Photo By Alan Walker
In my last article I gave a brief discussion on garden paths, what styles were common in different garden genre’s, and what materials are often used to construct them. In this article I will look take a closer look at the basic garden path that exists in your average, informal, front garden.
Directing people to your Front Door.
The main purpose of this style of garden path is to lead people to your front door. More often or not it simply moves in either a straight line, or slightly curved, from the front gate through to the front door. However, just because it has a simple task doesn’t mean it can’t have some character.
Making the Garden Path a feature.
There is no reason why your path can’t actually be a feature of your garden. An informal garden can still contain some cottage styling. For example, your gate can become a grand entry point, rather than just a simple hinged devise.
The gate can lead into a pretty arbor that has perfumed, climbing roses covering it. The arbor entrance can be made as simple, or complex, as you like. I have constructed many of these over the years. Some have been your basic curved metal types, and other more elaborate ones, have been constructed of timber with lattice sides and a peaked roof.
The idea of the arbor is to entice people onto the pathway, making them feel welcome before they even reach your door.
However, the arbor, and the roses, will have to wait for another lesson. For this lesson we are simply concentrating on a basic straight pathway.
Now for the Garden Path
When you have decided what sort of gated entrance you would like for your path, you can than commence laying out the design. This might be a simple straight line to your door, or a gently curved one that seems to distract peoples vision onto the garden itself.
For this lesson, and to make it simpler for the beginner gardener, we will be looking at a straight path that starts at the front gate and leads through the garden to the front door. This path will be made from pea gravel and will be three to four feet wide. The width will depend on your preferences and or the lining material.
What Garden Tools Will I need?
Before we look at the design of the path we will need to make a tool requirement list.
1. A Wheelbarrow.
2. A Shovel.
3. A spade.
4. A Metal Garden Rake.
5. A Mattock.
6. String line.
7. A Sharp Spade
8. A long spirit Level
9. Soil Compactor or heavy roller
10. Four, square (1 inch x 1 inch), 1 ft long timber stakes.
11. Measuring tape.
12. A piece of timber about 3 x 2 and 18 inches in length.
13. A mallet.
What Materials Will I Need?
1. Pea Gravel.
2. Crushed stone or road base.
3. Geo Textile, or other Landscape Lining material.
4. Stainless steel metal edging with prongs at the bottom. This edging should be about 3.5 inches wide ( not including the prongs).
Designing The Garden Path.
Now you are ready to begin the hard work. So here is a list of your tasks:
1. Your gated entrance should be placed, if possible, directly in front of the doorway to your house, so that each edge will be a completely straight line from gate to doorway. At the entrance to the path place 2 of your timber Stakes to the desired width of your walkway. This width should allow for the possibility of curling the lining material slightly up the edge of the path when it is dug out.
2. Place another two stakes, the same distance apart, at each edge of the doorway. Now tie a string line from the right stake at the gate, down to the stake at the doorway.
3. Repeat the process on the left side, makes sure both string lines are tight.
It’s as simple as that…
Digging Out the Soil.
1. You can now commence digging the edge of the path with a sharp edged spade. Dig down into the soil about 6 inches deep following the inside of the line from one end, through to the other and back again on the inside of the opposite edge. Make sure you dig straight down and finish with a reasonably smooth edge. You can go over this process when you have completed the next task.
2. Use your mattock to remove any sod (grass), roots and hard clumps of soil down to a level of about 6 inches deep. Throw all this material into your wheelbarrow with your wide shovel, and dump it in an area where you can use it on another job. Don’t overfill your barrow. I know we all think we are super people, but you must take care of your back. Don’t move heavy loads.
3. Using a long handled square shovel and a measuring tape, finish job as best as you can to the correct depth. Clean up edges again making sure they are nice and straight.
You are now ready for the next stage of your garden path.
Finishing the Job.
You will need your Wheelbarrow and wide shovel for the next job.
1. Spread the road base or crushed stone to a depth of 2 inches thick all over the dug out parts of your garden path. Use a metal rake to smooth it out and makes sure it is evenly spread to the required depth.
2. Using either the compactor you will have hired from your local garden center, or a heavy roller, compact the base material until its nice and firm.
3. Place the Geo textile, or landscape lining material over the top of your base. Ensure that the material is about one and a half inches wider on each side than the actually path is. Curl the edges up as flat as you can against the sides.
4. Roll out the metal edging all the way along the right side of the path.
5. Using the piece of timber mentioned above, knock down the edging, forcing the prongs through the lining material, to a depth where the top of the edging remains one inch above the surrounding lawns or gardens beds. Make sure you place the timber along the top of the edging and carefully hit down with the mallet. Try not to force the metal in or you may damage it. If you’re have issues penetrating the material, use a sharp knife to cut a hole through it first.
6. When you have completed the right side, making sure it’s fairly level, do the same for the left side. This time stop every few feet and place the level on top of the two edges to see if it is actually level.
7. When you have completed that task, spread the pea gravel on top of the material to a depth of about 2 inches.
8. Use the roller to compact it.
Completed Garden Path.
Congratulations. Your basic gravel path is now completed. The gravel should be about 1.5 inches from the top of the metal edging and the edging should be about 1 inch above the lawns or garden beds. These numbers might alter slightly with differing materials.
This was only meant to be a simple path design for gardening beginners. If you’re willing to experiment you can replace the edging with bricks, timber or plastic, and the gravel can easily be replaced with stepping stones, pavers, timber rounds or a host of other materials.
Just one word of caution. Make sure you check all areas where you want to dig out soil, before commencing any project, for utilities such as power and phone lines and, of course, water and drainage pipes.
Also makes sure your pathway is sloping slightly away from your home and if you believe water may be an issue, place drainage underneath.
Please feel free to comment below or ask any questions you might have.
Happy Gardening. Jim