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garden path

Laying a Garden Path

Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Lay a path in your garden to guide guests and for easy access while planting and weeding.

What Is a Garden Path?

A garden path is a clearly defined trail that lets you walk through and work in garden beds without disturbing any plantings or soil. It can be straight, angled, or curved.

Why Lay a Garden Path?

A garden path defines the route to be taken and how the viewer should see the garden. It sets the tone, pace, and energy for visitors walking through—inviting them to the entrance and guiding them through each section and around bends and curves.

Plan the Path

Set the overall tone of the path by first deciding where you will enter the garden; pick a spot that can tolerate heavy traffic to and from the garden (e.g., packed dirt, gravel, or brick). Avoid lawns and low areas where water pools. Next, plan the direction of the path. Will it go directly from point to point or will it meander gently around garden beds and flower plots? Last, decide where you will exit the garden. Will it be opposite from the entrance? Or will it loop to form a cul-de-sac, turning the entrance into an exit as well? Map out the entire path on paper before picking up a shovel. 

Lay the Path

After planning it, begin laying your garden path.

Simple Path

You Will Need:

  • wooden pegs and string
  • plastic lawn edging
  • crushed stone or mulch
  • tools (as needed): measuring tape, hammer, scissors, shovel

1.  Lay out the path by setting wooden pegs across from each other every 5 feet (or less, if you plan curves), measuring the width every few feet to make sure that it is the same throughout. Connect the pegs with string, forming two parallel lines that mark the edges of the path.

2.  Dig out about 4 inches of soil throughout the entire path. This is to make room for the new material.

3.  Line both sides of the path with plastic lawn edging, inserting it into the soil on the nonpath side of the wooden pegs.

4.  Fill the path with either crushed stone or mulch, whichever you prefer. Skim any excess off the top so that the material is even with the lawn edging. Fill in any holes with the excess.

Permanent Path

You Will Need:

  • wooden pegs and string
  • plastic lawn edging
  • crushed stone or mulch
  • walkway pavers, gravel, and sand
  • tools (as needed): measuring tape, hammer, scissors, shovel, tamper, and carpenter’s level 

1. Perform steps 1 through 3 from the Simple Path directions above.

2. Spread gravel in the path to a depth of 2 inches. Tamp it down. Shovel a 1-inch layer of sand over the gravel, tamping once again. Use the carpenter’s level to make sure that the sand and gravel are level throughout the path.

3. Lay out paving stones with roughly 1/2 inch of space between stones. Fill the cracks with sand, then tamp. Check the level of the path once more and fix any areas that are uneven.    

Add Multiple Paths

After laying the first garden path, see how you like the effect. Use the path for a while. If it works well, consider laying a few more paths to different areas of the garden. Make side paths thinner and more winding, or add a few paths that loop back on themselves—have some fun with it! 

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