How do I handle the paths?

zgardennut(zone5b)March 24, 2009

My garden is going into an existing veggie bed. It is completely tilled. When I put the planting boxes in how do I handle the loose dirt in the path area?

Do I tamp it down to firm it up and then add mulch?

Or shovel some of the loose dirt into the boxes and then add mulch?

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I have the same predicament this year, and my story is in the 'too elaborate for a beginner' thread. alys gave me some great tips on how to handle the paths since I'm going to likely end up 'sans boxes.'

My plan at the moment is to define my 'boxes' with short marigolds (I LOVE that idea!), and keep the paths mowed. I may go so far as to plant plain grass in the paths to keep them tidier than they'd be with just mowed weeds. I'm also thinking that I'll "lower" the paths by raising the bed-parts with shoveled dirt, and plant the marigolds in the lower portion to hide the "side" of the beds so weeds don't take over from the edges. Maybe. I could be totally off the wall with that one, but it seems to make sense at the moment.

I have plenty of rocks & a few bricks to use, but I really am not entiredly thrilled with the idea of adding 'stuff' to the garden other than the simple board-beds.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 12:42PM
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marcy3459(6a NE OK)

FWIW, I prefer the grass paths to mulch or gravel. Mowing them with an old-fashioned reel mower makes me feel like such a gardener! And who can beat the feel of dewy green grass on bare feet in the morning while munching on a warm fresh tomato or cool cucumber from your very own garden?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 5:28PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Perhaps y'all grow grasses that don't run? Every southern grass I know of will run straight into beds without barriers. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 10:19AM
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Bogart(6 Ont.)

Every northern grass in my garden does the same thing! And if you plant marigolds in the trenches ('lower portions') you'll never even see it until it's too late. I'd just keep a clean, deep cut to separate the grass from the garden, with marigolds at the top of the garden side. Note the word deep.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 12:09PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

If you have access to pine straw that would be my suggestion. It's perfect for garden paths.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 1:53PM
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marcy3459(6a NE OK)

Well, my grass paths are either bermuda or creeping red fescue. However, my raised beds were lined inside with chicken wire and heavy duty landscape fabric when they were built. The wire keeps out the voles, moles, and ground squirrels and the landscape fabric keeps the dirt in and the grass out!! Now if I could just invent the perfect deer deterrent, I could get rich.....

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 4:06PM
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Creeping Red Fescu. EEEKKK Does all fescue creep? Not too concerned with it for the potager but I AM concerned with creeping in the rest of the yard.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 10:06PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I am very leery of any plant that has the word "creep" in its name, Chris. Be very afraid. :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 10:36PM
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Well reading on the bag it says Tall Fescue so it is not as short as I had hoped. I am googling Fescue and there is a Red Creeping Fescue. I had planned to mow it in the court yard area. I was going to let it grow long on the steeper banks. I think I will just do wood chips in the potager. The main thing is to get the ground covered to hold down the thistles. This whole half acre was covered with them . We have knocked them down some but it will be a battle for many years to come. sigh. Chris

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 10:53PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

I would not put the dirt from the paths into the boxes, as tempting as it may be, because the areas outside your potager would then be higher ground. When it rains the water run off would end up in the pathways of your garden.

What I plan to do is have the Rancher plow the entire area and then I will harrow all of it with the 4-wheeler (or you could drag a log behind your garden tractor to accomplish the same thing). That will make everything pretty level. I am going to lay down asphalt shingles over the entire garden area and lay my boxes on top of them to help keep voles etc. from entering my boxes from below. The spaces not covered by boxes will, obviously, be the pathways and will then have a good weed barrier already in place. I think the shingles will last for several years at least and when they start to break down I'll just throw more shingles on top of them. Rocks and mulch will not allow my wheel chair to get through and let's face it, stepping stones, bricks etc. are pretty spendy. Just thought I'd add another idea to the mix, especially since shingles are fairly inexpensive.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 11:33PM
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marcy3459(6a NE OK)

Shingles are a solution I haven't thought of. Have you seen the recycled shingles that are about the size of mulch chips? They make great paths. If you know some roofing contractors, you might get free shingles from a tear-off from them. They'd be glad to get rid of them, I bet.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 3:34PM
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I don't know, just a guess here, but aren't the shingles made with tar... a petroleum product? Would there not be a fear of it leaching into the veggies? This is the same reason for not using railroad ties for raised bed...poison.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 11:43AM
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I just put down mulch over cardboard. The cardboard was laid over the grass back in the fall of last year and topped it with compost from the city. This past February we built the boxes over the compost/cardboard and then I shoveled most of the compost into the boxes, leveled the paths as much as I could, covered them with 4-5 layers of newspaper and put the mulch down. I love it! In the morning when the grass is all wet because of the dew, my paths are dry and my shoes don't get wet. The mulch has compacted really well, it doesn't fly away, or washes away, or gets carried by my shoes. Here is a picture, one when is dry, and one after the rain. Hope it helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Lagunites Gardening Experience

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 2:44PM
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for my paths I used layers of old newspaper (3 or 4 layers) and then covered them with pine needles. We have about 100 pine trees in a windbreak so that was an economical solution.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 1:08AM
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Well, here it is 2 months later, and my dug paths are relatively weed free. 1/2 of my bed is covered in black plastic for tomatoes, squash, melons, cukes, etc, and the other half is the cole crops, so no BP.

My solution: Preen for veggie gardens. I spread it in the paths ONLY as soon as they were dug out. The raised bed areas (no structures) are getting bouts of quack grass and smallish weeds, but nothing that isn't controllable with one of those forky-tool things.

Rain run-off isn't a problem, as the soil is decent, and water absorbs into the paths readily.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 11:08AM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

I started off leaving grass (as mentioned above, nice to walk on!) between my beds. Hubby left exactly enough room between the beds when he constructed them last summer so the lawn mower (gas-powered, I fear!) would fit precisely between them. This turned out to present two drawbacks: although he reinforced the sides with removable crossboards, in a couple of the beds I had to take these out due to plant spacing considerations, and those beds bulged out a bit from the pressures of the soil + moisture content so the mower no longer fit between them. Also, I still had to get out the string trimmer every couple of weeks to go all along the sides of all of the paths to get the grass the wheels of the mower simply flattened as the wheels rolled over it!

So earlier this summer I scrounged big sheets of cardboard from a local big-box store that sells appliances (big sheets = less overlap, less chance for stray grass to pop up) and topped this with fresh woodchips--the ONLY thing I would use fresh chips for in the garden! (They were free, the remains of our big yard trees containing deadwood and too-low limbs we had a crew come in & work on.)

Of course, these are not at all pleasant to walk on, and I love going barefoot. :-(

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 7:48AM
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granite(z6 NC)

The other large drawback in grass walk ways is the little bits of grass blown into the leaf veggies. Its a pain to get it washed off later....lettuce, chard, etc are NOT made more yummy with a dusting of grass clippings.

When I started my raised beds in 1995 I had grass paths, but after the first year I changed to mulched paths. I'm way happier with the mulched paths. Still get some weeds coming up but they are easy to remove. I also get "volunteer" plants in the walkways which I sometimes pot up and give away, relocate, or just let them do their thing right there in the walkway.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 12:14PM
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Thank you all for responding!!
I opted for the mulch paths with cardboard underneath. I had the cardboard from the arbor I put in the entryway. It was a good way to get rid of it.

So far I like it. I am painting a trellis that my son made for in the center box. It is a periwinkle blue. I will post a pic when I get it in.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 8:43PM
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