Create a garden path: Instructions for hobby craftsmen

A paved garden path is almost indispensable in the front yard, and at least extremely useful in the garden behind the house – because who likes to carry mud into the house after heavy rain. Gardening can also be simplified if you don’t always have to trudge through the earth. This allows homeowners to plan and create garden paths.

The ornamental fish pond ripples in the back of the garden, the amaryllises unfold their splendor diagonally and the rock garden is hidden behind the tall rhododendrons. With a garden path, proud gardeners can guide their visitors along their personal garden highlights at will. If you want to create a garden path, you need not only enough power to carry stones, but also the right material – and a good plan.

Plan the garden path

Who wants to create a garden path faces two questions:

– What is it used for?
– How long should it be?

At first it sounds like a truism that paths serve primarily practical purposes. You want to cross your garden with clean shoes, handle a wheelbarrow, be able to shovel some snow when necessary and not wade in the mud when it rains. There are also corners that you have to go to again and again, be it the compost, the rain barrel, the tool shed, the terrace or any other favorite spot. Without a garden path, there would be real trails that are neither practical nor beautiful.

So a way has to be found – and of course it should also look nice. Anyone building new has one advantage: they can start from scratch and divide the garden according to their needs. The paths then represent the division axes and connect, for example, beds, sitting area, pool, arbor, terrace, carport, playground and lawn.

Rules of thumb for garden planning

1. A width of about 60 cm is sufficient for a simple garden path.
2. On the other hand, if the path leads from the property entrance to the front door, it should be at least 1.20 m wide so that two people can use it side by side.
3. Since each type of path divides a garden, a slightly curved route is preferable to the straight line. Otherwise, the entire garden should be strictly geometrical.
4. If you have an eye-catcher in the garden, for example a small pond, you should create at least one line of sight. One way can accomplish this function.
5. If you want to create a horticultural highlight, you are well advised to use a rondel. In its center, for example, a circular bed could be created or a pavilion. Paths can end or cross here.
6. Those who have completed their garden planning can create permanent paths. Robust and also expensive materials that last for decades are used for them. On the other hand, if you like to bring some variety into the garden, we recommend loose fabrics that are easy to remove.

Building materials for garden paths

Pavement, stepping stones or bulk goods? There are many ways to design the garden path. Decisive are visual preferences and the function that the path should fulfill.

Bulk goods

Grit: It consists of roughly crushed rock in grain sizes of a few millimeters. Especially dolomite, quartz, marble, granite and basalt are used. Hardware stores keep them either in bulk, in large bags (so-called big bags) or in small packages.

Advantages: very colourfast, weatherproof, rot-proof, easy to process.
Disadvantages: heavy, susceptible to contamination.

Gravel: It basically consists of sieved sand. Its grain sizes vary a lot. Fine gravel consists of stones of one to four millimeters; the coarse Rhine gravel is made up of pebbles between 20 and 40 millimeters. Even larger stones are not suitable for sidewalks.

Advantages: a variety of colors, very high durability, easy processing.
Disadvantages: tend to form lanes, shift with time when walking.

Chopped wood, wood chips: DIY and garden centers usually carry them packaged in paper bags that hold 40 to 50 liters. They also offer recycling companies in bulk for self-collection. In addition to the natural colors, there are colored wood chips.

Advantages: natural appearance, easy to transport and process,
Disadvantages: rot after a few years, sometimes fade, are easily washed away in heavy rain or flood.

Bark mulch: When shopping, it should smell pleasantly of essential oils, not be moldy and not be strewn with branches or chopped pieces. Otherwise resembles wood chips.

Ashtray and Saxon path cover: what used to be found on sports fields can also be used in the garden. The heaped up path consists of frost-resistant gravel, lavalite and stone powder. The layers are each rolled or stamped.

Advantages: the paths are simple and inexpensive to manufacture; they last for years.
Disadvantages: they sometimes have to be repaired on the surface; the Saxon product is persistent, but not exactly cheap.


Natural stone pavement: The cubic stones usually consist of granite or basalt. Basically, three sizes and thus edge lengths are distinguished: mosaic plasters, in which the stones are 50 to 60 millimeters in size, small plasters between 70 and 100 millimeters, and large plasters, in which the stones have an edge length of 100 to approximately 300 millimeters.

