Ideas for Potager Paths and Borders

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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Wow! Beautiful potager you find that 18" side paths are wide enough? I'm designing a new garden soon and have been wondering about smaller paths, myself. So you don't have any edging to the beds...would adding some make the paths too narrow?

I would love to use brick or pavers, myself, but I don't know if that would work in your situation. It is nice to have the flexibility to change the bed size (if needed) but if you know this plan work for you...maybe over time, replace the wood chips with pavers?

I'd like to know what you decide...and pictures, please :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 1:05PM
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Hi, Lavender. I think we've about decided on pavers. The 18" paths work well for us, and it will be even easier to get wheelbarrows up and down the potager with pavers. Eliot Coleman, from whose books I got the idea for my layout, actually recommended 12" paths and we felt that that was just too narrow. The pavers we're looking at are 16" square so we'd have an inch left over on either side. And the thing is that once we put down the landscape cloth we were pretty much committed to that setup. If we get the pavers down we can also let the chickens into the garden in the winter because they won't be able to disturb the arrangement the way they could when we only had wood chips delineating our pathways. That could help with bugs and also fertilization, as well as giving them a better diet in the winter.

I've put up photos of my potager before, and I reposted them on the organic gardening thread, but I don't have any recent ones.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 1:28PM
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Its nice to see some activity on this forum!

I wonder if the pavers will be more difficult to take a wheelbarrow over. After a year or two, even if you lay them in as flat and even as you can, they are going to tend to shift, and become uneven, making for a bumpy ride. I use wood chip paths, and for me the trick is to lay the chips on really thick 3-4 inches deep. I admit I have raised beds, which makes it easier. I would be more inclined to frame the beds with brick, or cedar 1x6's and continue with the wood chips.

It looks like a beautiful set up what ever you decide to do.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Mandolis, I don't think pavers would be more difficult for wheelbarrow access than wood chips. I am trying to get away from having that massive task every spring, which also involves digging down to find the edges of the landscape cloth on each path and then spreading the chips along the re-marked areas. It's a big garden and if I can spend some money to save time and effort I figure it's worth it. And I also like the idea that then I can use my chickens to attack the overwintering bugs.

Here's a picture of the garden; I've posted some before on this forum, though:

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 9:46PM
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That looks beautiful!

I guess I was thinking about my front path, which I did with large pavers on a 2" bed of sand. It isn't flat anymore. Every spring I spend some time leveling (lifting a paver that has sunk and putting rocks etc under it.) I probably have a lot more "frost heave" up here than you have in zone 7.

Digging down to find the paths does not sound like fun.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 8:38AM
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We had the brick path put in properly, and it's still not totally even, but I don't know that a somewhat shifting path would be any worse than the unevenness of a wood chip surface. We don't have the kind of frost you do, although this year was a real challenge. My area in NJ is actually south of the Mason Dixon line, were it to be completed to the east. And we're on a river so we also have a microclimate going for us.

The pavers we're looking at are 16" square - actually 15.5. They're about 40 lbs each so we didn't think they'd shift much, although they'd be a bear to reposition with the number we're going to have to have. We also looked at 18"x9" pavers, which we could double and also play with for nice patterns, but they're about twice as expensive as the other ones and wouldn't be quite as stable, although they'd be much easier to work with due to less weight.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:50AM
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Very nice! It would be great to have a level surface...I think we'd have to dig down about 4" to 6" and add sand to even hope to keep blocks or pavers level.

That being said...we have some old road bricks that I would love to use in our new potager! That would be such an improvement :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:18PM
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Lass, you can see that our walks are old brick. Some of them are even embossed with the name of a local brick company that's been long defunct. I love the look of them for walks and edging, but we certainly don't have enough left over for all those paths.

When we had the walks and patio put in we hired someone who used a layer of crushed concrete and did a decent job of getting everything level. Prior to that we had had the same idea, but laid on sand by our daughter and the two of us, and it lasted years but finally got much too uneven to be safe. I'm not so concerned with something that's basically a path between garden beds.

Where would you put the bricks in your new potager? I think they add such a warmth to the look of a garden.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:25PM
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I like the look and ease of the pavers best...real stone. But, if I can get free wood chips from a utility or tree cutting co. and can use them in the paths farthest away from the house, I think they could break down and I could scoop them up to use in the compost pile after a while. Not sure yet. I guess if I put newspaper under them, that is a temporary weed barrier. I tried flat river stones and they aren't flat enough. The hose and my feet get caught on them and they shift a bit. Weeds grow through them, too. No perfect solution, I guess.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2015 at 8:50AM
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Here's my granddaughter and her friend positioning the pavers last spring, and then here's my garden after the sunflowers took over because I was sick all of July! You can see how the pavers look once the garden grows up around them in that photo, though.

    Bookmark   last Friday at 5:47AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I want grandchildren to do my heavy work!!!!!!!! Nancy

    Bookmark   last Saturday at 6:15PM
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Nancyjane, they did NOT work for free! But it was fun to have them around, for sure.

    Bookmark   last Saturday at 6:24PM
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