How to build gravel patios and walkways

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Building gravel paths and patios is a simple way to improve your outdoor space. There is no messy concrete to pour, and no back-breaking lifting as with stone work. You are also free to create much more organic design forms, winding your gravel paths through narrow garden spaces or building flowing, curved patio spaces. Gravel can often be much more affordable, as well. With only a few tools and some creativity, you can be well on your way to updating your garden with functional elegance.

Decide on the outline and dimensions for your path or patio, and mark with landscape paint, string or even a simple garden hose.

Dig out a 10 cm (4 inch) deep base using a square-tipped shovel. Try to keep the sides of the trench straight.

Use a hand tamper to pack and level the soil.

Pour a 5 cm to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inch) layer of crushed stone into the trench, and rake it smooth. Use the hand tamper to pack the crushed stone, misting with a hose or water bottle to keep the dust down and aid in packing the stone. If you live in an area with hard clay soil, you can optionally skip the crushed stone and simply compact the soil itself.

Lay a layer of landscape plastic or fabric over the crushed stone to prevent weeds from working their way through your path or patio.

Install the border. You can use pre-made galvanised steel garden borders designed for the process, or alternately place a border of brick, stones or wood. When building a gravel path, it's a good idea to create a template to assist this process by notching a piece of scrap wood to demarcate your path's width, and following along your pre-made edging as you hammer it in place.

Backfill the outside of the border with soil.

Pour enough gravel to fill the borders to within 1.3 cm (1/2 inch). This allows room for displaced gravel to move around without spilling out of the border. Rake your patio or path smooth.

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