Paths and Rows for My Garden

riverfarm(7)March 20, 2014

This is my potager setup.

The red areas are brick walks. Every year we have to dig down and find the 18"-wide landscape cloth paths (in white) between the 30" rows (in light green) so that we can put down wood chips on the paths and compost on the rows. I'm wondering whether there's anything we can use that's more permanent so we don't have to find and remake the paths every single spring, but so that I can still walk through the garden when it's full of plants without catching my feet on barriers or fencing. Thoughts?

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john9001(SW, PA, 6)

first, that's a really nice garden you have.

I have grass paths and just keep them mowed.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Thanks! Here's an older photo. You can see the woodchip path between the two rows of tomato teepees.

But It would be hard to keep18" paths mowed, and a lot of extra work. That's why we went with the landscape cloth with woodchips over it, but I'm getting tired of having to dig down and find the edges again so I'm sure of where everything's supposed to be when I refurbish everything in the spring.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 5:32PM
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The only thing landscape fabric really does is reduce the amount of wood chips, or other mulch material, needed to aid in "weed" suppression. Wood chips 4 inches deep, or more, should be able to eliminate the need for landscape fabric.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 6:06AM
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Thanks, kimmsr, but I already have the landscape fabric down, and I didn't want to go 4 inches deep on a path because it would make it harder to get wheelbarrows and other gardening tools up and down it. Problem is that the woodchips do bring in a few weeds of their own. But I guess that's the only option.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 8:05AM
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emmers_m(9a/Sunset 7 N Cal)

Absolutely lovely garden - got any more pictures? :)

I take it you're not using a border for your beds, so the edges get a bit blurry?

I have dry-laid 18" pavers in my paths - I do get a lot of weeds in the cracks but your landscape fabric would take care of that - but that might not look as charming as what you have going now.


    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:06AM
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I don't have borders, you're right. I've explored 16" pavers but I have about 480 linear feet of paths, so it would be over $1000 at about $4/paver to do all of those paths, and then I'd probably have to lift and reset them every other year when they began to sink due to the addition of compost on the beds.

Thanks - it's a wonderful potager. I adore it but it's getting to be a lot of work and I don't have any cheap labor to do the tough stuff! Here are a few more pictures:

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:17AM
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david52 Zone 6

I use woven polypropylene weed barrier between my rows, which are more accurately defined as heaped earth raised beds. Mulch heavily on the beds, but I try to leave the weed barrier as clean as I can. This picture is late in the season, with wild purslane growing out of the tiny staple holes where I pin down the fabric.

I'll freely admit that this is nowhere near as neat as it could be, fabric properly pinned down with no wrinkles etc., but in practice, it works great - even if the ground is muddy underneath, my feet stay clean, its easy to get a wheelbarrow up and down, lot less weeding, and all the mulch and organic matter goes onto the beds where the plants can use it, not on the paths.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 2:26PM
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That looks like that works well in your setting, with wider spaces between beds, but I don't know that it would be feasible with 18" paths. Thanks for the comment and picture!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 5:06PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

There is that roll edger and pound in edgers. I have used both. You could make them flush with the mulch for the most part.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 7:42PM
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Minnie, I've been thinking that might be the way to go. I'd get the kind that's flexible, and install it so that it was above the level of the mulch and maybe that would keep it in place better, as well as being easier to find in subsequent years. They sell it in brown and green, and probably brown would be less intrusive. Not quite the permanent solution I was looking for, but it may be the best i'm going to get...Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 7:53PM
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emmers_m(9a/Sunset 7 N Cal)

If I'm not completely off base in my recollection, I think my pavers were around $1.25 each...

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 10:16PM
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What size were they, emmers_m? I was thinking again last night that pavers would really solve many more problems; we wouldn't have to add woodchips every spring, they would keep moisture in, and if I had those down I could probably go back to letting the chickens in the garden in the winter because they wouldn't be able to mess up my rows anymore. That would help with bugs, on-the-spot fertilization, and giving the chickenyard a break.

Do you have to lift and reset your pavers occasionally? And where did you find yours?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 7:50AM
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emmers_m(9a/Sunset 7 N Cal)

They were the standard 8 x 16 pavers - I got them at Lowe's because delivery was easier, but Home Depot had them at the same price. I have a 40 x 50 garden with 24" paths and a perimeter pathway all around (to create a DMZ inside my fence with no snackies to tempt the critters into assaulting the fence) so it was still a substantial investment.

My biggest problem with them has been the weeds, but again, you should have that one covered. I've only had to occasionally slide or lift one back into place that had been disturbed for some reason.

I am embarrassed to put my photos up in close proximity to yours, but perhaps this one will do.

Please note I don't have a potager - my aesthetic is at best industrial and at worst prison yard (my critters are very determined!). I imagine you might go for the brown or brick red pavers instead of the cement gray ones I have.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 9:51AM
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Thanks for your photo! I think it looks great, and yes, if you're going for practical the kind of setup I have may not make sense. I'm a painter (and a francophile) so aesthetics are important. We love to sit on the patio by the greenhouse and watch the birds patrolling the garden.

