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Garden paths and walkways add a lot to the look of your yard. Whether you want to make a gravel path leading to your front door or a walk way through your backyard garden, paths are awesome additions to your yard. Here’s how to make a gravel pathway.
Here’s the “before” picture of our yard. See that flower bed leading down to our barn?
I created a perennial flower bed and filled it with irises, Jacob’s Ladder, sedums other perennials. We also planted a couple of apple trees there. Here’s how to plant fruit trees, if you want to add one to your yard.
After that part of our DIY backyard project, we decided to add a gravel path that would take us down to the barn.
A path here would work to tie in all the landscaping elements of the Greenhouse, perennial flower beds and our main vegetable garden.
How to Make a Gravel Path
Prepare the Ground for Gravel
Don’t let this photo scare you! You do NOT need a machine this big.
Heck you don’t even need a machine, you can do it by hand with a shovel or spade. Chances are your walkway won’t be as long and wide as ours.
Graham has an excavator, so he uses it a lot here for doing all kinds of work. He used it on this path way to dig out the grass. He went down to a depth of about 10 inches. Use a tape measure to give yourself a general idea of the depth.
You can likely get away with removing the sod and soil under the sod to a depth of 6 inches. We went over board because we wanted to make sure the couch grass was totally destroyed on this path.
Be sure to keep a wheelbarrow handy to collect anything you excavate so you can move it elsewhere.
After the sod has been dug out, you should level the ground as much as you possibly can. Even out any humps and dips using a rake.
Add soil to the low spots if needed. Taking your time on this step will pay off in the end. A flat and level path way is what you want! You can even use some sand as a setting bed if you need to even out the area.
Edging the Garden Pathway
You will want something to edge your walk way with. If you don’t edge it, chances are the gravel will eventually spill over onto the lawn or into your flower beds. When possible, try to avoid steep slopes.
We used plastic edging, but you could use concrete pavers or wood boards cut to length and gently hammer them in. A garden hose is also a good option for planning out pathways, or you could use some spray paint. You’ll want line-marking paint specifically.
Landscape Fabric Cloth for Under the Gravel Path
Because we want this pathway to stay as weed free as possible, we first laid down landscape cloth in the bottom of the trench. This cloth helps stop weeds from growing up through the base layer.
We actually used two layers of this cloth because we have such a problem here with couchgrass. It is notorious for spreading and I can’t stand the stuff. I would spend a LOT less time weeding if proper lawn seed had been sown here when our house was built.
If you want to literally save hours, I totally recommend using the landscape cloth. You can easily cut the tarp to fit any curves.
What Kind of Gravel to Use for the Walkway?
There are a number of other options, and it’s up to you to decide what will be best. Smaller pieces of gravel like pea gravel and river pebbles are typically more comfortable to walk on and can be packed tightly, but also may be more likely to shift under weight or weather.
Other common choices are decomposed granite or crushed stone/brick.
We used what is called 1/2 inch clear crush for our walk way. At the gravel pit, rocks bounce along a screen. In this case a 1/2 inch screen. Larger rocks get carried along and deposited elsewhere.
Any rock under 1/2 inch falls through the holes in the screen. This is basically how gravel pits separate the rock sizes.
Just to give you a better idea as to the size of the gravel we used. This size is called 1/2 inch clear crush.
This means the rocks are under 1/2 inch in size. You can also get 3/4 inch clear crush.
The best thing would be for you to visit the gravel pit and look at the various sizes. They will have them separated in bins and labelled so you can tell which is which.
You can see the size of the path way project in this photo. We not only made the walking path down to the barn, but decided also to branch off and add a gravel path to the Greenhouse we built (for under $200!).
After laying the landscape cloth down, we installed the path edging, then started adding the gravel crush to the path. Add enough gravel so that it comes to about half an inch shy of the top of the edging.
It can be helpful to spray the gravel with water to help with compaction. You’ll want it compact enough that it’s a walkable path, but the benefit of gravel is it provides natural drainage, so don’t worry too much about really packing it down.
Our Finished Garden Path Project
Doesn’t this walk way look better now? Especially with all the perennials blooming in the flower bed!
Another photo of the completed gravel walk way. All these years later, this garden path has stood up very well.
The odd weed now gets through those two layers of cloth, but they are much easier to pull because they are so weak.
We are still delighted with this DIY backyard project!
Add value to your home and beauty to your backyard or front yard entry way and make a gravel path.
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Originally published 2019; latest update July, 2022