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Despite the best efforts of landscape planners, sometimes parts of a garden are used for purposes for which they were not originally designed. If you notice tracks or worn patches on a lawn, or, worse, across a flowerbed, it is a sure sign that a hard surface of some sort is needed there for protection, because a pathway is in the process of being created.
However, you may not want a full path, with its hard lines, in that position.
One way around the problem is to insert stepping stones to form a path. The stones can be circular, rectangular, square, or even irregular in shape. You will need enough stones so they are easy to walk on without changing stride - no one enjoys jumping from stone to stone. A distance of 2 ft 6 in from the centre of one stone to the centre of the next will suit the stride of most adults. It is best to place the stones where you want them and to try walking on the stones before committing to laying them in their final position.
You can buy circular or rectangular concrete paving slabs, or you can make your own irregular-shaped stones by pouring concrete into holes in the ground. In the latter case, you dig a hole the shape and depth you want and firm down the soil inside the hole. Pour concrete into the hole and leave the concrete to set. Before the concrete sets you may want to personalize the stone - perhaps with your dog's paw print (wash the paw well immediately afterwards!), your initials written with a stick, or an attractive tile. When it is hard, lift out the stone and wash it down with water from a hose.
Stepping stone molds are available from landscape suppliers, and in some places you can buy a complete kit, with quickset cement and decorative items included.
To lay a stepping stone so it is flush with the surface of the ground, make a hole the shape of the stone and 2 in deeper than the depth of the stone. Pour a 2 in layer of sand into the bottom of the hole for the stone to rest on. If you are putting the stones in a lawn, make sure the stones are set 1/2 in below the level of the grass, so the lawn is easy to mow.
Stepping stones can be separated from each other by grass, or prostrate plants like creeping thyme, or they can be joined by putting pebbles or gravel between them. They are particularly effective in areas leading to a pond or a statue or any garden feature, but they are not so useful in places like entry ways, where there is very heavy foot traffic and visitors need to be able to easily see the pathway at all times of day and in all weather conditions.
Well made, stepping stones can be an attractive - and useful - addition to your garden.
Article from Steve at The Landscape Design Site which offers several large collections of free garden design ideas, plans, videos, and pictures. For more garden design ideas and information, visit the site at www.the-landscape-design-site.com.
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