DIY Dry Laid Flagstone And Mulch Pathway

This project has been on my to do list since 2008 when we had our patio expanded.  We have a very small walkway next to the patio that leads to our AC unit.  It is too narrow to mow, especially once we planted a border of Wax Myrtle trees along our fence to create a natural screen. And the grass either grows like crazy because it is shady or doesn’t grow at all because it is shady.

Last spring, we took the first step by moving all extra flagstone from our patio into this small corridor and roughly laying it out how we’d like it to be placed.  There the stone remained slowly killing the grass underneath because I was much too preoccupied with my newest role as Mom. In assessing the damage to the lawn this spring, it appeared that most of the grass had died. This may be the first and last time I rejoice over this. It did, after all, save me the pain and back breaking work of sod removal.

Here is the correct procedure for dry laying a stone pathway:

1) Choose the area for your pathway and paint it out.

2) Depending on where the pathway runs, you might want to consider trenching out the borders and filling with several inches of crushed stone.

3) Prepare the area by removing any sod and debris and loosening the top several inches of soil. Rake and level the area, adding more topsoil if needed.

4) Depending on the potential for drainage issues, some may recommend that you create a french drain. My neighbors did this for their stone pathway by digging a trench and placing a perforated PVC pipe in it. The trench is lined with weed cloth and filled with gravel.

5) Next, you need to add a base layer. Several inches of sand or gravel will prevent weeds from invading your path and provide a stable base to prevent settling over time. It helps to dampen the base layer with water before you rake and level it.

6) Now, you lay the flagstones like a puzzle piece, carefully testing each rock to make sure it’s level and does not move or rock.

7) Finally, fill the gaps with your choice of  filler medium- decomposed granite, pea gravel, sand, mulch, etc.

8) Brush any extra filler off your stones and you have yourself a completed pathway.

For more details on the above, see this tutorial on the DIY Network.

Here is what I did. I was hoping to make this a quick, inexpensive project, so I omitted a few steps. Drainage is something I am normally very concerned with, but I had observed this area practically sod-free for a complete year.  Even during the rainy season (this is the season when it actually does rain), no water pooled in this area.  I decided that it was unlikely to be an issue and did not lay a French drain. I hope I do not end up on the losing end of this gamble. I prepared the area by removing the remaining sod, raking up all the leaves and debris and leveling the area by adding several inches of topsoil using the leftover landscaper’s mix from our topdressing project.

Next I laid down weed cloth that was leftover from a previous landscaping project.  I did not have enough to cover the whole area, which is unfortunate. But I know I am going to have a problem with grass sneaking in under the fence no matter what, so I am going to have to control that with hand picking the grass in that area. I laid the flagstone down directly on the weed cloth and settled each one into place.

I planned for a base/initial filler layer of decomposed granite, but did not buy nearly enough bags of this medium. I ended up having to supplement with more landscaper’s mix to make sure each stone was stable and level. Because I do not have a thick, stable base layer, my pathway may settle over time and I may have to make modifications to it at some point. It is very likely that I will have to add more decomposed granite or gravel in the fall once my mulch starts decomposing. But I created a very informal pathway more for aesthetics and to eliminate an area to mow. It is not an area that will be regularly walked. In fact, it is a pathway to nowhere unless you like looking at the AC unit.

Finally, I added several inches of mulch to complete the pathway. No more mowing! Now let’s hope my pathway remains problem free.


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