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How to Make a Beautiful, Useful Garden Path


Garden Path with stones and blooming flowers
How to Make a Beautiful and Useful Garden Path
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When setting up a garden or area of land with plants, many often forget to plan a walkway, or path. Or there is a path, but it is not beautiful or easy to use.

A well-designed path can do more than keep your feet dry. It can show you where to walk, and guide your eyes and imagination throughout the garden.

But what is at the end of the path?

Path in tropical garden
Path in tropical garden

Where does the path go?

When planning a path, ask yourself if it is both appealing and easy to use. Wide paths and paths with curves are for walking slowly. They are good if you want people to take a longer look at what is in the garden. Choose a straight path to go from the back door to the vegetable garden, or any other place where you may walk in a hurry.

This undated photo shows a garden path in South Salem, NY, NY.
This undated photo shows a garden path in South Salem, NY, NY.

How many people will walk together on a path? Two people, even two close friends, require a path one and a half meters wide. In any case, a path should never be less than 45 centimeters wide.

Is your garden orderly? If it is, you want a path with an orderly design of materials. Square or rectangular stones look good placed close together, for instance. Stones with many different shapes create a more natural look for an informal garden.

What is under your feet?

One of the easiest and least costly paths to create is simple grass that you have cut short. Small pieces of wood are another choice. Bricks or stones make paths that are long-lasting. For stone paths, use stone cut into large, flat pieces, or “slabs.” These are called “flagstone.” Or you can use concrete that is colored and made to look like flagstone.

A long-lasting path

To make a path of brick, stone or concrete slabs, you should give the solid material a well-drained base.

First, mark the sides of the path by dropping two lines of crushed white stone on the ground. For a straight path, guide yourself with sticks. You can get nice smooth rounded edges using two garden hoses as a guide.

Next, dig down about 10-centimeters in the soil where the path will be. Use the extra soil elsewhere in the garden.

Single wheel garden wheelbarrow loaded with crushed stone prepared for garden path reconstruction in the autumn garden
Single wheel garden wheelbarrow loaded with crushed stone prepared for garden path reconstruction in the autumn garden

Put drainage material such as sand or rock dust in the path area. Push down on it and smooth it as you work. This material provides a solid base beneath the surface, and prevents water from collecting there, freezing and pushing up the stones. Add enough material so that when stones or bricks are in place, their top sides are a little above ground level.

Make the surface slope to one side if the path is narrow or have the slope move to the sides from the center if the path is wide.

Put each stone or brick in place tightly against each other. Or, if you want plants to grow up in between each stone or brick, leave some space between them. Creeping thyme or chamomile look and smell nice as path plants.

Garden path
Garden path

Once paving is in place, put more stone dust or sand on top of the path, then sweep the material to fill the empty spaces. Add some water to further settle the material. Sweep and water a few days later again, after everything has settled.

Time and weather will give the path a softer look. Even so, the stones, bricks or slabs will give firm footing for many years to come.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Lee Reich wrote this story for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.

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Words in This Story

garden – n. an area of ground where plants (such as flowers or vegetables) are grown

rectangularadj. having a four-sided shape that is made up of two pairs of parallel lines and that has four right angles; a shape in which one pair of lines is longer than the other pair

informal - adj. not orderly or planned carefully

concreten. a hard, strong material that is used for building and made by mixing cement, sand, and broken rocks with water

drain – v. to remove (liquid) from something by letting it flow away or out

hose – n. a long, usually rubber tube that liquids or gases can flow through

slopev. having an upward or downward slant

sweep­v. to remove dust, dirt, etc., from (something) with a broom or brush

Have you made a garden path or walked on one? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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