Monday, December 10, 2007

Making paths and steps for your garden

Building paths and steps requires a great deal of advance preparation so it is probably best left to a contractor. Point the cracks between slabs with mortar to prevent weeds taking hold. Heavily used paths need proper foundations, but paths that are used infrequently, such as an informal path through a garden bed, can be built relatively easily. Set paving slabs or bricks to half their depth in firmed soil. Or, to set bricks or paving slabs lightly in place, fork dry mortar mix into the top few centimeters of soil, set paving units in place, and then water them.

Stepping Stones
If a strip of lawn is becoming worn from frequent use, lay stepping stones as an informal path along the line where you need to walk. Cut out patches of turf a comfortable stride's length apart and deep enough for the stones to sit just below the level of the lawn, so that the mower is able to glide cleanly over the top of them. Tread down the soil to make a firm, level base and drop the stepping stones into place. If the stones are not steady or if they are set too low, lift them and sprinkle a little sand underneath.

Wild and Woodland Paths
For rustic 'stepping stones' through a wild or woodland garden, use 10cm thick wooden rounds which are available from landscape supply companies. For a more formal effect, excavate a level channel (about the same depth as the wooden rounds) through the soil. Edge it with pressure-treated boards nailed to wooden pegs that are driven into the ground. Lay out the rounds about a stride length apart and fill the rest of the channel with bark chippings. Space closely or you will be leaping, not stepping.

Bridge Feature
Make a quick and easy bridge over a narrow ditch or a stream by positioning two or more thick, parallel wooden planks or secondhand railway sleepers across the gap. Ensure that the planks are long enough to allow at least 90cm either side of the gap. Sink the ends 15cm or more into the soil with a layer of bricks underneath to make a firm foundation.

Simple Steps
For gentle inclines where the soil is very firm and stable, steps can be cut into the slope. Make them shallow and wide for greatest stability. Cut out the shape of the steps with a spade. Then set in railway sleepers to form the risers, angling them slightly backwards and holding them in place with sturdy stakes at each end. Fill the 'treads' with rammed rubble and top up with gravel. To ensure safety, check the steps regularly and reset loose or uneven areas.


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