How deep to make gravel garden path? Material types...

njbiologyApril 11, 2014


I'd like to construct a garden path around my yard. After escavating the 150 long x 1.5 wide path at a yet-to-be determined depth, I will use a epdm 45 mil thick rubber liner; scraps that I have from a large pond I built.. I have enough to cover the base of the entire trail.

I'd like to make the path 4" deep: the 1st inch should be soil/woodchips, the 2nd inch to be crushed stone that will, eventually, be worked into the mulch layer and the top two inches to be 3/8" pea gravel. The reason I use a layer of mulch on the bottom is because, intermittently, I'd like to plant strawberries in specific holes (backfilled with soil) in the path course. Having a layer of mulch will help with keeping some moisture in this network.

1. Should 4" of crushed stone/pea gravel/soil (at base) mix work in keeping out weeds? If this is an inch too much, I'd like to reduce it to: 1" soil, 1" crushed stone, and 1" pea gravel at the top.

2. If I don't go the route of using stone/gravel, and I fill the path course with pine-type mulch, when it all breaks down in a few years, will it remain perpetually too-acidic for weeds to grow, so that only mosses and acid-loving plants will grow (ligonberries, partridgeberry, bear-berry, bunchberry, etc.); it should always be moist, after it breaks down, I'd think.


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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

For many years, I've been a volunteer at a historic site that is required to have gravel paths.

They are evil.

Reason one they are evil is that they require regular weeding. No matter how thick the gravel, weeds pop up. No matter how compacted the base, weeds pop up. Then there are the pieces of gravel that go wandering. While you may not have children throwing it around, amazing amounts of pea gravel get kicked into the grass and beds. The current plan involves a reworking of the paths incorporating an inch of rock salt.

Organic matter decays to a pH of around neutral. Even if it didn't, it wouldn't create soil that was uninhabitable by weeds.

My current, favorite material for garden paths is grass, though I have done crazy paving with local stone.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:01AM
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I'd add to that pea gravel is nearly impossible to walk on - it is much like the dry sand at the beach. It rolls and moves and can make for hazardous footing. If you want stone, stay with the gravel. Its sharp/jagged edges will at least compact enough to provide stable footing.

Wood chips or bark or even pine needles do not contribute to soil acidity so you should be able to grow whatever you want. If mixed with the soil however, wood-based mulches do tend to tie up available nitrogen so you may need to account for that.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 2:05PM
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littlebug5(z5 MO)

I agree wholeheartedly with mad. I used to live in a house with gravel paths. Never never NEVER again. I believe that all the paths in h#ll are gravel.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:06PM
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Guys, gravel paths suck because no one does them right. Excavate 4-5", put down a layer of Mirafi as a separation fabric (prevents soil particles migrating into your base), and come up to an inch from desired height with 21A (aka crusher run, aka 3/4" minus) compacted with a plate compactor from a rental yard. 1" of pea gravel or chip gravel on the surface. You get the look of a gravel path that holds up, resists weeds, and drunks in high heels can safely navigate.

The rubber liner is a bizarre idea that I think will cause headaches down the road. Same with the organic matter under your walk. Horrible idea that you will regret.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:51AM
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"...drunks in high heels..."

... and those are the men.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:10AM
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I did the gravel path thing, never again. Not only did the liner tear and weeds appear, but leaf debris from above accumulated over several years plus mud from garden runoff and sifted down where it could not be removed but harbored and grew yet more weeds.
An unbelievably expensive mistake, and if you have ever tried to remove gravel that has weeds and mud, you can appreciate that it goes on the 100 top misery list.

This post was edited by lucille on Mon, Apr 14, 14 at 9:20

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:18AM
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Yard, I'd invite you to my parties but you clearly know what to expect...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:03PM
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Marcinde, my night vision binoculars DO NOT LIE!!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:43PM
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Is there such a thing as *perfect* materials for a *perfect* safe path? I've used flagstone w/ a sand base, and while the stone is probably easier to walk on than gravel, it isn't perfectly level , and weeds do pop up. I like the look, the grand kids haven't had any falls(or myself!), so will keep it as is, but spray weed killer between the stones for easier maintenance. I think that's about as perfect as you can get w/o resorting to a simple cement pathway.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:28PM
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I have four paths in my garden. A black and white river rock path up on the dogs level edged in broken concrete over soil. Ground cover sneaks in from the side and just needs to be pulled. A stone path on level two with fragaria ground over around it, easy to maintain as well. Level one is a border of retaining wall blocks filled with crushed granite super easy to walk on, great traction, and I can hear who is coming towards the house in case I gotta grab a frying pan for friend or foe. In front I have a bark path edged with broken concrete that I walk on all the time and do not have issues with weeds. I'm in the woods and the birds add voluntary additions of foliar specimens. I either keep them or pull them out. I do top off the bark path to refresh it and have another bark barrier along a retaining wall that is about 4 inches deep.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 3:50AM
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agree with marcinde; I think such paths need to be of decomposed gravel or crusher finds wetted and compressed when laid, and not just loose or pea gravel, to be effective walking surfaces.

Disclaimer: no real life knowledge (except for walking on other paths of this type, which are very common in my area); just book knowledge right now

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 1:31PM
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