Planting a pretty garden pathway

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Attractive garden paths can be made of flagstone, concrete, or brick. Choosing which one to use depends largely on the nature of the house and garden. After all, the material must fit in with the surroundings.

Stone slabs of irregular shape but uniform thickness are used to lay a flagstone path. Such material can be bought from lumber and stone yards. The usual thickness is 2 inches.

First, set out the paths, if they do not already exist. Cut a few boards as a guide. They should be the exact width of the path to be prepared. Drive several stakes into the ground at each side of the proposed pathway, spacing them about 6 inches apart.

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Indicate the turn line of the path by two strings stretched between end stakes at each side of the site.

Dig out the turn and put the earth aside for use elsewhere in the garden. Dig to an even depth of 6 inches along the pathway, leaving the sides vertical. As a temporary guide, tack thin, narrow boards (one-half inch thick by 4 to 6 inches wide).

You will need cinders or crushed stone for the foundation of the path and similar material of a finer grade for the top layer of the foundation.

Fill in the path with a layer of foundation material about 2 inches deep. roll it with a garden roller a few times to make it firm, or tamp it solid with a tamper.

Follow with a thinner layer of finer-grade material and roll that as well. Drainage will be improved is the surface is given a slight camber, i.e., higher at the middle than at the sides. Mark a board with a pencil to a suitable curve and cut out with a saw.

When laying the fine stuff, stroke it lengthwise with the cambered board to shape the surface before rolling.

Spread a bed of sand about a yard long at one end of the site. Try one or two pieces of paving on it to judge the depth of sand to be added; then proceed with the rest.

Dump the sand at suitable positions beside the pathway. Also, sort out the stones roughly and pile them at convenient intervals along the edge of the pathway.

A lot of time can be lost unless this part of the job is systematized.

It is best to begin laying the stone at the margins and work toward the center line of the path. Fill in the path with large pieces of stone as much as possible, particularly when laying in the sand. If a large piece of stone has to be cut or broken, use a sledgehammer and a cold chisel. Strike along a determined line on top of the slab; then turn the stone over and work from the other side.

Another method is to lay the paving in mortar. A mixture of 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, and 4 parts gravel is suitable for the mortar. After digging out the pathway, add the two layers of fill described above. Roll and tamp the top layer after giving it the proper camber. Mix a quantity of cement and sprinkle the pathway with water at the place where you begin working.

Lay a thin bed of mortar and proceed with the setting of the stone.

A distance of one-half inch between the edges of the slabs is usual, but the joints may be left a little wider. When you stop work for the day, leave the slabs irregular at the finishing point. If the joints are to be filled with concrete, this can be done with a bricklayer's trowel as the stones are laid.

Assuming the joints are to be pointed, perhaps in a colored or white cement, rake out the joints an hour or two after laying, and do not use the path for a day. The next day, fill the joints with pointing material and level off flush.

A sledgehammer can be used to level the stones and bed them into the sand or cement immediately after laying. Often, a light blow with the end of the handle will suffice.

After laying, the stones must not rock. If they do, lift the stone and remove a little of the bedding material; or add a little, if required.

When the paving has been laid on sand, sweep over the section of work completed with a stiff broom so as to fill the cracks with surplus sand, but do not brush too heavily. Similarly, after laying paving in mortar and filling the joints with ordinary mortar, brush with an old broom, sprinkling a little water from a can, if necessary, to grout the slabs.

Mortar should be filled in at the sides of the pathway and packed down well with the edge of the trowel. Later, the boards can be removed, if desired.

After removing the boards and stakes, f ill the remaining holes with soil.

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