How to Create a Garden Pathway

Learn how to create a garden pathway using this step-by-step guide, building a garden pathway can help you create a more inviting space in your landscape.

| August/September 2006

  • Learn how to create a garden pathway. A path can create a more inviting space in your landscape. To see step-by-step photos for creating your own garden pathway, visit the Image Gallery.
    Learn how to create a garden pathway. A path can create a more inviting space in your landscape. To see step-by-step photos for creating your own garden pathway, visit the Image Gallery.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 1) Map out your site with stakes or strings. Other garden elements may make site selection obvious.
    1) Map out your site with stakes or strings. Other garden elements may make site selection obvious.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  •  2) Excavate to a depth of 3 to 8 inches, depending on the surface material and how deeply your ground freezes.
    2) Excavate to a depth of 3 to 8 inches, depending on the surface material and how deeply your ground freezes.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 3) Make sure your excavated surface is level before moving forward.
    3) Make sure your excavated surface is level before moving forward.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 4) As you put in foundation layers of gravel or sand, pack each layer down with any smooth, heavy object that rolls.
    4) As you put in foundation layers of gravel or sand, pack each layer down with any smooth, heavy object that rolls.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 5) Fill in gaps by sweeping sand between pavers, or with
    5) Fill in gaps by sweeping sand between pavers, or with "underfoot" plants.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 6) Choose path materials that complement your home, yard and garden.
    6) Choose path materials that complement your home, yard and garden.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 7) A simple stone walk leads visitors through various thymes, rosemary, salvia and potted bays. (See the plant charts in the Image Gallery.)
    7) A simple stone walk leads visitors through various thymes, rosemary, salvia and potted bays. (See the plant charts in the Image Gallery.)
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee
  • 8) Mother-of-thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is a groundcover perfect for filling in around pavers.
    8) Mother-of-thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is a groundcover perfect for filling in around pavers.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • 9) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of low-growing groundcovers.
    9) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of low-growing groundcovers.
    Chart by the Mother Earth Living staff
  • 10) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of spillers and shrubby herbs.
    10) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of spillers and shrubby herbs.
    Chart by the Mother Earth Living staff

  • Learn how to create a garden pathway. A path can create a more inviting space in your landscape. To see step-by-step photos for creating your own garden pathway, visit the Image Gallery.
  • 1) Map out your site with stakes or strings. Other garden elements may make site selection obvious.
  •  2) Excavate to a depth of 3 to 8 inches, depending on the surface material and how deeply your ground freezes.
  • 3) Make sure your excavated surface is level before moving forward.
  • 4) As you put in foundation layers of gravel or sand, pack each layer down with any smooth, heavy object that rolls.
  • 5) Fill in gaps by sweeping sand between pavers, or with
  • 6) Choose path materials that complement your home, yard and garden.
  • 7) A simple stone walk leads visitors through various thymes, rosemary, salvia and potted bays. (See the plant charts in the Image Gallery.)
  • 8) Mother-of-thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is a groundcover perfect for filling in around pavers.
  • 9) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of low-growing groundcovers.
  • 10) Click on the image above to see a larger version of our list of spillers and shrubby herbs.

Blaze a garden trail with style and watch the drama unfold, learn how to create a garden pathway for your garden.

More than just a route from one weeding location to the next, a well-planned path also invites a late-evening stroll through fragrant blossoms, pulls visitors to that quiet corner of your garden or brings together disparate garden elements. A good path is practical, providing direction and definition and keeping your feet dry, but it also can be compelling, bringing cohesion and style to your outdoor environment. Learn how to create a garden pathway for your garden with this helpful guide.

Groundwork for Great Garden Paths

The need for a path often presents itself long before the planning process begins. When looking at your flowerbed or border, is it apparent which routes you take to maintain plants? Existing travel patterns might lay out your path for you, so all you need to do is fill it in with the appropriate building material. Or perhaps you’d like to do some trailblazing through a part of your garden where no trail exists. With some of the steps outlined here, you might discover that it’s easier than you think.

The path’s purpose and functionality should be your first consideration when deciding its direction and dimensions. If it’s a secondary path to allow for plant maintenance or a walkway meant for strolling, a width of 2 feet will do nicely. Plan on a width of 3 feet if it needs to accommodate a wheelbarrow or lawn mower. If it is to be a main path, you might want it 4 feet wide so two people can comfortably walk side by side.



But also consider your yard: If any plants or structures, such as a fence or foundation, will be crowding the path’s edge, you may need to increase the width. Be sure the path is in scale with the rest of the garden. If you’re lucky enough to have a massive courtyard garden, a 3-foot path might look out of place and undersized. On the other hand, a walkway to a garden bench or small potting shed should be narrow and intimate, not overpowering.

Setting the Tone for a Garden Path

Next, decide the shape and direction your path will take. Straight paths can be a no-nonsense approach that quickly takes you—or your eye—from one destination to the next, but more often straight lines and strict symmetry impart a more formal ambience. Straight pathways can look crisp and traditional, even stately, compared with winding paths, which can create an element of surprise and encourage visitors to stop along the way and experience the garden from a new perspective. The key is to create curves with a sense of purpose by either revealing or concealing some element beyond the bend. For example, the curve might reveal an ornamental shrub, small tree, or a large ornamental grass in a colorful pot. It might also conceal a garden sculpture, small water feature or special planting that only can be detected upon closer inspection.






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