Garden Paths

FIRST determine the width and direction of the path. Added interest may be given to a garden by (I) winding the path, or changing its direction at angles; and (2) by stepping, terracing, or changing the level where the layout of the ground enables this to be done. Another pleasant feature is a wider area contrived in the length of a path, or at a point where two main paths cross or meet. Whether or not the entire path is paved in stones of irregular shape or uniform slabs, such an enlarged area can be paved, and perhaps a bird-bath or some other garden ornament placed in the centre.

A square, or an octagon, is a pleasing shape for the paved space. A circular plot can be laid out by fixing the centre point, and then using a taut cord, or a length of lath, of the chosen radius (half the diameter of the circle). Tie a long nail to the outer end of the cord, or drive it through a hole at the corresponding end of the lath, and so scribe out the circle on the ground. The centre point may be a stake driven in. If a lath is used, put a nail through the inner end, and let it be driven into the top of the stake.

Laying Out the Paths

We will assume that the garden plot slopes down from the house. Provide some stout stakes about 18 to 24 in. long, pointed at one end and square at the top; also a straight and level piece of batten, to be used with a spirit level. Two questions must be settled first: the direction of the path, and its level. With some simple stakes (not those mentioned above, which are for levelling) and some fine twine, outline the sides of the pathway, driving in stakes at the sides, about 12ft. Apart, and connecting them lengthwise with the cord. Cut off a piece of batten to the exact width of the pathway, for use as a gauge. Ignore questions of level for the present, and merely outline the path and its direction. If a winding path is desired, the stakes must be more numerous, so as to indicate fairly closely where the path is to curve.


This does not mean making it fiat, but denotes the determination of the slopes desired, the steps to be formed, and any drops in level that must be made. If the slope of the ground is an easy one, we may slope the path to correspond with the Keneral line of the ground. But drive in two levelling stakes, one at the top end of the sloping piece and the other at the bottom, or at the point where the path is to take a fresh direction, or to change its level. Assuming that the drop is about 1 ft. in 15ft. Drive in the top stake (No. 1) until its top is about 4 in. above the ground (a short stake will do here, provided it is firmly set). Drive in a second stake (No. 2) at the bottom, letting it stand up a foot higher from ground level than the first one, I.e. 1 ft. 4in. High.

At a point midway in the length of the slope, drive in a third stake; rest the straightedge on the top of stake No. 1 and also on the top of No. 3. Tap down No. 3 until a spirit level laid on top of the straightedge shows the bubble central: stakes 3 and 1 will then be at the same height. Now proceed from No. 3 to No. 2; rest the straight edge on both, and adjust No. 2 until its top is level with No. 3 (and of course with No. 1). By measuring the height of the respective stakes above the ground it can be seen what is the drop in level between the highest point and the lowest.

A gradient of 1 in 15 (which we have assumed) is an easy one, but for the purposes of appearance and interest, we may decide to construct the path here in two level portions, each one dropping six inches. Clear the grass, etc. around the stakes with a mattock or a hoe if the turf is not to be saved. If it is to be preserved, use a spade or a turfing tool. Leave the levelling stakes undisturbed. Alongside stake No. 3 (at the midway point in the length of the 15ft. Strip) drive in a peg approximately level with the surface after turfing. If the ground has sloped evenly, this will be six inches lower than the ground level at No. 1. Next outline the margins of the path with an edging tool or a sharpened spade. Dig out the soil, working upwards towards stake No. 1, where the depth should be ioin. Below the top of the stake. Drive in a peg alongside No. 1, until a straightedge on this peg and on another peg by stake No. 3 gives a level indication.

Repeat the operation between stakes 3 and 2, driving a peg alongside No. 2 and taking out the soil back to No. 3 until a second 6in. Step is formed. This is the basic method of dealing with a slope, or of first finding a level along or across a portion of a garden plot. When levelling an area for paving, work from a centre peg, and level out to the corners, if it is a rectangular space; by arranging the levelling pegs to stand up two inches or three inches above the ground level, the tops of the pegs will mark the upper surface of the gravel or paving as finished. But the projection must be uniform with all the pegs.

Constructing the Paths

On level sections, or portions where the slope is slight, we can proceed at once to take up turf and dig out the ground to a depth of 4 or 5 in. for a foundation. The path will have been outlined by stakes and twine, as described earlier. The foundation may be made of any available solid material: coarse clinker, with a layer of finer clinker on top; clay heavily impregnated with gravel, with clean gravel on top; broken brick with fine clinker or gravel above. For CRAZY PAVING, see under this heading, where also are general directions for paving. The nature of the foundation necessarily depends on that of the soil; less thickness is needed on good firm ground. Shovel in the coarse material, roll it and ram it, using the rammer in places where the roller will not go. Spread the stuff with a length of straight batten (do not use the straightedge made for levelling, or it will be ruined for its own job).

The piece of batten cut to the width of the path (mentioned earlier) can be used for spreading the material along the path, while the longer batten will serve to spread it from side to side. A depth of 2 in. (in a total of 4 in.) will be sufficient for the coarse or foundation layer. The next step is to fill in and spread the finer stuff. On a 41×1. Bed we have thus approximately 2 in. for the top layer. Here we have to consider the drainage of the path, and it ought to be cambered so that the middle is about an inch higher than the sides. So the fine clinker or gravel must be heaped more freely at the middle line, and graduated off at the sides. Much can be done by rolling to produce an even camber.

Strictly speaking, a wooden gauge should be cut from a piece of batten, conforming on its under edge with the desired camber, but the striking of the necessary are and the cutting of this gauge are difficult. As a compromise, make a half-width gauge. A rise of 1 in 36 is usually enough.

If some thin edging board can be fixed at the sides of the pathway a neater and better job will result. Even if the edging rots and breaks away, the path will by that time have become stabilized. For a permanent wooden . edging, use 4in. X lin. Board, fixed to stout stakes (1 ½ in. x 13/4 in.) driven in the ground outside the path Space the stakes not more than Gin. Apart; where two lengths of edging board meet, use stakes of 2 in. x iin. Section, so that there is room for firm nailing. A less strong edging will not give satisfaction.

A fine clinker or gravel top layer can be bonded by a mixture of three sand to one Portland cement, mixed to a thick fluid and poured on the path after it has been finally rolled. This fluid mixture is known as slurry. Brush it over with an old stiff broom. This will by no means give a proper cement surface, but will add to the firmness and appearance of the top. At the sides some sort of gutter can even be formed by treatment with a garden trowel, in combination with a bricklayer’s trowel, while the cement-impregnated layer is plastic. It may even be worth while to use a little more slurry here, to make a good job of the edges.


Although we have spoken of level portions of path, there ought always to be a slight slope or fall lengthwise, to cause water to run off, independently of any camber provided. Such a fall can be arranged when laying out and digging for the foundations.

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