Flagstone path: help me understand base material/plants in gaps?

collins designApril 8, 2010

Hi folks-

I am hoping you can advise on this DIY path project.

I am planning a fairly casual path thought the lawn. I have gathered nearly enough flagstones/slate pieces from Craigslist and Freecycle, yay! At my last home, I made a short, straight path, with a gravel and sand bed, flagstones bedded with concrete. This new path is much longer, curving, and less formal. I need to figure out the best, cheapest, easiest plan for setting these stones.

I know the "best" plan will not be the cheapest and easiest, so am hoping for advice on a good compromise. The yard is very heavy clay soil topped with a couple inches of crappy loam and grass.


1) Lay stones directly in the grass, cutting around each and putting a couple inches of sand or fines underneath each.

2) Cut out the sod in the path area. Excavate and lay a bed of some kind... (advice on what's really necessary appreciated!) Then lay stones and plant groundcover between them. My question about that is: how will the groundcover grow if there's a really deep bed of sand and gravel underneath it?????

I understand the purpose of the bed... to increase drainage and limit frost heaving. But is that to the detriment of the plants growing between the pavers? Is there a compromise?

If the spaces are just filled with crushed granite or something, not plants, (which would look fabulous at first, I think!) I suspect weeds will soon begin to grow there and need regular maintenance. Is that correct?

So--- if that's right I'd want to plant something. Either grass seed, or preferably something that won't encroach the edges of the stones as much as grass does. Any suggestions?

I have a supremely limited budget and about a million other house renovation projects competing for my time, so my new path probably won't be the optimal thing.... but I would rather have something somewhat nice now than wait several more years for the perfect thing.

Any advice appreciated!

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i was able to obtain a lot of flagstone off craigslist last year.
i spent much of last summer building garden paths all around my yard.
my soil sounds almost identical to yours.....clay with only an inch or two of decent soil on top.
some areas i removed all the sod and laid paths and then planted creeping thyme between the stones to fill in.
others were laid directly in my lawn. there i placed the stone where i wanted it to go and used a shovel to cut around the stone, then i would dig out the sod.
i went the ultra cheap method of using either no base layer of sand or gravel underneath the stones.
where i made tighter more fitted paths i only used maybe an inch of sand beneath.
so far after the first winter it still looks great!
the good thing about loosely laid stone is it is easy to lift and fill in if it settles any.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:39AM
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btw you'll find a good amount of info here http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/stone/

Here is a link that might be useful: stone forum

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:07AM
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chezmoose(z4/5 MI)

We put in a flagstone path a few years ago and it's holding up great. However... our ground is basically pure sand under the top soil, so drainage is not an issue for us. We removed the sod and made a trench about 6" deep. We added about 4" of diamond dust (crushed limestone) and then set the stones on top. Our stones were not very uniform in thickness, so it took a long time to get them level and so that they didn't rock when you step on them. Then we packed more diamond dust between all the stones.

We have had no frost heaving or settling at all, and I think only one stone has cracked. This is on the north side of our house and the moss filled in all the spaces on it's own. We do get a few weeds and those little Johnny Jump-ups like to spring up between the stones, but I just use a little round-up on the weeds maybe once or twice a year.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:17AM
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collins design

Thanks very much for this information! It looks like I have a lot of options to consider.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 8:05AM
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