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Nectarine tree laden with fruit in the middle of a flower border
Nectarine tree in
a flower border

- summer

You've successfully dug up and cleared your land.

At the same time, you laid out the contours of your garden paths while trudging backwards and forwards to the compost heap area with rocks, stones and plants.

Based on our experience, we split garden path construction in two parts - layout and preparation, and final construction.

Stage 1: Layout

Most of the path network you sketched in your cottage garden layout plan should be clearly visible as you've already "walked in each path" while clearing your property.

If your soil is waterlogged, you'll see it clearly now - no doubt you probably got very muddy while preparing the soil. This problem has to be solved, no matter what the type of garden you want to create and it needs to be done before you build your garden paths.

Use your layout plan before you start to trample down paths that haven't been "walked in" during the preparation phase. You can dig them out later without having to continuously refer back to your garden plan.

Stage 2: Preparation

  1. Use your spade to cut a trench and remove the earth. The depth and width of the trench depends on the type and purpose of the path. The:
    1. Driveway for a motor car requires a:
      • Depth of roughly 40 centimeters - 1 foot 3 inches - for large paving flags and 30 centimeters - 12 inches - for small paving flags (not to be used under the car wheels!);
      • Width of 1.2 meters - 4 feet in the centre for the vehicle;
      • Plus a further 60 centimeters - 2 feet on either side of the car to enable passengers to get out comfortably - more or less.
      A total width of 2.4 meters - 8 feet - is the minimum requirement for the driveway. That's what we have, though the butterfly bushes give me a shower during and after rainfall when I get in or out of our old car.
    2. If the main entrance to your property from the street is separate from the driveway for your car, you require a path with a:
      • Width of about 1.5 meters - 4½ feet to allow three people or
      • Roughly 1 meter - 3 feet wide to allow two people to walk next to each other;
      • Depth of 30 centimeters - 12 inches (for small paving flags).
    3. Main paths between stone paved areas and/or flower borders within the garden need to be:
      • Around 40 centimeters - 1 foot 3 inches - deep;
      • Approximately 50/60 centimeters - 1¾/2 feet wide.
  2. Just throw the soil you remove over the ground that borders the path you're working on for the time being.
  3. Do the same for every path you've flattened during the preparation phase. If a path in your design plan hasn't been "walked in", add it to the path network in the same way as the other paths.
  4. That's all you need to do for the moment. You now have a network of rough and ready pathways which are:
    • Usable as you add the features you require to your garden;
    • Accessible for your wheel barrow (very important!) as you work;
    • Protection for the ground you've just finished digging up - you won't trample it down.

So What's Next?

You'll work up a sweat, I'll watch and advise - OK?

Time to fill all the trenches you've dug - follow the link to cottage garden path construction to complete the job.

When you've finished building your garden paths, you can add the items on your cottage garden wish list to your layout. - a Gardener's Practical Guide to Natural Cottage Gardening

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