April 11

Building out the mulch pathway

Yesterday In the garden, specifically my back garden, I worked on the pathway. I'm making a pathway that's wood chip mulch. I started doing it earlier in the year and I wasn't sure how I liked it. So I waited probably more than a month to see what I thought about it.

Believe it or not, this idea has a lot of it has to do with the amount of wasps that are around my area. There's a ton of wasps. So, I thought it was best that I put in a pathway basically along the whole border of the back garden because this is where the wasps seems to hand out and with them being there, I do not want to spend much time in that areas weeding.

This is one wasp trap in my garden that has been up for just 1 day...in early April.

I left a little bit of a flower bed in the far back that I can plant some tall things like some climbing roses or some sunflowers, or if I choose to in the future, maybe some dwarf fruit trees or something along those lines. So I started working on the back part of this border pathway for the past couple of days.

What I decided to do first was to to rake out the mulch bed that was already against the back fence. I'm obsessive about levels of different areas in a garden - how high or low that particular section is. The back border was almost a burm. It was a hill and it had mulch on it. Last year I planted pelargoniums in it, digging down into the mulch to do so. I wasn't going to do that again. But, that back mulched bed wasn't growing many weeds because I put newspaper down before I put the mulch down. So that actually turned out to be a pretty successful test because there were very few weeds. One or two here and and there and it was always that they would sneak in around where there was no newspaper or the newspaper had the decomposed and no mulch was in that spot. So, anyway, what I had to do first was rake all that mulch off. Then I had to lower that mound and I started doing that with a spade. 

Now when I started to shovel that out, it really was backbreaking work and I decided I had no interest in doing that around the entire border of the back garden. So, administering a personal development lesson, I decided to go with "it's good enough" to make it as flat and level as I can. So that became the goal. Just try to make everything in the back area there as level as possible. I wasn't going to spend all that time and energy digging down to lower the grade of what would become the path area. That would have taken days and I think I'm already behind in my garden for this coming season. So I just wanted everything level.

In doing some research of garden spaces I admire, I looked and noticed that when you have a pathway next to a planting bed, basically they're on the same level. Now most pathways in well known gardens are cement or gravel, but if it's next to a planting bed most of the time they're on the same level just separated by some type of a border. Whether the border is metal or stone, whatever it may be, they're on the same level. Unlike grass. The grass section is, in most cases, at a higher up level than the pathway. So since my wood chips pathway is going to be next to a planting bed - either flowers or vegetables, probably flowers in this area because of where it's located, I decided it's fine just to keep everything level and have a distinct border separating the two. 

Shoveling and digging the part of the pathway to level off things was going a little slow so I usedsome mechanical help to loosen that soil up. I got my tiller out and started digging in with that. I think of the tiller as basically a mechanical shovel. It's blades cutting into the ground is much faster than shovel. I didn't go that deep, a few inches perhaps, just to get out some of those roots and and loosen that soil so I can rake it out level.

When I had everything for the most part level the way that I wanted it to I then started placing the border by using plastic edging. The hardest thing about plastic edging is to get it very straight. You can get it close to straight by putting in spikes at every hole (not one spike every two feet or so like is recommended) and pulling tightly as you go, But, since this was in the back of my garden most people weren't going to see it, I didn't care that it wasn't going to be perfectly straight. Again, I was happy with good enough. See, I'm really trying :). I put the plastic border in twice because the first time I had a lapse of judgement about where I installed it, so I ripped it all out and re-did it. 

Now I had it all in and it was a little wibbly wobbly, but I was fine with that. Now the problem was that it's about an inch and a half or two inches high. It's not a very tall edge. And I was thinking it's going to have a hard keeping in a thick layer of mulch. The wood chips may just spill over, which defeats the purpose of the edge to begin with. Since this is in the back part of the garden I said to myself "why don't I use wood as a border? Especially since I already had wood as a border on the side of my garden that I was planning on removing shortly to expand that area." So I pulled up two pieces of simple 2 x 4's that are sealed with wood sealer. They had been in place for a year and weren't degraded at all because they've been sealed. So of course, I ripped the plastic edging out again which I was fine with because I really wanted to save that edging for my lawn where it butts up against concrete all around my back and front garden. I dug a little ditch with my spade, placed the three 2x4s and the combined 24ft came out to exactly the length I needed.

 I'm holding them in with garden staples. I don't put the staple around the wood because the 2x4 is a little too wide for that so I put one staple against the wood on one side and one on the other side so they kind of act as one staple would without the top part of the staple going across the wood. I put them both as snug as I can against the wooden beam. I put maybe three pairs along each 2x4. Over time everything should settle in the dirt and will become pretty solid. That's what happened to the wood beams on the side of my garden where I removed these from. I didn't just pull them out easily I had a really work to go get them out. I line up the three 8 foot beams as even as I can. One of them that was on too much of a slope and I didn't like it so I picked it back up put some extra dirt in there level it up better so it's it was straighter and more aligned to the other two and now I have three 2x4s acting as the border to the back mulch path in the back of the of the garden as far back as you can go in my back garden. The main thing is, It worked and looks good.

Now I had to get the other border of the path before I could start filling in the wood chips. I use bricks for this side. In the back center of my garden I used brick and I also tried to use some big stones as a border. I wanted to see how that would work because I didn't know if I had enough bricks and I have a lot of stones that I want to find some use for. So, I tried some stones and I put them in and I don't love them for this purpose. My thought is if weeds do pop up around them it's going to be much harder to control the weeds because of how irregular their shape is whereas the brick is a square edge. It's more conducive to using a tool because the tools I use like hoes and spades have square edges as well so they they'll be easier to use along the straight edge of a brick. So I think I'm going to pull out what stones I have and put in more bricks.

Like I said, I wasn't sure I had enough bricks to border everything so I decided to place the bricks where they were going to go to see just how many I had and if it was enough. Including some that were buried in the ground since last year that I plan on moving because of the future re-modeling plans that I have for those areas of the garden. I found that I indeed did I have enough bricks to border everything I wanted to, so I went back to laying out the borders of the back mulch path in bricks. I now how the edges of the pathway established, I started putting down newspaper as a mulch. I would do a few feet and then throw handfuls of wood chips on the newspaper to keep it down so it doesn't blow all over the place.

Then I could really deposit the rest of the wood chips by putting the bag right in the pathway, opening them up more and pouring piles down on on top of the newspaper and then spreading it. I even combined bags of black wood chips with brown wood chips. That's what I had, so that's what I used. I did this for what will be most of the back path of the garden except the part nearest the shed. I'll work on that area in the coming days as there's some weeds and grass and a mulch hill I have to take care of. 

But it was time to get a good amount of the pathway in and see how it looked and you know what? I think it looks pretty good. I think it's going to work just the way I want it to. Let's just hope it keeps most of those weeds down. I know from past seasons, there's a lot of crabgrass and goosegrass and thistles in that area, but with the amount of paper and woodchips there now, I think this is going to handle it. I won't have to go back there and weed this stuff. It's going to make the fence accessible to me because I put wasp traps along the fence as they seem to hang out around the fence. I'm still going to have access to that back garden bed that should have my tallest flowers, whatever they may be. And it looks good so that's what I did yesterday and I'll keep working on this pathway around the border of the entire back garden.


mulch, pathways, spring, wood chips

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