Master Gardener Garden Bench: Down the Garden Path

Down the Garden Path

By Norma Kisida, Master Gardener Volunteer 2012

Article from the September 2019 addition of the award winning Master Gardening Bench monthly newsletter created by the Master Gardener Volunteers of Manatee County. 

If you enjoy gardens you probably can’t resist paths that take you into and around them. Garden paths invite visitors into the garden and are convenient for getting up close and personal to plants. Whether you are maintaining, admiring or scouting your plants, garden paths help meet your needs.

Materials can be as simple as mulch, gravel, crushed stone, shell, or harder surfaces such as stones, bricks or wood. A mix of materials can also be interesting. Stepping stones are a fast and easy way to add a path and are readily available in various materials, sizes and shapes. Some of the newer synthetic stones are made from recycled tires and are lightweight, water permeable, relatively inexpensive and also available in various sizes, colors and shapes. Materials that allow rainwater to seep into the ground are preferable since they help filter pollutants and reduce runoff.

A simple way to lay out a path is to use a garden hose to outline both sides and then etch the pathway. Putting landscape fabric down first helps prevent weeds from growing through the path. A layer of sand beneath the stones helps to level and stabilize the path. If you use stones, fill between them with sand, soil, or fine gravel or stones. An informal path does not have to be completely level but should be stable and not so uneven as to cause tripping. Edging materials are available to keep loose materials in place. Primary paths are those those that lead from the house to the garden and should be at least 48 inches wide. Secondary paths lead off from the primary path and should be at least 30-36 inches wide to allow for comfortable walking and taking equipment and materials into the garden. Paths leading off from these can be narrower depending on function. When installing plant material keep in mind how much overhang you will get from plants along the path as they mature.

Straight paths are more formal while paths that curve are more casual or natural. The path should serve a function or lead to something interesting such as a garden bench, fountain or other garden feature. A path that curves and disappears makes you curious about what lies beyond. Adding a few smooth rocks to a flagstone path creates more interest and a more natural look. A repetition of plants staggered on both sides draws your eyes along the path. Ground hugging plants between the stones or next to the path help to soften it. Tucking a few fragrant plants such as rosemary, thyme or scented geraniums along the edges makes it even more delightful. Low voltage lights may be added for night strolls.

Remember to call 811 before you dig if there is any possibility of utility lines in the area as some of these lines such as cable lines are shallow. Check for irrigation lines as well.

Helpful websites for more information and ideas:

Reduce Stormwater Runoff from Florida Friendly Yards – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasotaco/2017/08/30/florida-friendly-landscaping-reduce-stormwater-runoff/

9 ways to create a garden path (http://www.midwestliving.com/garden/ideas/9-ways-to-create-a-garden-path/)

Path and walkway landscaping ideas (http://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/landscape-basics/path-and-walkway-landscaping-ideas/)

Garden path ideas: Stepping stones and walkways ( http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/outdoor/walkways/stepping-stone-walkways