By Amanda Strack, Conservation Garden Park
Paths in the garden are an important piece of the landscape puzzle. They are an excellent way to create order and functionality while leading you from one area to another. Some paths, such as your front walk, are frequently used while others may only be visited once in a while but all of them make your landscape more accessible. Most landscapes have few paths, opting instead to use lawn. However, lawn makes a poor path surface for a number of reasons.
When lawn is used as a pathway by people or pets, it compacts the soil and creates more wear and tear on the lawn. In an attempt to repair the damage, it’s often overwatered which actually makes the problem worse. It’s also difficult to efficiently water narrow strips of lawn and overspray from lawn into flower beds encourages weed growth. Finally, everywhere lawn touches flower beds is a place for it to invade those beds, creating even more weed control and work. Consider instead removing lawn pathways and create a real path that will require little work and maintenance once installed.
There are many factors to consider when planning for a path. You have to think about how it will be used, the design and materials for the path, the style of your landscape and your budget. Will you be moving heavy things across it like garbage cans, lawnmowers, and wheel barrows? Once you have thought about how you want to use the path then you can choose the hardscape material that will work best. The types of material that are available have different specifications as far as installation are concerned so make sure you do your research and know the depths of materials you will need so you can order the correct amounts.
A primary path is a major access point that will be frequently used. An example of a primary path would be your front walk. The best way to determine if a path is a “primary” path is if it will require snow removal. Paths that are used year round should be made of durable, smooth materials such as concrete, pavers or asphalt. These materials allow for safe access, particularly for the mobility impaired. The initial cost is a bit higher for these materials but will be money well spent.
A secondary path is one that is optional and doesn’t link major sections of the landscape or require snow removal. As such, secondary paths can be made of more budget-friendly materials. Crushed stone, gravel, mulch or stepping stones are all examples of materials that can be used.
At the Conservation Garden Park, we have a new hardscape exhibit in the final stages of construction which is designed to show you options so you can decide which is right for your landscape. We also have various paths where we have experimented with different materials including two new flagstone chip paths. For step-by-step photos and installation instructions for the flagstone chip path, visit our blog: conservationgardenpark.org