Now that spring has finally arrived, it's the perfect time to plan and create your own path, so here are our top tips for a professional-looking DIY job.
Choose your material
Which material you use to create your path will depend on personal preference and the style of the garden itself. For a cottage garden, irregularly-sized slabs or old bricks laid on edge, will instantly give that traditional look, but finishing the jigsaw and laying the stone, which often arrives in a range of thicknesses, can take a little extra time and effort.
Reconstituted stone, made from gravel and cement, can also look very natural if you go for the best, are non-slip, and generally thinner making it easier to lay.
If your garden is sleek, chic contemporary style, sawn edge slabs will complement the crisp lines, and can be easily laid in a grid, while gravel is a quick and easy way to create a path, though angular gravel is the best choice if you are to avoid unwanted spreading.
Once you've decided where you want your path to lay, you can mark it with wooden pegs and string. Simply knock in the pegs, and tie the string along them to provide a guide to the outside edge and height of your path. For gravel paths, you may find it helpful to fix treated timber edging boards at the start of the process, knocked into the ground and secured to the wooden pegs. This creates a useful border to prevent spreading.
You can then dig down to allow the laying of hardcore or sand, plus your paving slabs. A sand bed will require a depth of two inches, plus the depth of your paving block, while if you are to lay hardcore you may need to dig as deep as 12 inches.
A grid of wooden pegs can then be driven so that the tops are level - this will be the eventual height of your path so be sure to use a spirit level at this point. Hardcore or rubble can then be tipped into the trench so that there are three-inches of space remaining above. Scalpings, available from builder's merchants, can be added to fill all the little gaps and bring the base layer level with the tops of the pegs. Use a tamp to compact and flatten the surface.
Laying the path
If you are laying slabs, a sand and cement mix will ensure they are secured in place. It's cheap and easy to come by, and can easily be knocked up in a wheelbarrow without the need for a mixer. If is important to make your first slab level with an existing edge, such as the back of the house or the patio area, so that you won't create a potential tripping hazard.
Add blobs of cement at the corner and centre of where each slab will lie, place the slab on top, then use a rubber mallet to gently knock the slab down to be level with the surrounding slabs. It is essential to invest in a spirit level for this purpose. Spread kiln-dried sand over the path and brush over the blocks to fill gaps and joints.
Once your path is finished, remember to leave it for at least 24 hours before you enjoy the fruits of your labour, to allow the cement to go off and the slabs to settle. And if you have chosen a gravel path, you may find that you need to add more after a few weeks when the path has settled.
It might take a little time and effort, but with care and attention, your path should stand the test of time.