and ensure you have a perfectly level surface. Then we dropped the slate pieces into place. By screeding the surface first we are now confident that every stone is exactly in line with the top step down to the pool. No tripping hazards.
Next up, the fun part. Outside of concrete and sand this was the only material we had to buy. River rock. We could have gone with pea gravel but I think it would be too tempting for little boys to pick up and let travel into our grass and get sloppy over time.
I spread the river rock between the gaps, flush with the slate.
Voila! A clean landing patio for very little cash. Eventually we'll plant some shrubs along the wall line to bring in some color and soften up all the stone...
But for now my back is aching so I'll instead just enjoy the pool.