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Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 6:31

I like stepping stone pathways. They're easier to construct without skills, they allow the rain to percolate down, you can recycle them if you need to and I just like the look of them with plants growing around them. I only have two small areas with them right now, but I'm considering putting in a larger path using them.

I was going to use thyme and veronica between the stones, but I've had a patch of both next to the area I'm thinking of doing, that as thick as it is, still gets some weeds growing up through it. One in particular is chamomile, which was in a lawn mix we used about 20 years ago.

I have another small landing with pavers that I used Scotch and Irish Moss in the crevices and crab grass keeps coming up making that a mess.

Anyone have success in establishing a stepping stone path with plants that keep the weeds out?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

yes

but it takes either a lot of plants [$$$$] ....

or a lot of time .....

might be a great winter sowing project ... to get the shear number of plants you need.. cheap

ken


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Ken, winter sowing is a great idea. I'm wondering what the best plants are to keep the weeds down too, in sun and in shade?

Actually, the golden thyme and creeping veronica I've been trailing, really spread into a large patch in full sun over the past two years, so I was thinking of dividing them up into plugs to fill it in fast. The more I think about it, the more I think I have the right plants, for my sunny pathway. I just need to plant a lot and put an edging of some sort between the lawn and the path.

I still need some solutions for shade. Would love to see photos of pathways that have been successful for anyone.

Thanks, Ken :-)


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Prairie, I am interested too. What kind of veronica do you have? I just bought a Waterperry blue to try out.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Linnea, I have Veronica 'Waterperry' and 'Blue Reflections' and 'Georgia Blue'. I think the one I've used out front in full sun was either the 'Waterperry' or the 'Blue Reflections'. They look a lot like each other.

I also have them in part shade facing West next to the foundation of the house and they have not been as vigorous or spread as fast there. They are in shade until 11:30am.

'Georgia Blue' is a little different. It forms more of less a mound in the shape of a circle and the leaves are smaller. I don't think it would work between stepping stones.

The thyme I mentioned is a taller growing thyme, maybe 8-10 inches tall? So if you used it with stepping stones, it might need mowing once in awhile. Not so the veronica.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Just a thought, if your path isn't so big that this would be impractical...but you could pour boiling water between the stones to kill whatever weed seeds are there now. That might give your winter-sown seeds a more friendly playing field, since you can't use pre-emergents if you want your creepers to take hold.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I use red creeping thyme in both sun and shade. While an occasional weed pops up it is mostly weed free. My plants were started from traded seed and winter sown. It took a couple of years but now I pull it up by the handfuls in the fall to keep it from getting out of bounds. After it blooms I mow or cut it back for later rebloom and to prevent seeding.
While the scent of lemon thyme is wonderful I have not found the plants to be reliably hardy in my area.

I've also used wooly thyme and mini thymes which stay low and spread less quickly.

What I am happiest with is a low tiny leaved dianthus which is beautiful in spring bloom and stays green until winter. It also gets an occasional weed, mostly oxalis. Beautiful but it doesn't have the scent one gets from walking on the red creeping thyme.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

mnwsgal, I have clay soil and have tried lots of thyme because I enjoy the look of carpets of it so much. I've lost some thymes and others are not vigorous. The only one I have that is, is this golden thyme that is not low growing, but the 8-10 inch height. It has been hardy for more than 6 years and very vigorous. I tried wooly and over 2-3" high thymes and I lost all the wooly thyme one winter and might have one creeper that is still around but doing nothing. I think it is the clay soil that thyme doesn't like.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

We also have heavy clay soil. The red creeping thyme loves it and has even seeded into my heavily packed walking path that has no stepping stones. Like the old Timex slogan, takes a beating and keeps on (growing) ticking. Though that may be why the mini thyme, Elfin, I think, took longer to get established. The first nice growth I had with wooly thyme was in a semi-shaded area under a maple tree.

Before planting lilies yesterday I added some peat moss to the clay soil. More to dig in today in another area before the rain and snow tomorrow. When I can find it I also add a very coarse vermiculite. These are areas that have been amended before but as you know, with clay soil it is a continuing process.

I have tried many varieties of thyme over the years as we used to have a nursery that specialized in herbs and had a many hard to find thymes, including orange and coconut. Alas, they did not survive.

Good luck with whatever you choose.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

That's interesting that you've had some thymes that grow well for you. And that you had a nursery specializing in herbs. I can only imagine how busy that must have kept you! And you have snow in your forecast?! Way too soon! :-)


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I use thyme. Occasionally I get ant hills under it as well as other plants....and need to deal with them. UGH.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Hi Gardenbug, I have only found an ant hill under one plant, an ornamental oregano. I am curious and would like to ask them, why they chose that particular plant out of all the others they could have chosen, to build a nest under. (g)


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I notice that when I make a nice, raised, well draining place for thyme and other herbs, that the ants think I have done them a great service as they really like that kind of place to set up shop. Keeps the nursery dry for the baby ant pupae.

