coarse gravel paths?

castorpJuly 5, 2014

I'm considering using coarse (1" - 3") gravel or "crushed" concrete (also 1" - 3") for paths in my vegetable garden. I'm considering the coarse stuff because I THINK it will be easier to maintain, mainly because I have heard that I could use a leaf blower on it to keep it clean and because weeds won't sprout in it quite so frequently. I also need very good drainage.

Do you think such paths would be practical for a vegetable garden, or a mistake?

Thanks.

Bill

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violetwest

It's my understanding that this large gravel is uncomfortable to walk on and will . . . migrate. With smaller crushed gravel, you compact it down so it should stay in place better, and it's easier to walk on. Use the search function here (try pea gravel) and see if you can find other comments.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:52AM
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yardvaark

A mistake. A huge mistake.

Pea gravel, being rounded is also not good for walking on. It remains forever loose.

Many, most or all people with veg. gardens do not have this dilemma. Is this a large garden that is open to the public? How is your garden different that you need these paths? Why would you be using a blower in a veg. garden? Paths of biodegradable material would be much (infinitely) better.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:36PM
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castorp

Violet, I like the idea of small gravel that packs down. I remember reading somewhere that a special sort/mix of gravel must be used, or else it remains loose and won't pack. I'll investigate. Thanks.

Bill

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:32AM
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kswl2

I think your best bet is what we call "crush and run," over a bed of small gravel (not as small as pea gravel, obviously). Great drainage, compacts down but there is still a layer of gravel underneath, and quite easy to walk on in shoes.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:35AM
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yardvaark

Some may call it "crush and run" but it is crusher run ... run of the crusher ... mixed fragment sizes from about 1" to sand and dust. Basically, driveway gravel. Packs down great, but a little coarse for a footpath surface.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 2:25PM
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kswl2

I don't agree that it is too coarse for a footpath. It packs down almost too much, like cement! We live in the country with drainage problems galore, and have a variety of pathways, driveways, dry creek beds, etc. comprising large surge stone size granite, smaller granite, crush and run, river rocks, and pea gravel. The best, most "walkable" surface is a thin bed of small granite covered in crush and run.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 3:25PM
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castorp

Kswl, thanks for the information. One question for you. How badly does crush and run stick to your shoes? I have considered (and re-considered) using crushed shell, which used to be a popular path/driveway material here (in Central Florida). As the shells were crushed underfoot they packed down somewhat, but everyone who's ever had it warns me I will be endlessly cleaning up crushed shell. That's another reason I was curious about using larger gravel: It doesn't track.

I've also considered laying pavers or stepping stones in coarse gravel, to make it easier to walk on.

Bill

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:45AM
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stolenidentity

Hi Bill,

I wonder how big your garden is and how many paths you will be needing. Consider using some type of paver stones instead of gravel or or crushed anything...for the very reasons you indicated. I am forever cleaning gravel out of my garden areas and it is from our driveway. With pavers you can easily clean and maintain the paths, and they won't grow weeds :)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 11:33AM
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kswl2

I can't really answer your question, I'm sorry Bill, because from our crushed stone paths or driveway we have brick walkways and steps up to a portico and then into the house in front, and a wide brick walkway to the side door. By the time you are in the house your shoes are free of any loose matter. I will say that anything small enough will get stuck in the treads of some shoes, that obtains for pea gravel and small granite. But the crusher run stuff (thank you for that clarification, Yardvaark, it may be the heavy accents here I'm misinterpreting) if done right, and after a couple of good rains, packs down nicely around the larger pieces of gravel that range from the dimensions--- irregularly, of course--- of a quarter to something twice that size or even a bit bigger.

I love those old crushed shell paths, you see a lot of that in coastal Georgia but understand your reluctance to have it tracked inside your house. What if you did the pavers on a bed of the crushed shell? It would give you both the look you like and easy maintenance, as people naturally tend to walk on the pavers.

With respect to the problem of small aggregate encroaching into planted areas beyond the pathways, we have a stone and pea gravel path from a side gate to the tennis court that is bordered by a metal lip sort of thing that contains the small stones. They fill the spaces between the larger flat rocks. (We were originally hoping to grow mondo grass between them but it was much too hot.)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 8:47AM
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yardvaark

It's one thing if sand is mixed into the vegetable garden and entirely another if rocks are. Most of us wouldn't want gravel working its way into the vegetable garden soil. In spite my questions being ignored, one should consider what happens when the day comes that something must be undone. It happens. It's probably a lot less fun removing gravel than it is bringing it in. Whereas a path made of wood based mulch, that decomposed over time, would not be a problem at all.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:20AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Gravel paths are the #1 biggest mistake I ever made in our garden. We just had it swapped out for woodchips and it's so much better. I'm still giving away gravel on Craigslist. Want some? :)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:25AM
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kswl2

Yardvaark, the OP states he needs a path material that will aid drainage. Wood chips or shredded mulch would likely compound his problem, not solve it.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 10:20AM
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yardvaark

"...path material that will aid drainage. Wood chips or shredded mulch would likely compound his problem, not solve it." How do figure? Water drains through wood chip based mulch easily. He did not allude to a drainage problem any more than just wanting the path itself to drain.There are other solutions, too, besides wood based mulch or gravel. But the OP wasn't specific enough about his needs.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 6:28PM
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castorp

Thanks to you all for the information and experiences, both for and against gravel. .

