path materials-maintenance

pbarkyJuly 24, 2005

I am going to put in a path in a couple of areas in my yard. One is going in an almost level area and needs to be utilitarian because I will need to manuever a wheelbarrow over it. I have been looking at small pavers because they would be lightweight for me to install and could be easily swept/blown in the fall when the leaves drop. I'm estimating about $1100 in materials after pricing at Lowes. I've seen gravel/small rock paths in books and magazines. What is involved with installing these? What size gravel/rock do you use? Will it compact enough to rake/sweep/blow leaves? I've read where some folks use wood chips. Again, I'm concerned about being able to use a rake/broom/blower. I also have another area with an incline that drops about 2 ft over a 17 ft run. This area will get mainly foot traffic. Would a gravel path work on a slope. My other thought was a stone path but I was concerned about weight,cost, and tripping hazard. I've also found a source of flyash from a coal fired power plant, but I'm a bit concerned about possible pollutants in it. I wouldn't want it close to veggies, but other areas might be an option. I'm wanting to do the work myself and am a 45 yr old woman. Size/weight of materials are an issue. Any suggestions are appreciated.

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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Boy, I'm right with you. Exact same question for me. I'm designing a potting/storage shed-cottage which will have a ramp up to the storage area for the wheelbarrow, and need a path material to accomodate that need, the cleanup need, as well as the need to be able to easily clean up poopies--I call the area "poopieland" for the 3 dogs on the property.

The recent thread below shows beauties, and I asked myself whether each one would lend itself to fall cleanup under my deciduous, huge walnut tree. In particular, I'm considering the crushed gravel idea, but have no idea how it would respond to blower use.

Yet another issue where lovely design is so often unpaired with maintenance information! Perhaps others will have input.


Here is a link that might be useful: Paths Thread

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 10:40AM
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Chalkpaw(z5, N. Az)

For this type of path, I would lean towards a compactable aggregate. Contractor's call it "ABC" for short, but it contains crushed rock and rock powder. If your existing path soil contains clay, its best to remove 4-6" of the stuff before you add in the AB. You can sweeten the mix to hold together better with some portland cement. 1 bag per 350 square feet of path surface. Just sprinkle the portland cement on top of the pathway. Water down the path (not too much). Use a hand tamper, or rent a plate compactor to have the desired affect. You will need two people to lift the compactor in and out of a vehicle, otherwise you can do the operation yourself with a hand tamper.
I think that just placing gravel, cinder or wood chips would be a curse, especially for a wheelbarrow. Plus, if you did not like the AB path, it would be prepared for your pavers. Best.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 3:54PM
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I just finished putting three yards of pea gravel in. I can run my wheelbarrow over it no problem but then of course I have to rake it back into shape in spots. But I love the pea gravel and its easy to walk on with barefeet. I love pathways and I really do enjoy mine even though they are more work then paved pathways. As for leaves I just rake gently and the pea gravel is fine. I don't have a blower so I am not sure how it would work.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 4:19PM
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You can't beat small diameter crushed gravel mixed with their own fines as far as cost and ease of installation goes.

It does have it's pros and cons though.

Pros -
easy to install and maintain.
easy maintenace to rake moderate to large size fallen leaves off of surface
easy maintenance to blow the smaller debris off of the top gravel layer without creating a safety hazard ( flying sharp pebbles )
It is earth friendly in regards to drainage.

Cons - when stooping and scooping dog poop, the poopettes stick to the gravel.
Crushed compacted gravel is too coarse to walk on with bare feet. ( which could actually be turned into a positive attribute if you put the two cons together you will never squish dog poop between your toes because you will never walk barefoot on the gravel )

So maybe I should but that in the Pro catagory ?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 4:33PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Cindy, your paths & gardens look beautiful. Pea gravel is a definite possibility.

Ok, Michelle, what's the difference between what Chalkpaw describes as compactable aggregate... "ABC" for short, but it contains crushed rock and rock powder, what you're calling small diameter crushed gravel mixed with their own fines, and what American Soil sells as "decomposed granite" or "path fines"?

Actually, gravel encrusted poopettes could have advantages: less mooshy, fall out of the poopie holder more easily. Hmmm... I never visit poopieland without shoes on and head down!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 6:04PM
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I haven't a clue what ABC gravel is but if its contents is small crushed angular gravel 1/2" - + diameter mixed with stone dust / quarry fines, then it is the same stuff .

One lays the stuff, wets it, runs a compactor or roller over it and it compacts down like concrete with just the right amount of loose 'aggregate fluff' on top to crunch under foot.

If you remember my back yard path it is small chipped gravel mixed with quarry fines.
It came from the Stony Point Quarry in Santa Rosa and if you have a heavy duty dump truck you can pick it up for $ 10 bucks a yard, otherwise American Soils, Marin Landscape, Shamrock and M+H usually has it in stock for about $ 24 a yard.

