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When you want a garden path that's neat, easy to install, low cost.

When you want a garden path that's neat, easy to install, low cost

Roofing felt may seem an unlikely material for a garden path, but A.H. MacAndrews of Boulder, Colorado, finds it a simple, inexpensive way to keep his feet clean and paths weed-free--as you see on the opposite page. His approach is one of five surfaces pictured here that keep mud, dust, and weeds in check. Sometimes with the imaginative use of edging, they help give gardens a distinctive appearance: casual, formal, rustic, or artistic. The step-by-step series on page 196 shows how to firm up a decomposed granite path. Whatever effect you wish, pick a material that will endure the traffic it will get. For other options, check garden supply stores for local stone, gravel, or wood products.

What material meets your needs?

Fieldstone laid on a base of sand creates a sturdy walkeway that drains quickly when wet. For the patchwork path shown at left above, Mary de Fremery gathered the stones from her property in Bend, Oregon, choosing ones with a flat side to ensure a smooth surface.

She covered the soil with black plastic for weed control, then added a 2-inch layer of sand to provide a firm base. Sand swept into the craks holds the stones in place. A ton of fieldstone costs about $90 to $150; coverage varies widely, depending on how think the stones are.

Wood and ground cover combinations frequently work best on routes that get only light foot and equipment traffic.

For the parquet-look walkway shown on the opposite page, Mrs. Walter Potchad of Danville, California, used 16-inch-long 4-by-4s and baby's tears. She set the scrap 4-by-4s, purchased as firewood at a hardware store, on packed soil in rows of three, alternating directions to create the parquet effect. To steady the 4-by-4s, she filled spaces between them halfway with native soil. Topping this with potting soil, she then planted baby's tears.

In sunny areas, substitute woolly thyme (Thymus pseudolanuginosus) or creeping mint (Mentha requienii) for baby's tears. If you can't find wood scraps, buy rough-cut heartwood cedar or redwood 4-by-4s (35 to 65 cents per foot).

Roofing felt, lining the path shown in the photograph above, requires little bed preparation--just a fairly level surface. To keep the asphalt-impregnated felt in place and contain planting soil for his dahlias, Mr. MacAndrews laid 2-by-4s along the strips. Besides keeping paths dry and weed-free, the felt also conserves soil moisture around the plants. It stands up well under moderate traffic but may deteriorate faster with heavy use. In Boulder, the felt lasts two to four years; it costs about $14 for a 200-square-foot roll.

Shredded wood should be confined on all sides and, if traveled by a wheelbarrow or heavy equipment, laid over packed soil. Shredded wood can be inexpensive-- sometimes free--but it breaks down and needs to be reapplied. If using fresh wood, which compacts more than aged wood, apply it 4 to 6 inches deep; 2 to 4 inches of aged wood are adequate.

A cubic yard of wood costs about $25; laid 2 inches deep, in covers about 150 square feet. Or you may be able to get free shredded wood from a pruning company. Delores Swatik of Boulder got the wood for her informal, railroad tie lined path (shown in the upper left photograph) from the telephone company.

Decomposed granite can have a formal appearance, as in Ellen Marchand's Denver garden (lower left picture), where metal edging defines the path.

A ton of decomposed granite costs about $24 and, spread 2 inches deep, covers about 100 square feet.

To make granite more solid and help keep it in place, even on slopes, you can apply a nontoxic, organic binder. The path becomes firm but remains flexible and permeable to water. The granite should be 3/4 inch in diameter or less and include the sandy particles called fines. (The binder won't adhere to round surfaces, like pea gravel's.) To remove the path, just soak the granite and dig it up. Order from Stabilizer, 1522 N. 35th St., Phoenix 85008; (602) 273-6244. It costs $3 per pound, enough to cover 15 square feet; minimum order is 20 pounds.

Photo: Patchwork of fieldstone set in sand provides a solid surface between raised beds made of rough-cut logs. Stones were gathered on property, set flat side up

Photo: Alternating squares of 16-inch-long 4-by-4s softened by baby's tears create parquetlook path for route with light traffic

Photo: Roofing felt (30-pound weight) anchored by 2-by-4s keeps feet clean and controls weeds between rows of specimen dahlias

Photo: Casual-looking shredded wood path complements informal raised vegetable beds made of pressure-treated railroad ties

Photo: Metal-edged path of decomposed granite lends formality to the herb garden while keeping walkway free of mud and dust

Photo: 1. Broadcast stabilizer binder over a 2- to 3-inch layer of decomposed granite. Apply uniformly by hand

Photo: 2. Rake power into entire layer of granite to distribute evenly, then level the surface

Photo: 3. Soak path until puddles form, let drain, then soak again. Wait for puddles to disappear

Photo: 4. Roll with water-filled barrel-type roller. For a borderless path, roll crosswise first to firm edges
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Sep 1, 1986
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