Archives for category: path

When last we left the paths, I had dumped the left-over stones and bricks where I stopped work, because I didn’t know how to go on. Well, when I was doing another project, which I’ll get to in a bit, I had the idea of making a visual pun in the stone dust: Instead of burying marble scraps, I would “cut a hole” in the path and then plant green ground cover in it. Certainly not grass, but maybe clover, or possibly an herb. I’d border the “hole” with marble scraps “mortared” with stone dust, and otherwise take measures to ensure the ground cover didn’t invade under the path.

This idea is pretty and also would be a different texture and temperature under bare feet.

Here’s a second version of the “hole in the path” concept, but closed, and not open. There’s a little bit of context: The woodchuck fence round the garden, and the compost bin (the project I mentioned).

The big problem, which is just black space in the picture, is what goes outside the path. The whole area has been nothing but weeds recently; I’m reclaiming it. But the soil isn’t ready for vegetables. And I refuse to put in a lawn. What to do? Clover, perhaps….

Looks like the overnight rain settled the marble scraps down into the stone dust nicely. Everything seems to have leveled out, and the arrangement is pleasing to the eye. Maybe I’ll add some more scraps as I encounter them.

I especially like the squiggly scrap at top left — I now see that they echo my toes.

Yesterday I finished up the new path; here’s what it looks like!

I should have taken more pictures of the work in progress, but I was in a rush. And I improvised a lot from material that came to hand, like any good permaculturalist.

First I arranged the marble scrap in a pleasing fashion. This involved some digging and smoothing with a trowel to sink the scraps into the path, but level with the surface and the borders. (Because some of the scraps had sharp-ish edges, I didn’t lay them on top of the stone dust, like a Japanese garden might.) Sometimes I went over to the failed path and dug up some more scraps.

Then I thought things would be dull if the path had no floral border, so I arranged logs from the woodpile in parallel along sides of the path, like planters, and then filled them with seafood compost. Then I broadcast Wildflower and Pollinator-attracting seed mixes from Fedco into the planters. Here’s the arrangement: Read the rest of this entry »

Continue on by filling your wheelbarrow with material for the borders, and dump it near the site. I collected bricks that had accumulated around the house and the lawn over the years for different borders, and biggish round river stones from a failed herb garden. (Bricks and stone are heavy and can be expensive, so the lazy way is to re-use them wherever possible.)

Also have ready a roll of weed blocker fabric (alas, petroleum-based) and a bag or two of fabric pegs. (These pegs are petroleum-based, too, but unlike wood pegs or metal staples, they will not rot or rust.) You will also need something sharp to cut the fabric, a trowel, a shovel, a push broom, and ideally an old stubby kitchen broom.

Now lay a double layer of weed-blocker along the compressed soil of the path, pegged down as needed. Although we are cutting and pinning fabric, we aren’t talking couture, here; the goal is to cover the soil completely with the least expense in materials and time. Although this path will be curved, the fabric beneath can be laid straight; the curve will be added when the borders are laid down; cutting plastic fabric into curves with the cheap scissors I have is work, so I avoid it. (A longer curved path would be approximated with short straight segments of fabric.) Read the rest of this entry »

Here is the site. The path will extend from the garden (top of the shot) to the sidewalk (bottom), with rosa rugosa on either side of the sidewalk end. There’s a partly hidden heap of bricks and stone that will turn into a border. (Being lazy, I dump randomly discovered stones or bricks where I’m ultimately going to use them, instead of storing them neatly somewhere).

I remove sod by slicing it into chunks with the sod cutter, levering the chunks loose with a garden trowel, banging the soil (and worms and occasional larvae) off of the chunk with the trowel, and tossing the resulting grass and root mat aside.

(The pile of roots looks like the matted hair of a dead animal. Ugh. I really don’t like lawns.)

Removing sod might not seem especially lazy, but grasses are tenacious, and I’d be very annoyed if I had to redo the path because grass was poking through it, or exfiltrating around its edges. That would be work.