I do consider staying with organic mulch paths. I have used it for years and I understand the advantages, but for various reasons I'm looking for an alternative.

I'm also considering the pavers-only idea, but I would have to change the layout of the paths and beds, to avoid a "hard" look, and maybe also for drainage issue.

I really like the idea of using pavers set in a crushed shell mix that would pack down firm, and bordering the paths with something that would help prevent the shells from mixing into the beds. But I'm aware this could turn out to be a huge headache too. So I keep asking around, trying to get as much information as I can.

Bill

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 7:55AM
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yardvaark

Nothing wrong with asking information. But you're short on providing the same in return. People have different reasons for doing different things and if the motivating purposes and existing conditions are not forthrightly and accurately stated, it's a crap shoot as to whether anyone can help. If information remains concealed, people are guessing around the problem.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 9:57AM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

We have crusher run in the driveway and a concrete paver walkway to the front door about 12' long. Gravel sometimes sticks in shoe treads, and the crusher run still manages to migrate a bit into the house, though since we have outdoor and indoor mats to wipe shoes on and take off shoes at the kitchen door, it's not bad.

I can't image anything on earth that would convince me it's a good idea to have gravel of any size as walkways in my veggie garden. It migrates, it's uncomfortable to walk on regardless of size if barefoot and larger sizes are uncomfortable even with shoes, and if you change your mind at some point in the future it's a royal pain to move or remove. I've had veggie gardens for more than 40 years (both raised bed and not), and my paths either had bare earth (quick and easy to maintain with a stirrup hoe AKA scuffle hoe) or an organic mulch such as wood shavings or bark mulch usually underlain with unprinted cardboard. I could see using large sized (24" x 24" or 18" x18") pavers to make walkways as they could be relatively quickly shifted if you wanted to change path layouts.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 10:33AM
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stolenidentity

Hi again Bill,

+ 1 on what nhbabs said. I have many garden beds in my little bit of paradise, and as said earlier the way to get here is up a long gravel driveway (almost a little street). So gravel is not something I would choose to put anywhere near a vegetable garden. Our raised bed gets gravel sometimes just from the kick up from tires. The beds and woodsy edges here have big rocks lining the edges of 'nature' to keep the gravel at bay. I have spent YEARS collecting big rocks and building and maintaining gravel protecting walls with them, all found on the property so yay for that - LOL.

Anyhoo, we have lots of paver paths to mosy around in the outer areas, they are easy to maintain - the ones in the grass are easily kept clean with a weed wacker and broom (or rake in fall). The pavers are not expensive, can be moved if/when needed and the layout can be symetrical / windy / or just whatever works. Pavers may not be organic, but they don't leave any mess behind and can be used / reused forever!

I am looking forward to what you decide and hope you will share your decision with a picture.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 11:43PM
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castorp

Thanks for the additional information and ideas. I will try to post some pics soon. I have several hundred feet of paths. The main ones are 4' wide and the secondary ones are 3' wide. The beds are rectangular--mostly 5 X 7 or so, with paths around them. My fear is that all of the pavers will give the veggie garden a "hard" look, especially when the beds are empty or when plants are very small. I'm considering changing over to "traditional" rows or wide-rows which would reduce the amount of paths. I would just walk on the earth between the rows, keep them neat with a hoe as you say. But I'm not sure about the overall look yet. The garden is in full view from lots of windows in the house so the look is important to us. I keep thinking.

Thanks again to you all.

Bill

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 12:27PM
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elysianfields(9b CA)

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/design/msg0722503213967.html?18

I posted several photos of gravel paths from my gardens in the thread above. I have coarse and smooth gravel paths, plus a couple bark paths. I do not have any issues with any of them. If a weed pops up I pull it. They do need borders to keep them in line though. But I've had great luck. I'd rather spend time enjoying the garden than a ton of time putzing with it. Okay, the neighbors cat thinks my bark is its kitty litter. I've told it it is not and wet it a bit from time to time which usually works.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:56PM
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castorp

Elysianfields, your paths are beautiful! Your garden is beautiful. Very inspiring. I'm going to show your pictures to my better half today. Thank you.

I'm still weighing options and trying to decide how each would look. I don't want to begin the project anyway until things cool down a little in fall. (It's hot, here in Central Florida), so I have time. You all are giving me a lot of the information and ideas I need to decide, and I appreciate it.

Bill

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:48AM
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