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How to Create a Stone Walkway for your Garden

A meandering stone walkway through your garden lends a cozy, romantic feel. It also entices your guests to amble throughout your beautiful plantings! What a great way to show off your handiwork. Installing a stone walkway yourself can save hundreds or even thousands over having it installed professionally. Not only will you save on labor, but also on materials.

The very first step is determining the location and design of your walkway. You can have fun with this process by using flour to outline your proposed design on the ground; it can be “erased” easily if you want to start all over! Be sure your walkway is wide enough; it should be at least three feet wide to accommodate one person, or four feet wide to accommodate two. A straight walkway lends a more formal feel; however, since stone is a natural material, a meandering path might better suit its mood.

Now you need to decide what type of stone you’re going to use. Of course, the stones should be relatively large and flat. The question is, are you going to use stone purchased from a landscape retailer, such as flagstone or silver mica? Such quarried stone costs approximately $1 to $3 per square foot. Or are you going to use field stone that you’ve harvested from your or a friend’s property? If you harvest your own stone, make sure you have enough, and make sure that they’re flat enough to walk on so as to prevent a trip hazard.

Now you need to dig a foundation that’s about eight to 10 inches deep for your stone walkway. You can then install a frame, though that’s optional. You can use treated two-by-sixes, brick, concrete curb or synthetic bender board, whichever you prefer. If you choose wood or synthetic bender board, you can anchor it with stakes.

Add pea gravel or crushed rock that’s up to three-eighths inch throughout the entire foundation; it should be four to six inches deep. This will prevent shifting and aid proper drainage. If you have expansive sandy soil, make it a little deeper; likewise, if you have stable clay soil, you can use a little less. Level the rock with a steel rake, then compact first with a tamp, then by spraying it with water.

Put a layer of landscape fabric atop the rock. Now add about two inches of sand atop the fabric. The fabric will allow water drainage, but will prevent the sand from eroding down into the rock. This prevents the walkway stones from settling. Level the sand using the edge of a two-by-four. Then compact it with a tamp, then by gently misting it with water. You want the distance between the top of the sand and the top edge of the foundation to be just slightly less thick than the average thickness of your walkway stones.

Now for the fun part! It’s time to place the stones in the walkway. You can play with the arrangement, moving the stones about to achieve the most optimum and attractive fit. The smoothest side of the stone should be face up. The gaps between your stones should be fairly consistent. If necessary, use a mason’s hammer to break the stones to achieve the best fit. Remember to wear safety goggles! If your stones are thicker, it may require scoring them with a masonry blade on a circular saw.

When you’ve decided where each stone will be placed, add or remove sand as necessary to level each stone. Pound each stone with a rubber mallet to firmly embed it into the sand. ) You can use a level to make sure that the path is even; but remember, there will be small fluctuations given stone’s natural properties. As they say about handmade items in catalogs, “Please allow for individual variations!”

After all the stones are in place, fill any gaps with sand. Then sweep excess sand from the stones. Mist the walkway with water, which will clean the stones and further compact the sand.

Now stand back and admire your beautiful new stone walkway! To maintain your walkway, you should fill in any gaps with sand about once a year. These gaps are the natural result of ordinary wind and rain erosion. Alternatively, you can introduce tiny mosses or groundcovers, which will prevent erosion and add even more earthy beauty to your attractive natural stone walkway.

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