Gravel paths can look very attractive and can also provide an extra security measure for your home (the noise it makes will prove a deterrent to intruders). They are relatively easy to lay and also reasonably cheap. On the down side, weeds will soon grow up through the gravel if the path is not maintained properly.
The first thing you need to do is mark out your intended path using string or sand trickled through your fingers. This is not always necessary (e.g. if the path is contained between two wall, etc), but is essential if you plan to cut your pathway into a lawn. Once you have the path marked out, move along the edges with a spade and cut through the turf all the way along. Remove the turf and dig out the earth all the way along the path to a depth of around 100-150mm (4-6in). Tap the earth down with a spade to make it firm.
You now need to “edge” the pathway to stop the surrounding lawn falling into the path, and to stop the gravel spilling onto the lawn too much. If the path is straight you can use 100mm or 150mm wide timber battens, held in place with pegs on the inside at regular intervals. If your path is curved or irregularly shaped, you will need to buy flexible edging (such as that available from https://www.rite-edge.com/). Flexible edging sometimes comes with pegs, but if not you can just use wooden pegs.
You can also use cast concrete edging which need to be laid onto a bed of mortar. If you are using concrete edging, you might need to dig the edges of the path slightly deeper to allow for the mortar. Make sure the edging is held upright whilst the mortar sets. Concrete edging has the advantage of being much more decorative than the wooden or flexible kind, and is available in a variety of styles.
You are now ready to lay your hardcore (loose stones/very course gravel) base. This should fill around 1/3 of the depth of the hole. On top of this put down a layer of sand and course gravel and tamp it flat. You should now have a nice firm base for the gravel to sit on.
Tip: Protect Against Weeds
This is a good point to mix up a watering can of weed killer and carefully cover the whole path with it. Make sure you use a rose on the watering can or you may wash away the base in places.
You can now take your chosen gravel (which is available in a variety of coarseness and colours) and start to lay the path. Once the path is filled, go over the whole length with a rake, rolling and smoothing the gravel until you have an even and firm surface. Ideally, the gravel should sit just below the top of the edging. As long as you take the time to maintain the path, this should now last for years to come.
Types of Gravel
There are several different options to choose from when selecting the type of gravel you will use for your path. Gravel is available in a variety of sizes and colours, but the final choice is really all about what you think would look best in your garden. Here are just some of the many different types of gravel available.
Small stones (Usually either 10mm or 20mm) sometimes available in a single shade but more often as a mixture of blacks, greys, browns and creams. Ideal for pathways and borders. Pea Gravel is often one of the cheaper options when choosing gravel. Should be laid to a thickness of around 30mm.
Usually larger stones (30mm to 60mm) in a mix of browns, greys, whites and creams. Beach pebbles are more suited to borders and decorative touches than paths, but can be used in a pathway. Mixing with Pea Gravel gives a nice finish and can help to even the pathway out. Beach Pebbles will usually cost considerably more than other types of gravel.
This distinctive gravel type, made from small (10 – 20mm) chips of basalt works very well for garden paths, although it can be quite expensive to buy. Firm edging will be required to stop these small chips spreading across your whole garden. Should be laid to a depth of around 40 – 50mm at the least.
Available in several sizes between 10mm and 30mm, and a variety of (usually) warm colours, Flint Chippings can make a very appealing garden path surface. Flint Chippings are hard-wearing and readily available around the country, but fairly expensive when compared to pea gravel. Should be laid to a depth of at least 40mm.
These chunky, hard-wearing stones give a distinctive, modern finish to a garden path. Usually sold as a single colour (red, black, grey, etc) but sometimes mixed, and ranging in size from 10mm to 20mm. Granite is certainly not the cheapest option, but worth considering for a contemporary garden.
Usually a buff brown or grey colour, stone chippings give an attractive and unusual finish to a garden path. Ranging in size from 10mm to 30mm, stone chippings create a very solid and even path, but do not make as much noise when walked on as other types of gravel (important if you are thinking of security). Stone chippings should be laid to a thickness of around 50mm.