It’s easier than you think to add beauty, uniqueness and a sense of permanence to your landscaping by installing a basic but beautiful dry garden walkway. Using a rope, garden hose, stakes and string, or spray paint to mark the position of your pathway, follow high-traffic areas as a guide. A width of two feet will accommodate one person walking. A three-foot-wide path is broad enough for a person with a wheelbarrow or wagon to use.
Depending on the thickness of the stone you will be using, dig out the soil at 6 or 7 inches deep within your outline to keep large stones, tree roots and freezing/thawing water from disturbing the finished path. Maintain a slight slope away from houses and garages to keep moisture from collecting between the path and structural foundations. Remember to contact your local utilities before you dig to avoid hitting any lines or cables.
Fill the area with 3 to 4 inches of crushed stone, maintaining a uniformly level layer. Walk over the area several times to pack the stone. If the path is on a slope, move from the low ground to the high ground. A rented plate compacter can save time over larger areas, or a you can purchase a hand tamp to compress more completely on smaller jobs. Packing the base well eliminates stone shifting.
If you do not want weeds cropping up between the pathway stones or you do not plan to add decorative plants such as thyme or chamomile in the joints, you may opt to lay down a weed control filter fabric over the crushed stone. If you plan on adding edging to the perimeter of the path, leave extra weed control fabric outside the path’s outline for the edging to hold in place. Put down an inch of stone dust or sand, keeping it level and slightly sloped away from buildings.
Saturate the area with water and allow the water to drain completely overnight. This will remove air pockets from the base and encourage full compaction. Lightly pack the base once more.
Depending on the type of stone you are using, you may want to use a mason’s hammer and chisel to trim the stones in the path to get the best fit. Lay a few feet of the path by placing the stones on the stone dust or sand gently, using larger whole pieces near the outside of the path and smaller or cut pieces for the inside. Keep the stones level with ½” joints, plus or minus 1/8″. When you have achieved the look you desire, use a rubber mallet to set and level the stones.
When you have finished laying the entire path, fill the joints between stones by sweeping the sand or stone dust into the spaces and watering the whole walkway gently. Settling in the first year after installation may require a few repeated joint-filling and watering.