The Pros and Cons Of Various Path Materials In The Garden

A welcoming garden is one that allows you to walk through it in comfort. Autumn is a good time of year to add new paths or to upgrade or repair old ones. There are benefits and down sides to a range of different path materials. Here are a few suggestions to help you make up your mind which sort of path would be best for you:

Gravel PathGravel:

Gravel is one of the cheapest ways to make a durable path with good drainage. Small, angular stones will hold together more effectively and be easier to walk on than more rounded pebbles. Gravel materials can also be made from recycled materials for a more sustainable and eco friendly alternative, though could be pricey over a larger area. Gravel, however, has a tendency to migrate from paths onto your beds and borders – not necessarily a problem but certainly something to consider. The main problem with gravel is that unless you place a good weed-membrane beneath it, weeds will easily grow through.

Slab PathSlabs:

Slabs will make an extremely durable path and can be picked up easily. Stone slabs are more expensive than concrete ones, but are definitely better for the environment. Eco slabs can also be purchased but, again, these are more expensive than simple concrete ones. Stone will definitely look better than the cheapest slabs. Slab paths will take some preparation, as you will have to level the ground to a degree and ideally, lay them on gravel for drainage and to make sure they do not wobble. Weeds can grow between cracks and be difficult to remove but a stone slab path will last longer than other sorts of path if well maintained.

Garden Path - wood chipWood Chip:

Wood chip is another relatively inexpensive material for a path, though you should factor in that you will have to regularly renew the path as it is scattered and rots down. Wood chip paths could be a great idea through growing areas, as the wood chip will also eventually add to the fertility of the soil as it breaks down. For low footfall areas, wood chip is a great solution for a path, though it may degrade a little too quickly in busier parts of the garden.

Stepping Stone PathStepping Stones:

Perhaps a good compromise between cost, quality and durability is to create a woodchip/ mulch path that is strengthened by the addition of stepping stones that those using the path can walk on. You can refresh the mulch as and when needed but will have to do so less frequently and the path will be more durable than a path made of woodchip alone. You will however, save money on the stones by placing them at greater intervals. You could also fill the gaps between stones with low growing ground-cover plants, which will keep down unwanted weeds and personalise your path.