I wish you luck with this prairiemoon. I have quackgrass, and would never try to make a path without some kind of barrier involved, usually vertical, but for a path maybe something underneath, but then it would be hard to have the creepy herbs in between the flags. So for me grass is the path, with barriers to keep it out of the beds.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

There are a number of hardy weeds (at least in this area) that take advantage of mild spells to grow throughout winter.

Growing plants between stepping stones/pavers is one of those things that looks nice in magazine photos, but is difficult to maintain in real life without a labor-intensive process.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I have creeping thyme growing in gravel that slopes down on each side of a flagstone walkway. (sand in between pavers) It grows so thick in the gravel that nothing else comes through it. I do have to trim it regularly though as it would completely cover the walkway if I let it.

I would think that anything growing in between stones would grow up over the stones in a short time. Is this a problem?


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Aseedisapromise, Maybe that is why the ants moved in under my ornamental oregano, it was mounded and well draining there.

Quackgrass, you have my sympathies! I struggled with that for years. It was in my vegetable patch and it was no fun trying to grow anything there, trying to keep it out. I finally gave up on that area for awhile, then I read a suggestion to try to solarize the area. I’m always looking for organic solutions. We had a large leftover roll of plastic from an ice rink we had for the kids and we covered the whole area with that and anchored with bricks and left it there for a whole year. That did get rid of the quack grass except for a small area that was in more shade under the drip line of a large Maple. But that was a 90% improvement and we reclaimed that area.

Eric, I am sure you are right, only in magazines do stepping stone paths with thriving creeping plants between the stones exist. Probably because of all the worker bees behind the scenes that most of us don’t have available.

RRyse, that sounds really nice. I love a nice dense, healthy patch of thyme. Actually, I have not had anything grow quickly between the pavers so that it had to be trimmed.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Quack grass is never gotten rid of--it always lurks in the wings just waiting for the barrier fabric to age, get a crack or whatever. You should see the nightmare of .5 mil plastic and/or weed barrier cloth with a combo of 2 in. of rotten red mulch and 1 in diameter rocks with quack grass running all over and under and through it knitting it seemingly permanently together. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I saw in this house when I bought it.

Ryse, I have excavated pavers that were twice as big as I thought they were because the grass had grown over the tops of most of them. There were some in my neighbor's lawn that were pretty much obscured. So yeah, grass anyway makes short work of stepping stones. I don't know about creeping thyme. I have some of the very short kind in a perennial bed that I occasionally step on. I have serpyllum in a place I don't ever walk, and a wooly thyme in another traffic free zone. They get weeds like everything else. I think you could just plant it as a path if it wasn't a heavily used one, but I don't know how much traffic it could take. It might be easier to deal with than if it was interplanted into rocks. Ants really like to set up shop beneath rocks, as do pillbugs. I think that if one wasn't adverse to chemicals you could just Agent Orange your path first and that would at least give you a head start on the weeds.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Aseedisapromise, the plastic I was talking about was an ice rink liner that was five mil thick. And it was one whole piece that was 40x40 ft. We left it in place for a year, just covering the top of the soil. I think it didn't hurt that we had a very dry summer that year, so that whole area was really baked. We removed the plastic after a year and we haven't had quack grass back in that area ever since. It's been about 6 years since we did it. Of course, that's a long time to have a large area completely out of commission.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Man, around here the quack grows about three feet of runners under the ground each fall, then in the spring puts down foot deep roots in the spring and spreads out into a lawn before you know it. It is a little easier if you have a deep mulch as it tends to be lazy and colonizes it and the soil is light enough that you can just lift the runners if you get to them before the roots are deep enough. So my bed would be six feet smaller in diameter each year regardless of solarization. Plus wouldn't that get rid of the soil biota?

There is a factory here that makes liners for all the heap leach mines around here that will let you take roll remnants for free, or minimal cost for some of the longer ones. This is plastic with some real heft. Anyway, the previous owners read the Square Foot Gardening book and made these beds that were about five feet by five feet out of two by fours with lattice across the tops marking out the square feet and filled them with potting soil and compost they made and put a strawberry in each square. I was really surprised when I went to deal with the beds and figured out that they were underlain with that thick plastic, so the strawbs had about three inches of soil to live in. When I pulled up the frames and plastic there were the quack roots underneath happily criss-crossing from one side to the other just waiting for me to give them the air.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I don't know aseedisapromise, it sounds like you have some superquack grass. (g) Seriously, though I don't really know why it worked, but in my garden it did take care of the problem and I am growing other plants in that same space now, without any interference from quack grass.