I'm looking at Home Depot's 16" square light reddish-greyish pavers. They would blend well with my brick walks and would cover more space. Leaving an inch on either side of the path isn't a problem, and I'm thinking more and more that this is the way to go. Right now we're paying for woodchips plus for the lawn guys to spread them and spread compost, and a one-time fix would take care of those expenses in the future.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:03AM
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I suppose i am also a potager/esthetics yet practical, and have debated what i could have done better. I have a central entrance with pavers. Between the raised beds are grass. Wood chip around the perimeter, so i live with both choices. My pavers sink and need to be dug up and sand added. Not all that often...i've done it twice in 15yrs but it is a chore.
I understand your issues as i don't really like the wood chips. Great the first two years....landscape fabric, topped with chips. When the chips start to break down and seeds work their way in, it becomes weedy and the weed seed imbed into the fabric, (at least that happened to me). Adding more wood chips every other year was an expensive mess.
I so prefer the grass paths. Easy to maintain but not easy for every gardener or garden.
I do have all raised beds except for the back end where i use wet newspaper topped with hay where i have the summer and wither squash, leeks and garlic.

I can quickly zip through and around the beds, without really looking, with a 'whipper-snipper', and get a zen 10 minutes, (power tools are not so zen : ), but i get a chance to check on things as i go. Where most have a mud pit now, after a heavy winter of snow, i can work easily as the grass, its roots, are so established.

I've abandoned the chips for now. For grass paths it is important to have deeply seated raised beds as the do creep in. Pavers might be you best option.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 2:40PM
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Great pics!

You want to hear one more idea?
I till the paths in spring, and plant clover. Never have to mow the clover. It's pretty, keeps my feet clean, and is great for wiping muddy hands on. Crimson clover is what I first used, and it has beautiful blooms as well. White clover is shorter, and works well too.

The only reason I till the paths in the spring is that I have quack grass. Since you don't have an invasive weed problem, you might be able to just throw clover seed down on the wood chips and let it take over.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 3:20PM
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I ended up with the pavers. My paths are only 18" wide so a strip of grass would be hard to maintain, especially since my beds aren't raised. Here's the work in progress, being handled by my granddaughter and her friend:

I wanted the pavers slightly offset - one an inch to the left and the next an inch to the right - so they would look less formal. I think it's going to be a nice touch and I've already planted some of the rows with finished paths; it makes it easy to do.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 6:50PM
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Good choice! I actually though your bed were raised. I used the same pavers down my entry path.
I use the same teepee trellis. Very strong as we get some high winds.
(had to add bunny protection last year)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Oh, what a great garden! Where do you get your teepee trellis, though? Ours are bamboo poles and we have to erect them every year, which is getting to be a chore. We saw a lot of tomatoes grown that way in the south of France so we adopted the style and have used it for a long time, now (I also grow mainly French tomato varieties), but it's a lot of work. You can possibly see from my photos that I do two rows of teepees and tie them together across rows as well as down rows to make them more stable.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:52PM
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We still use bamboo for most of our trellis. It gets about 6-7 year use before some splitting. We re-cycled some clear cedar and cut into poles last year out of immediate need. I'm a lazy gardener, : ), meaning that i have it so easily set up organically that i don't see it as a chore anymore.
Some beds sit covered for a year or two, others get used annually for salads, herbs etc.
I do have about 50 tomato varieties started but that is an obsessive hobby.
I tried to do way too many things when i first built my garden 20 yrs ago. The best thing i learned was to scale back for a few years, BUT, mulch and cover those rows so they will be ready when i get to them the next year. I do a very thorough fall cleaning so the spring is easy, no till planting.
We actually had snow this past week, but may put up our first trellis tomorrow for early peas.
We're a bit zen about it...if it seems a good moment and enjoyable, we'll do it. If it feels a panic chore on a necessary timetable and must be done, we avoid it, : )

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 11:05PM
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I don't think our bamboo lasts nearly that long. But if you have 50 tomato varieties that's a lot of poles, isn't it? And isn't it arduous to put all those tripods up?

How many of each variety do you plant? My minimum is one tripod (one plant per pole) and that's what I do with a little French currant type, Petit Moineau, that wants to sprawl all over but produces like gangbusters. My favorites, like Rose de Berne and St. Pierre, get three tripods each. I'm trying Noire de Crimée again after a couple of failures and also Reine de Ste. Marthe, which we really liked last year. I end up with about fifty plants in all.

How close do you place your teepees? I use 18" between poles and between tripods.

We do tomatoes, peppers, eggplant (usually unsuccessfully these days), string beans, fava beans, peas, spinach, beets, lettuce, chard, musk- and watermelons, cucumbers, and probably some other stuff as well. I've given up on squash for a bit because the squash bugs get them no matter what I do, and this year I'm going to try Actinovate to see if that helps with early blight. I get plenty of tomatoes but they quit too early in the fall.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 7:34AM
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We may be putting the bean trellis up this afternoon. Never though to photo the process but i'll take some cell pics if we do.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:19AM
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I just bought two nine-foot-long and five-foot-tall metal bean fences from Gardeners Supply to avoid having to erect my usual bamboo pole and string trellis. We'll see how that works. DH has a torn rotator cuff so it limits how much he can help with those tasks.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 10:23AM
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