Decomposed granite - $ 65 a yard ( gold color here in N. CA) or straight Quarry Fines ( grey color ) is not the same thing.
Both DG and QF have the consistancy of gritty sand with small rock chips no larger than about 1/4 inch or so. + - .

I usually suggest that people avoid using pea gravel for any kind of paths.
Pea gravel has rounded edges , making it almost impossible to compact. It is rolly polly and likes to move around under feet making it not such a great walking surface .

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 6:48PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

I usually suggest that people avoid using pea gravel for any kind of paths. Pea gravel has rounded edges , making it almost impossible to compact

OTOH, for we dumptruckless, roller-less, logistically challenged single females, the compactability has a wee tad less charm. Even if I could rent a roller & borrow a truck to get it home with, I don't think I could lift the darn thing with my unbuffed day laborer from the truck. I know, whine, whine, whine. Maybe renting or buying a hand compactor is the answer, & let Pedro handle it.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:10PM
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susanargus(z7 NoVA)

When designing a path like this, isn't there a "reversability" factor in case you don't always want the path there? Is gravel fines reversable or does it just mash down into the soil forever and your only option is to remove it if you want to plant something there?

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:24PM
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Thanks for the info. This looks like just like the ticket for my side yard. Will this stuff work on a slope? Here's a picture of the sloped area.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 8:54PM
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kmickleson(z9 CA)

Great question, Susan.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2005 at 10:56PM
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I cut out a line of sod, grade smooth with a rake, and set in precast aggregate squares ( 24" x 24" size or the smaller size if you can't lift those or two wheel them over ) . I usually space them about 7 inches apart. I use a tile trowel to level the soil under them so they don't rock. After they are set I back fill around them with dirt and grass seed.

You can do this with any flat natural stone like limestone,slate or bluestone which make installation easier with less digging and levelling than boulders or irregular stones would require.

The nice thing about this sort of grass/stone path is that you don't have to fight weeds like you eventually have to with paver bricks or most stone aggregate beds. No trimming either, you just mow right over them.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 1:15AM
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Chris_MI(z5 MI)

have you thought of granite. My son works at a countertop store, and they throw away tons of extra stone every day. He made a pathway out of the sink cut-outs for me for free. We did lay them rough side up, as the polished side was very-very slippery when wet, and the black ones were too hot in the sun for bare feet. if a company knew you were interested, I'm sure you could also get them for free, also ask at a cemetary monument company.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 8:52AM
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I have to side with Mich, although pea gravel is great to walk on, I have definite trouble pushing a loaded wheelbarrow through it. It's like mud, just less messy; the wheels sink, displacing that previously level pathway, and pushing harder just drives you deeper into it. Doing tight turns is almost impossible as well. And it doesn't compact, as Mich said, just simply moves away. Kinda like trying to grab oiled marbles with greased hands.

For tamping, get one of those plastic square hand-tampers from Home Depot or Lowes, they're fine if you have less than an acre of gravel to tamp ; )

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:43AM
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I agree with Chalkpaw, except the product is called "AB-3". Another good material would be lime screenings (Ag lime or lime dust). It is flaked limestone (about the size of oatmeal), can be easily graded, compacts when you water it and will set up hard. It will also be easier on bare feet. AB-3 is a better choice for steeper slopes however either would hold on a 2 in 17 slope.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 11:37AM
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As has been mentioned before, "pea gravel" has different definitions depending on where you garden. It can refer solely to size, not to whether the edges are rounded or not, so be careful about what you order. Rough-edged pea gravel, if not more than 1 1/2 inches thick or so, will be fine as a walking surface.

You would need some kind of weed barrier underneath it, and still be prepared to do weeding from time to time, as certain plants love growing in highly drained gravel.

"Gravel Encrusted Poopettes" - Band name!!!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 12:03PM
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Pan-seared, gravel-encrusted poopettes served over chipotle-cheese polenta with a portabella mushroom beurre-blanc. (Sorry.)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 1:40PM
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Wondering if any one can help me. I need to pick a path material for laying in a national park in the Algarve of Spain. It needs be usable with the climate, the surrounding grassland and granite landscape and be acessible to disabled people. Its for a university course. any ideas?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 5:36AM
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I'm trying to create a HARD gravel path like at the Tuileries gardens in Paris. I can't find anywhere on the internet what that material is. It's gray-white and HARD -- so high heels dont sink in -- but it is not concrete. It seems to be a very compacted fine gravel, so it has a looser gravelly top layer. It's not round "pea gravel". Any ideas? Would the ABC material described here create that kind of a hard-yet-soft surface?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 1:02PM
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I've been looking for the same thing and finally found it: decomposed granite; apparently referred to by landscapers as "DG". I hope it's still relevant to your project. At least future searchers may find it easier.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 3:33PM
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