Would it get rid of the soil biota, I don't know the answer to that question either. I think about an area where a fire has occurred, or parts of the country that have suffered severe drought for long periods of time. I imagine that also disturbs the soil biota, but the soil somehow finds a way to recover when normal conditions are resumed.

I can't imagine adding a thick layer of plastic underneath a raised bed, but, if the quack grass is that bad, I can understand why. I would think they would have made a deeper bed though.

But if you are suggesting that the plastic under the bed didn't eliminate the quack grass, well, no, the purpose of the plastic on the surface during summer heat, is to solarize the soil and keep the plant from getting what it needs and making the soil inhospitable to the quack grass, I assume. Plastic under ground only presents a barrier to the quack grass. So I don't think they are the same thing.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

I suspect that you don't have such large colonies of quack, and the solarization treatment did in the colony that you had. Yay! I have gotten rid of the quack grass in an area by laying out cardboard and piling on straw and compost and whatever I could find to make a sort of lasagna style bed. It does grow back in from the sides though, because it is everywhere out here. The root system is really deep, so to make a vertical barrier it has to be really tall, taller than the edging that you can buy in stores. This really is the prairie, and there is just about every kind of grass here. What I do have in my lawn is called quack in my weed book, as I have been looking up the different kinds. Also orchard grass and another I haven't really identified yet, along with the Kentucky blue and the fescues and a zillion kinds of annual grass weeds.

When we moved in here there was a spot where no grass would grow, and it was really strange and I wondered what kind of nastiness the original owners had done to it. Talking to my neighbor, he said that they had a pile of dirt there for years, at least four feet tall. They moved it to clean up to make the place nice to sell, and just having all that dirt piled up killed the just-subsurface soil biota, and so nothing grew there until just last summer when a few things showed up. Mostly weeds, but also a pretty white hollyhock. So the biota comes back in time. There is that "Universal Will to Become" as Kurt Vonnegut wrote.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

That's so interesting. I also didn't realize you were on prairie. I've never been to South Dakota. More understandable that you would have more issues with grass than I would. That lasagna gardening is a great technique in so many situations.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Lysimachia minutissima is excellent between stepping stones. I also reseeds into the bare places. very low


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Thanks, that's a good suggestion and I see that Steppables offers it too.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

  • Posted by corrine1 7b Pacific Northwest (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 11:48

We don't own our home, so did it on the cheap with garage sale landscape cloth, rocks from the gardens, & free patio blocks as stepping stones for a 50' path.

What we didn't realize was how vigorous Ajuga and golden creeping Jenny would be coming from the gardens' edges. In places they've filled the path crossing over it entirely.

That prompted me to...
... build 2 other stepping stones paths using purchased round aggregate stepping stones laid on the soil without landscape cloth. In one spot we dug down leading away from the down spot to make a dry river bed (with found rocks again) & during downpours fills with water. The stepping stones cross that river bed in 2 places.

Functional & lovely.
Much better than mossy & scrubby lawn in the shade.
Anytime I need ajuga or golden creeping Jenny for a pot accent I can harvest from these areas.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Corrine, it's funny how different people's gardens can be, I have tried ajuga about 4 times and can't get it to grow here. I've tried 4 different varieties too. I gave up on it for a few years, but last year I bought one more. (g) I don't know how it's doing, now that I think about it and it hasn't been through a winter yet, so the jury is still out.

Creeping Jenny, I've never purchased, it scares me. :-)

I'd love to see a photo of your dry river bed with the stepping stones crossing it, it sounds really nice.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

  • Posted by corrine1 7b Pacific Northwest (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 19, 13 at 13:05

Here's a photo of the 1st path the summer after planting in spring. I might have an updated photo in my picasa, but it's not uploaded yet.

I have surgery tomorrow & need to stay on task today before work. When I'm feeling better in a few days I'll try to find a photo of the other dry river bed with the path across. If I forget email me through GWeb.


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RE: Stepping Stone Paths without weeds?

Corrine, that looks nice! I can see the white stepping stones in the river bed. That looks like it keeps the weeds down for sure. It's a little shady there, if the hosta is an indication, which would help too. Pretty blue pot!

Oh, so sorry you are having surgery tomorrow. Don't give the 2nd photo another thought, just take care of yourself. I hope it is not major surgery and that your recovery is swift! Nowadays, I think they can do some amazing things with surgery. See you when you are back on the forums. :-)


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