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Master Your Garden: Creating Garden Paths

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By Mary Lu Wells

Paths take you from point A to point B. Paths are for wandering. They are functional. They can also be a part of a garden making it more beautiful.

When making paths in your gardens, remember, they should fit your style. A formal garden is made up of straight paths and right angles. Concrete, bricks and slate pavers look great in this type of setting. A Japanese garden calls for meandering paths covered in bark or gravel. Even paths between the veggie rows can look good covered with hay or leaf mulch.

Some paths are relatively permanent, others need yearly renewal. A grass path will need steady maintenance, others a sweeping now and then. Permanent paths made of concrete, brick or slate require a good foundation made of 4” of gravel and 2” of sand, then an edging to keep it in place.

When constructing gravel or bark paths, outline your path on the existing sod, remove the topsoil and install an edger to help the gravel or bark from migrating into your yard. Removing the sod will keep the weeds down, but for a more permanent solution to weeds, you can install an underlayment fabric that allows water to infiltrate, but stops weeds. Then add the top layer of your choice (bark, or gravel).

If you install a bark or mulch, realize that these will decompose and need to be replaced periodically.

When making any type of path, how wide should you make it?

For working paths (equipment friendly) make them at least 3’ wide. Single-file paths can manage with a foot, but two is better. If you like the look of stepping stones, make sure they are well seated and match your stride, so you can stroll freely.

Paths will keep your feet off the crumbly, air-filled earth. That is good for the soil and good for the plants. Fall is a great time to make a path, so happy trails!

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