According to Master Gardener William Moss, garden pathways play an important role in your home landscaping. They define garden space and borders, and they also are how people can flow through your space. So it’s essential to design pathways with care and a lot of thought so that you and your family and guests have the best access to your garden and lawn, so that you can show off your herbaceous border to good effect, and so that there is a clear and easy flow of traffic.
Design isn’t enough
Once your pathway system has been designed, you’re not finished. Like the garden itself, garden pathways require care and maintenance. No matter what your path is composed of, from wood chips to gravel to stone, care will ensure that it remains looking good for a long time.
So when should you add material back? The truth is that wood chips, for example, break down over time, even over a single season, so they should be replaced annually. Spring and fall are both good times to do this. Have a couple of wheelbarrows of mulch—give or take, depending on the size of your garden—and a rake. There’s no need for a lot of depth here; along your paths, a couple of inches of mulch is really quite sufficient.
You might choose something a little more decorative than simple mulch, such as a gravel pathway; but understand that it too will require regular maintenance. Here’s what happens: as plants grow, they rearrange your careful arrangements. They overgrow the paths, they kick some of the gravel out of the way, and of course foot traffic does some of the displacement as well.
Clear out the old
So the first thing to do in maintaining a gravel pathway is to clear out the old debris and rake the gravel that’s there so that it’s nice and even. Even if you lose some gravel in the process, it’s more important to have it level than it is to retain all your old gravel. If you’re adding more gravel, this will help to keep the path even once you put the new material on. Uneven pathways are unattractive and also can be a hazard to someone walking on them, so you always want to be sure that your pathway is nice and level.
When you’re doing this, start at the farthest point on the pathway and work your way back out. This follows the same principle and method as painting. You do it that way so that you can ascertain whether you have enough replacement material. If you need to add anything, it’s much easier to do it on the outside!
Start the facelift
Dump out the new material and, again, just like with the mulch, it really only takes an inch of gravel. You’re not using paving-stones; you really just want this to indicate to people where they’re to walk and to get an overall neater look and feel to the garden.
So choose a time at the end of the season or better still at the beginning to give your garden pathways a facelift. They’ll be more attractive and safer if you do! The pathways will define your beautiful space and indicate a flow for people wishing to walk around your flowers and bushes, and you want to make that easy for them to do.