Landscape Element: Garden Pathways – A Gravel Garden Path
What was once average – gravel lawn paths – now become something far more. With the newer edging equipment, and in fact the heavy duty plastic path edging, ‘sexier’ curves and roundabouts become something other than a wrestling match and bleeding hands resulting in wrestling with steel or combined wood slices. We can presently place edging in that ways as to curve and meander along the more engaging lines which the best property employ. What results is a quite easier building which endures for an immense total of time. We can yet “seed” the gravel inside with whatever gravel elements we desire – from bits of color to uniform, compacted surfaces of limestone and “base rock” material which harden to a cement-like texture. These passages take us between our garden’s best elements – through the small hills and hummocks, around chosen shrubs and trees, revealing absolutely what the “next corner” wants to give to us. We then encounter new things, striking things, if we are good, which occupy our interest and our fondest gardening perceptions. The gravel garden pathway is an underrated design element. So – can we do it ourselves?
Making A Gravel Garden Path – Measuring and Locating The Path
Most landscapers, including myself, take a can of spray paint and delineate exactly where we want the garden path to run. Obviously the choice is the designer/owner’s, but we are certain it will follow the principles of impressive garden beauty. Once the course of the garden path is chosen, we will at that instant arrive at a width we most desire. Commonly, 3 feet is a good rule of thumb. That can actually deal in quite a bit of traffic with people near one another. Typically, garden paths at our residences don’t require a width to accommodate people side by side.
Excavating – How Deep And Where
I take some reusable and disposable article measuring 3 feet – say a 2″ x 4″ or other piece of lumber cut to length or even a simple rulers of 36″ and use it as a template. This will become even more vital as we finish the edges and begin filling. I will then, once again, spray paint the edge I am looking for pretty much accurately where I will want to excavate for the edging. As well, it pays to excavate enough material on the inside of the painted edge to allow for the addition of 4″ or so of gravel. This thickness allows for drainage as well as for eventual compaction. Too thin and the traffic will “pump” the dirt below the gravel into the gravel itself when wet. Nor will it compact as well as we would want. 4″ is therefore an actual “minimum depth”, to my mind. In rainier climates, I have excavated deeper.
I am a firm believer in the virtues of heavy duty plastic path edging. Adaptable and even changeable after some years, when and if the desire hits, it’s convertibility is far greater than that of steel or wood. It has therefore become an edging material of choice for me. Plus – and this is huge – it is “user friendly”. As the excavations complete, we now arrive at installation of the edging. Following the original line, we install one length of edging – say 20-30′ – by pounding stakes into the ground and (my method) screwing in the screws which hold so much better than nails. Unrequired to say, the convertibility of screws means we can merely unscrew them when we desire a change. So now we have more or less the desired edging installed on one side. Our goal now is to attach the facing edge so that we have a perfect 3 foot inner dimension. By using the template we mentioned above, lay it down and then attach the other edging at the perfect distance. Run the template up and down the pathway now to see how close to perfect it is and then toss a bit of dirt on the outer edge. Be careful not to ‘contaminate’ the inside with a bunch of dirt because that is the gravel course which is best served being purely gravel. From this point, follow the same installation technique for the full course of the path.
Filling Gravel Garden Path
At this point, things are downhill! Well, to a degree, anyway. Truly, determining and then installing the edging material is by far the most demanding intellectual portion of the project. Now all we need to do is bring in our wheelbarrows chock full of gravel. With a reasonable surface, we would generally start from the extreme edge of the walk – at the remotest point – and then work our way backwards. Every now and then, however, conditions don’t permit this. Wet soil, from the location itself or from, say, a rainfall, can make things difficult to manoeuvre wheelbarrows. In this case, working from the closest point it totally OK. What we may need to do is to compact what we’ll be running material over so the wheels of the carts run smoothly rather than dig in, causing incredibly hard slogging. I will mention compacting below. In any event, we are at that point where we approach finishing now. Filling the pathway with the designated gravel get us to the end – or nearly so.
Finishing And Compacting
Many gravels are intended to compact into dense and sturdy surfaces. For example what landscapers refer to as ‘Class 2 Base Rock’ (the same material they put under roads) is a combination of ground rock and some pebbles. The “fines” or small particles act almost like cement in helping the entire garden path to adhere to stiffness and durable hardness. It is a given that hard surfaces make better walking – at least as opposed to real loose surfaces. Limestone products as well offer compaction and a gorgeous color as well. Decomposed Granite and many other materials will look attractive and compact with the aid of a rent-able plate tamper or plate compactor. A couple of quick runs with one of these and you have an incredibly hard and durable surface. It is even possible to “seed” a gravel garden path” by compacting a durable material underneath, then ‘finishing’ the top course with an inch or less of, say, Pea Gravel or colourful alternatives.
Once all this is done, we once again take out our little template for it’s final sweep. We run it up and down the length of the pathway, making adjustments which, perhaps, the compactor knocked out of line. By the time we finish, what we have as a result is a gravel garden path which is as good as those made anywhere in the entire world. Preferable, actually, because “we did it”!!