Then I rake the soil smooth. Kinda smooth. The stone dust will pour onto the earth like a liquid and self-level, so I don’t worry about precision; we’re not laying bricks or fieldstone here!

Then I compress the soil by walking on it. We don’t want the soil settling or shifting too much, because then we’ll have to get out the wheelbarrow and add more stone dust to level the path out again. That would be work.

Total time: About two hours.

That’s the prep. Next, the border and the stone dust!

Here’s the straw layer of the sheet mulch I laid down over the new beds near the sidewalk I’m going to plant this year, when I figure out what I want to plant. Despite being near the traffic, it’s in good shape.

I didn’t border these beds with bricks because bricks are pricey, and I haven’t discovered any chimneys being demolished around town, which is where I got the last batch from. But logs do the trick!

Notice how the Norway Maple Leaf is disfigured with cancerous dark-colored spots. That tree is a disease vector I should cut down, dry, and then heat the house with, although I do use the leaves to bank the house and mulch the beds. Trade-offs!

And I don’t know what that seed pod is; I grew some snow peas last year, but this looks like a pretty big pod for a snow pea. Maybe I’m being sent a message about what to grow in the new beds!

That’s before. Here’s after:

Not much to say about “before.” The snow was too wet and heavy to make really good instrumentation.

The “after” shows my paths. I’m a big fan of paths, especially since I can’t plant anything yet

Paths aren’t a lot of work to make, which is good, because I don’t like work. You don’t need to weed them (much), and they feel very pleasant to the bare foot in July. I’m going to make some more this season, when I’ll show the process here, but it’s simple: (1) figure out where you want the path; (2) get a yard or so of stone dust and have it dumped where it’s not a lot of work to move; (3) clear the path of weeds, and use a garden trowel to more or less level it out (you don’t want water pooling up); (4) lay down a few yards of rugged non-woven fabric on the path, two layers of it, and spike it in place; (5) arrange your bricks on top of either side of the fabric, using your trowel to level them; (6) shovel the stone dust onto the fabric between the bricks; (7) shovel more stone dust into the cracks between the bricks and behind the bricks (gravity and water will settle the dust into the cracks so there’s no opportunity for weeds); (8) level everything out with a push broom; and (9) mist it down with the hose. Takes three or four hours including breaks, and the paths in this picture are entering their third year. Quite a return.

I made the pretty entrance last summer for people who want to pick vegetables. I pictured the woodchuck opening a gate with its little paws, so no gate; in the summer, I put a wooden step at the entrance, so people can enter the garden that way.

My whole front yard is problematic, starting with the herbs I put there and then never pick because they aren’t close enough to the kitchen (permaculture zone 0). And I’ve planted the herbs inside one lobe of a curved flagstone path that is shaped like a dragon (which seemed like a good idea at the time, and was, if having a path shaped like a dragon is the goal).

So, herbs that nobody picks and a path nobody walks on; not a success!

I’m going to take up the flagstones and use them elsewhere, probably on the new path out to the street between the rosebushes. And I’ll make a new path on the front lawn with stone dust that people will actually use — from the front steps across the lawn to the driveway. I don’t know what I’ll do with the herbs yet.

Notice also that yet again snow instrumented the land. Again, using the iPad sharpens the eye. What else do we look at and not see?

Here’s a path between beds collecting rain water in the February thaw (40° F today; time for March to shut this down!) And here’s a video:


Versailles Gardens in WinterI’m of two minds about paths. Stone dust paths are great in June and July; I love the warm feel on the soles of my bare feet. But by August, the squash and the tomatoes will have overgrown everything, including the paths and each other. And stone dust paths are stone, so they don’t rot and contribute organic matter to the soil. Also, they’re work because seeds catch in the stone dust and sprout, and then the path either needs to be weeded, or left to become over-grown. (This year, I’m going to try to do what I promised myself to do last year; kill weeds in the stone dust paths with boiling water.) Bark mulch paths, like this one, do rot. And they do collect water and cycle it into the soil, as the photo and the video show. But I think they’re ugly and I don’t like to walk on them. So, for next year, the Versailles look is the look for me: Stone dust paths everywhere!