How to create a garden path

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A garden path
There are many materials that are suitable for a garden path; however, concrete garden stepping stones are probably the most popular material with which to build paths through the yard
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Create a garden path that is utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing.

A basic path directs pedestrians from point A to point B while safely keeping shoes dry and avoiding ruined plants. However, a well-designed path does much more; it can invite one to wander to interesting and appealing areas of your garden by connecting and unifying unrelated areas.

Selecting Path Material

There are many materials that are suitable for a garden path; however, concrete garden stepping stones are probably the most popular material with which to build paths through the yard. Another choice is the use of brick papers. If you're really ambitious and want to make your own formed concrete stepping stones, you can purchase molds and prepare the stepping stones yourself using premixed cement. A note of caution, though: this route will take considerable time and effort!

In selecting material for your garden path, you should consider a material that is suitable to its intended use. A path that will receive regular use needs to be solid, evenly set and not slippery. The best choices are brick or concrete pavers, poured concrete, cut stones or large stones set close together. Think about what materials would complement your house and its natural surroundings. Check out various neighborhoods and look through garden magazines to get ideas. Also, go online to different garden sites.

Once you've decided on the type of material you're going to use, the next step is to design the path. Lay out the location and shape of the path. Although people walk in straight lines and will cut across right angle corners, straight paths are predictable - but paths that disappear around a tree or a corner are more interesting, as well as more natural-looking. If a tree or boulder is in the way, curve your path around it. If a slope is too steep, put in a switchback.

1.    Lay out one edge of your envisioned path using household flour or spray paint. Use a yardstick to help you measure the width you desire, and lay out the second edge in flour or spray paint.

2.    Look at your would-be path critically. Does it get where it needs to go (to the mailbox, or the children's play area)? Is it the shortest distance between two points (or close enough so that people won't be tempted to circumvent it)? Are there low spots that will puddle in wet weather?

3.    Prepare the pathway. Depending on your needs and preference, this may mean stripping turf, moving plants or (if you're lucky) just raking away loose dirt.

4.    Make entry paths about 4 feet wide so two people can walk side by side. Secondary garden paths, used by one person at a time, are narrower, from 30 to 36 inches wide.

5.    Make sure the path won't bog down in water. In order to drain correctly, solid paths of concrete, brick or stone need to slope away from the house or make the finished path about 1 inches higher than the adjacent grade.

6.    Did a sufficiently deep gravel base to ensure that the stepping stones/pavers stay level for years to come. In the South and West, where the ground doesn't freeze, make the gravel base about 4 inches deep. In soils that do freeze, make your base 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 cm) deep. Discuss this with your local home builders supply outlet.

7.    Add a 1- to 2-inch layer of leveling sand over the gravel so that you can nudge a stone or brick slightly until it's in just the right position. If weeds are a likely problem, lay down a layer of landscape fabric over the gravel before adding the sand.

8.    If you'd like, you can use low-growing plants such as blue fescue (Festuca), candytuft (Iberis) or bush germander (Teucrium) along path edges to make the transition from path to landscape more graceful. Ask your garden shop for the best selection of plants.

Helpful Tips&Warnings When You Create a Garden Path

    Make a path wide enough to accommodate necessary equipment. A lawnmower needs 3 to 3 1/2 feet; a garden tractor, 5 feet or more.

    Chose a paving material for primary paths that will provide safe passage during inclement weather. For instance, avoid using slate or marble where rain is common because they are slippery. Where snow and ice are common, consider paving with a rough surface for more stable footing.

    Consider drainage even with highly porous gravel paths, taking care to steer them around low spots that routinely flood.

    Consider adding a section of 2-inch PVC piping over the gravel and under the path. Then if you need to run a water or electrical line across the path in the future, you won't have to dig up a section.

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