How to Build a Garden Path

Written by david barnes
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Build a garden path to connect all areas of your garden, create a relaxing invitation for a stroll and make a powerful design statement for your landscape. A well built garden path keeps feet dry, provides access for regular maintenance and helps define the character and focus of a garden. It also links your house to the garden to unify them physically and visually. Here's how build a garden path that fits your garden.

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  1. 1

    Consider the overall design of your home and garden. A formal design usually calls for straight paths that echo the geometric patterns of your house and the planted areas. A more casual design incorporates curving or winding paths that lend a sense of whimsy and discovery through the garden, with turns that seem to disappear around corners inviting visitors to explore its mysteries.

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    Determine the width of your main paths. If a path leads to and from the house or is the primary path into the garden, a minimum of four feet wide lets people walk abreast and provides enough space to accommodate wheelbarrows or carts for regular maintenance. Side paths can be narrower (2 1/2 to 3 feet wide) for more private and intimate access.

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    Consider drainage. The paths should either be raised slightly above the surrounding landscape or sloped so irrigation and rain water will run off rather than collect on the paths.

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    Decide what materials to use. Select appropriate coloured and textured materials that will complement the garden's design. Hardscape elements such as patterned brick, flagstone, or pavers lend a sense of permanence and formality, while shredded mulch, bark, gravel and irregular shaped stepping stones create a more natural, informal feeling.

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    Lay out the design of the path. Stakes and string work well for straight paths, and you can use lengths of garden hose to define a curving and winding path. Clear and level the path bed, and put down a weed barrier before laying the surface material. A 4 or 5 inch layer of sand, layers of old newspapers or a roll of landscape fabric are all effective for informal paths. Brick, flagstone and stone pavers require more base preparation. See the resource section for more information on brick and stone paths.

Tips and warnings

  • A straight path is best if it leads to the front door because you want to get visitors from the street to the front door with as direct a route as possible.
  • Consider lining the paths with low voltage lighting to make them accessible at night and to add interest and beauty to an evening stroll through the garden.

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