Working with Stone


Garden paths and walkways don't necessarily have to make a beeline from Point A to Point B. Base them on where you need to walk, but also allow them to meander slightly to take advantage of views and attractive garden settings. (Avoid low areas with poor drainage and steep inclines, though.) Make paths at least 36 inches wide; two people walking side-by-side require a 48-inch width. For wheelchair use, slope the path no more than 1:12 — 1 inch of rise for every 12 inches of run, measured horizontally — and provide a 5-foot long landing every 30 feet.


For formal, all-weather walks, choose concrete, brick, or flagstone. For informal paths, consider stepping stones, gravel, crushed stone, or wood chips.


Build a gravel or crushed stone path

Gravel and crushed stone, which aren't the same material, create paths with a classic, old-world feeling. The pea gravel used for landscaping has rounded edges and is uniform in size. It has the sound and feel of loose pebbles. It drains quickly and stays clean, but it constantly moves underfoot. Most gravel is gray. Crushed stone, on the other hand, has sharp edges that enable it to compact into a solid mass. It varies in size. The mixture of small rocks and fines (sand and fine particles) compacts into a dense surface that's almost as solid as paving materials. The smaller particles, however, stick to shoes and become messy. Larger-sized particles and stones don't compact as tightly, but are cleaner. Crushed stone varies in color from tan and beige tones to blue and gray tones.


To build a gravel or stone garden path, follow these steps:


1. Lay out the edges of the path using garden hoses or stringlines.

2. Dig between the edges to a depth of 6 to 8 inches (deeper, if your winters are severe).

3. Install a border along each side of the path.

Set 1x6s or flexible bender boards (thin, bendable boards) on edge and nail them to short stakes placed along the outside. You can also buy vinyl edging and install it according to the manufacturer. As another alternative, consider lining the sides of the excavation with bricks, stones, or timbers.

4. Place 4 to 6 inches of road base (crushed rock used for gravel beds) or class-five gravel in the bottom of the excavation.

5. Using a flat plate vibrator (which you can rent), compact the base.

Add rock, as necessary.

6. Fill the rest of the excavation with 2 to 4 inches of pea gravel or crushed rock.

If you use crushed rock, build a crown, or hump, along the center of the path for drainage, and compact the rock with the flat plate vibrator.