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Paths are a permanent garden feature that can be made with a variety of materials, but to be they need to be at least 60cm wide. Paths can be made using slabs, block paving, tarmac or gravel (the most simple solution). Gravel paths are simple to build, look good and are fairly easy to maintain, usually just needing a good rake every now and then. Paving slabs are inexpensive too and are both practical and durable, they are also available in many different colours and textures, so can be laid in funky patterns. Pavers are smaller and lighter versions of traditional paving slabs, even easier to lay and great for small paths in compact gardens. Bricks can also be used for garden paths and laid in a variety of patterns much like block paving. However, be sure to purchase actual paving bricks which are designed for walking on, standard wall bricks will start to break up after a while. The choice of materials depends on the purpose of the path and the look required. There are a number of options but if the path is going to be used daily then you need to use a sturdy material, whereas with an ornamental path this is not so important.
Gravel paths are by far the most popular type, no doubt due to the cost and easy construction. There is a huge variety of stone chipping's available in terms of colour, size and shape - but avoid really small stones as they will get picked up by shoes easily and then distributed throughout your house!
Whatever material you choose for your path, you will need a good foundation, so that water doesn't under the surface and cause frost damage. Paths also need good drainage and should be laid with a fall which slopes away from any adjacent walls, a drop of 25mm every 2m is a common gradient and works well. Curved paths are attractive features but are a bit more difficult to build, try using something flexible, such as a garden hose, to layout the shapes of the curves to make things easier. It is this excavation required for good foundations that will put many people off the idea of building a path as a DIY project. Digging a foundation out is a simple process, but can be tough on the back and is quite time consuming.
But if you are determined to lay a gravel path yourself, then begin by determining the layout required then excavate to a depth of at least 4 inches. Then use treated wood boards as edging checking that both sides of the path are level. Next put down a weed proof membrane overlapping the seams in the fabric by at least 4 inches and add the crushed stone base and distribute it as evenly as possible about 2 inches deep. Rake the crushed stone level then compact it and finally pour the gravel into the path area and rake it level. Note that once the path has settled you may need to add more gravel. If this sounds like a lot of hard work, then contact local landscape gardeners for quotes!
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