It's been while but I'm still here, still gardening, still doing projects, still loving it.
So why have I been away?
Well, I had baby number eight (as many of you know) and felt the need to step away from posting for a bit and soak up all that new baby goodness and do a lot of resting.
During most of my pregnancy I had insomnia. As soon as I had the baby I could sleep again. Like that very night (baby was a good night time sleeper from the get go - blessings!) I let myself sleep in and go to bed early as much as I wanted, er everyday. I don't think I have had so much sleep since before my teenage years. However, even with all the sleep for some time I still felt exhausted. So I continued to let myself sleep in and gave myself plenty of grace. It was wonderful! Thank you Father! Thank you family!
Now that harvest season is over and all the produce has been processed and put up I am feeling much more normal, but back to gardening.
I continued to document many of the projects we worked on over the summer so now I can share them with you and get you up to date on what we have been doing and what some of our future plans are.
That being said, the terraced pollinator garden is a perfect place to start. Over the summer I finished the paths between the terraces. Next summer I plan on tackling the stairs and "stuccoing" the retaining rocks.
The method I used for the garden path is super easy and does not take long.
Easy Weed Free Inexpensive Garden Path
What You'll Need:
I payed $30 for 30 paver stones and I believe the mortar was under $10 a bag. I used 2 bags. I already had the edging so the total for this project was under $50.
Step 1- level the path, set the stepping stones
It is very important that you make a level path. You do not want your steps to be able to rock or wobble at all or they will continue to move after you set the mortar and will then cause cracks. That's yuck. Not only will it look bad but it will also allow weeds to eventually sprout up in your path. Not what we want so put in the effort and make your self a nice and smooth, level garden path. Think about drainage and consider if you need to have any angles in your path to allow water to drain away.
Traditionally one would set paving stones in a bed of sand. This allows for the stone to be securely bedded without any air space between the stone and the ground which is what causes wobbling and eventual cracking.
I did not do this. Big gasp!
So here is the truth, I have set many stones and steps here on this property where we have prominently clay soil. I have had great success with this and have not had any issues with wobbling. So I took the risk and set them without sand. This is a choice you will have to make taking into consideration your particular conditions. If at all in doubt, please use sand.
Step 2- Install edging
This can be permanent edging or something that you remove as soon as the mortar is set. I had some flower bed edging that I had bought years ago then never ended up using it. I put it in along my path thinking I was going to take it out once it served its purpose of holding the mortar in place. Then I decided I liked the finished look it created so it stayed.
I have seen it done where the edging is placed right along the edge of the pavers. No space between the pavers and the edging. It was only used to hold the mortar in place until it is set then removed.
This also looks nice and allows you to utilize whatever material you can salvage to keep the mortar in place. Think about the materials you have access to and what look you would prefer.
Now that you have chosen you material run it along your path. Make sure you keep it parallel. If you aim to keep it permanent make sure that it is also level with your path or a uniform height above you path as much as possible. Mine isn't perfect but there aren't any major difference so it still looks nice.
I did not get a picture of this process but you can see how it looks installed in the above pictures and the edging that I used.
Step 3- Fill in space between step stones
OK, there is a little step before this, sweep any dirt off of the stones and make sure the gaps between the stones are clear of debris. That's it back to the real step 3.
Now you can fill the gaps in with the cement mortar. Use a paint brush or small hand broom to sweep the mortar into all the gaps. Inevitably you will use your hands too. So you may want to wear gloves. I did not. My hands were never bothered but something to think about.
It is important to really work the mortar in and make sure that the space is fully filled with mortar and not getting caught up anywhere. Fill in the space, pack it in with the bristles of the paintbrush, and pack it in some more. Then go back and check again. Good!
You can see that on one side of my path is lined with rocks acting as retainment for each terrace. These will eventually be covered with cement stucco. They were used to retain the different levels of our terrace garden knowing that it would start falling apart because they are scoria which starts falling apart after time. We like to use what we have as much as possible because that is better for the environment and I like the challenge and creative aspect of making out resources work. I knew I had to have something to give shape to the edging if I used stucco so the scoria worked great for that.
But back to the mortar. The rocks have space between them. I did the same packing in-between the rocks as I did in-between the steps. I am really happy with how it turned out.
Try and get as much of the loose mortar off your steps as possible but don't worry about getting too carried away. It will be taken care of in the next step.
Step 4 - Spray down the mortar
This part is so much fun because it just cleans up everything so quickly. And it is so easy. Are you ready for it? Simply spray down the path and mortar. You want to get all of the mortar wet. Do not miss any nook or cranny. The water will seep down into the mortar and wash any loose mortar of the steps.
Stay off the path until the mortar has set.
Doesn't it look nice! I really love the contrast with the rock edging but they will have to get the stucco cement treatment or they will crumble into a mess and can no longer serve their purpose. I will keep the organic shapes of the rocks and I might build a couple of little surprises into them as I go but you will have to wait and see until that time comes.
Here is how the paths looked several months after they were finished. You can see that the rocks have continued to crumbled but the paths are holding up well. One thing that I will miss about the rocks is how the plants are able to grow between the cracks. I really do like the natural look of the plants creeping.
After I installed the paths is really trimmed back all the plants. They looked very bare but it was needed. I also added some Hollyhocks in the back corner of the top terrace as well as an iris. Earlier in the spring I added some lillies. I plan to add more perennial pollinator favorites to tame down this portion of the garden just a bit. It had looked just too wild and messy for me but the paths helped a lot so I don't think I'm going to need to do as much as I originally had thought.
You can see that the steps of the terrace garden are a MESS! I played around with using the paver stones in the steps the same way I did between the terrace beds but it didn't work. They are all different sizes and shapes so the pavers didn't fill the space well. Next summer I will be redoing these steps with cement.
I'm not sure if I'm going to use the red bricks with the cement or get rid of them (at least for this project) all together. What do you think? I am leaning towards no bricks but like I said I'm not sure.
What Did I think of the Process?
Overall I really like this technique. It was simple, easy to implement, and didn't take long to accomplish. It didn't cost much more than some elbow grease which I was happy to use. Garden work has always been one of my favorite ways to to loose my baby weight and stay fit in general.
I am very satisfied with how everything looked when it was finished. It cleaned this area up so dramatically and saved me countless hours of weeding. Those paths previously would fill in with weeds and self seeding flowers. Having a clear break between each terrace gave the beds definition and some order.
I am so pleased with the outcome that I have tried to think where else I can use this method. I'm sure I will use it again in the future.
So what do you think? Is this a method you would use to make a garden path? Do you have any other ideas for easy, weed free garden paths?
So happy to be hanging out with you here again! See you soon!
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Hello, I'm Jaci. I love wandering around in my gardens admiring God's creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming and homestead adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!