Advantages: very stable and durable
Disadvantages: high price, mossy stones quite slippery

Concrete paving: The hardware stores offer an almost unmanageable variety of shapes and colors, so that this material can meet almost any design requirement.

Advantages: a variety of laying patterns are possible, the paths are very long-lasting, comparatively easy to lay.
Disadvantages: the surfaces of concrete paving can fade; After several years, cleaning with a pressurized water jet is recommended.

Pavement slabs / patio slabs: There are several materials that can be used for slab paths: plain concrete slabs, colored slabs, slabs with a decorative top layer, or washed concrete slabs covered with pebbles. The edge lengths for square panels are 30, 40 or 50 centimeters.

Advantages: stable, easy to lay
Disadvantages: suitable as a garden path only to a limited extent, downhill paths cannot be laid very well.

Pavers: They are basically hard-fired clay bricks. The trade offers a lot of formats and colors. They range from delicate pastel tones to very dark shades.

Advantage: a variety of laying patterns and colors are possible, the clinker bricks are very hard and therefore resilient and weatherproof.
Disadvantages: The stones have to be laid exactly, the workload is high.

Stepping stones: They are simply placed on the bare floor. Before that, only a little topsoil has to be removed and the ground leveled. The trade usually offers round, rough-hewn granite slabs.

Advantage: quick, uncomplicated installation.
Disadvantage: the position has to be corrected at larger intervals, usually only suitable for paths in beds.

Quarry stone slabs: Flat fragments of natural stone, so-called polygonal slabs, offer a completely different picture. Hardly any piece is the same here, which results in a very lively laying pattern. The most common types of stone are slate, porphyry, basalt, gneiss, granite, travertine, sandstone and quartzite.

Advantages: natural effect, variety of colors.
Disadvantage: in the case of heavily used surfaces, attention should be paid to the degree of hardness of the stone, laying is complex and takes a lot of time

Grass pavers: The heavy concrete blocks are available in the dimensions 40 by 60 centimeters and have a height of about eight centimeters. Their square cutouts can be filled with soil to sow lawn there. So you get a combination of grass and concrete path that is very resilient.

Advantage: quick installation, inexpensive, durable. The cut-outs can be greened or filled with colored concrete cubes.
Disadvantage: high transport weight, long-term colonization with algae and lichens possible.

Wooden paths

Wooden pavement: Either cuboids or pieces of uniform length from trunks of different thicknesses can be used for this. Round logs of different sizes result in a very lively laying pattern and the wood grain also ensures play of colors.

Advantages: Do-it-yourselfers can cut the pavement themselves, it is ideal for natural gardens and forms varied patterns.
Disadvantages: a water-draining substructure is unavoidable, only comparatively expensive hardwoods last a long time, for all others it is hardly worth the effort.

Taxiways / billet dam: Two versions are common: short boards, which are usually connected with plastic straps, and logs, which are tightly bound together with wire. The width of the boards is usually 30 to 40 centimeters, while the billets can be up to one meter long.

Advantage: The taxiways can be bought ready-made or made from decking yourself, all that is required for quick installation is a level earth track.
Disadvantage: softwood should be impregnated free of harmful substances so that it does not rot too quickly, even hardwood is not up to the ground in the long run.

Planks / planks: While taxiways lie directly on the ground, planks have a substructure made of load-bearing slats. These in turn are stored on concrete slabs or a chipped bed. The entire structure corresponds to that of a wooden terrace. The most common materials are Douglas fir, Siberian larch, WPC boards or bamboo.

Advantages: even appearance, wide range of planks and accessories, easy to install, durability with high-quality materials.
Disadvantages: comparatively expensive, additional effort for curved paths.

Other materials

Bed plates: They usually consist of weather-resistant plastic or recycling material and are available ready for installation. The dimensions are as different as the offers. Although they are primarily designed for beds, they can be easily put together from short distances.

Advantages: inexpensive, quick and easy to install.
Disadvantages: not necessarily suitable as permanent paths

Plastic grids: Just like grass pavers, your large spaces can be filled with soil on which lawn is sown. The grilles are quite resilient and can also be used to fasten paths. Once the grass has grown, you can hardly see them. The grids prevent the grass path from becoming denser over time.

Advantages: Such routes look attractive when they wind their way through the garden as a green, lively ribbon.
Disadvantages: But grass has to be watered, fertilized and cut constantly.

Quarry stones: With these materials, the ceiling of the path is put together like a mosaic. The trick is to skillfully arrange all kinds of suitable stones, such as bricks, clinker, cobblestones, broken slabs and coarse pebbles. They can be glued to a concrete strip or shaken into a chipped bed.

Advantages: creative, eye-catching ways possible.
Disadvantages: In both cases patience and the will to design are required.

Create a garden path

If you want to create a solid garden promenade made of sophisticated materials, you cannot avoid tried and tested work steps. They are similar, regardless of whether natural stones, clinker, paving or terrace slabs are to be laid.

1. Determine the final position of the path, mark the course with rods or knitting.

2. Grass scars or topsoil are removed; a total of about 35 to 40 centimeters is dug. If you cannot use the excavation, you have to let it go. The sole is then leveled so that a uniformly deep trench is created. You orient yourself on the upper edge of the terrain, so you follow slight differences in height. Alternatively, you can also use a spirit level. The sole is leveled and tapped.

3. After this preparatory work, the lowest layer can be brought in. It serves for drainage and consists of coarse bulk material, for example large-grained gravel, crushed stone or procter. Since the material is inexpensive, you should not save on the layer thickness and plan around 20 centimeters for it. This layer is also smoothed, but in such a way that a slope of about two to three centimeters per meter is created to the side. Finally, compress the layer with a tamper or motor shaker.

4. Now it is the turn of the border. Its purpose is to keep grass and plantings at a distance. It also gives the path an appealing frame and makes it easier to lay because the top covering can be aligned with it. Lawn edging stones are suitable for the edge, but round or square palisades and metal strips are also possible. Edges made of stone and concrete are best placed on a strip of cement mortar, which is pulled up slightly on the right and left to fix the stones. If you don’t want to wait until the mortar has set, you have to make sure that the curbs cannot move.

5. The best suited as a middle layer is grit, which is the cheapest to buy in the big bag. But medium-fine gravel can also be used. The bed of grit or gravel is heaped up at least three to five centimeters and smoothed out evenly with a pull-off gauge or a straight board. The height of the middle class should be meticulously calculated and adhered to – from the future top edge. The more precisely it is aligned, the more precisely paving stones or path slabs lie. Because the pavement will be shaken later, you have to plan the middle layer so that the stones protrude about one centimeter from the edge.

6. Now the slabs or paving stones are placed on the middle layer in the planned pattern. You have to be careful when inserting and should never enter the bed. The stones must not collide with each other, but must be placed three to five millimeters apart.

7. Finally, the joints are filled. There are special joint sands that are sprinkled dry on the pavement and swept in with a broom. Only then is it shaken. On longer journeys it is worth renting a motorized vibrator. With short, narrow paths, you may also be able to do this by hand, using a tamper or a heavy hammer with rubber protection. After the stones have been tapped, joint sand must usually be strewn again. It and the shaking only give the top layer its strength.

Special situations in the garden

Areas with slopes or many bumps do not have to be a nuisance if you make a virtue of necessity. This means, for example, creating a terrace-like garden. Admittedly, it is time-consuming to draw little walls and build stairs in the paths. The sections of the terrace are then horizontal, which makes watering and gardening much easier.

The alternative concept is that the paths cross the area like a serpentine. You can only reach slight inclines, do without steps and can easily handle the wheelbarrow. Such rises and falls in the garden area are always a design challenge. The effort for planning and construction is significantly higher. But a successful result makes every gardener’s heart beat faster.

Create a garden path – again explained step by step:

– Mark the course with string and wooden sticks. Also consider the width of the curbs. Pierce the edges along the cord with a spade and remove the soil about 10 cm deep.

– Compensate for unevenness, it is best to fill the troughs with gravel. Compact the soil with a roller.

– If larger stones or root remains appear, they must be removed.

– Dig a trench on both sides of the path that should be slightly wider than the curbs.

– Fill the ditch with sand. The position of the stones can be corrected later up or down later.

– The stones must be laid carefully until they lie exactly in a line. Then tap the sand.

– The edge to the topsoil supports the stones. Fill any gaps that may have arisen with sand.

– Spread the mulch a little higher than the edge. Only with loamy soils does gravel come as drainage.

– The roller then presses the mulch below the height of the curbs. Renew the mulch approximately every two years.

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