How to get Low Maintenance Paths

garden paths

Paths – we’ve all got them

Top tips for reducing the amount of time on unwanted garden chores!

We all have paths in our gardens, but the choice of the type of path to use can really affect how much time you have to spend on unwanted chores and tidying up.

So what advice and tips are there for ensuring the garden paths you have are low maintenance?

Paths – we’ve got to have them, but is your path causing you too much work?

1 – Most importantly – how much traffic will it get?

Footfall, feet, kids running up and down, the route to the bins, the route to the washing line, the bit leading up to the back door. All of these will experience a lot of traffic, so you must have a hard wearing surface, any grass path will only turn to a muddy mush in winter with all that wear and tear.

If you can only have grass there, you can add a grass protection mesh to the surface, this way you walk on a frame and the grass grows though it.

The trick here is not to mow the grass too short so you don’t see the mesh. However, it may not be the ‘prettiest’ solution!

grass mat

2 – How little sun will the path get?

If you have a path that experiences little or no sun then it is best to avoid any surface that is fairly smooth – green algae and lichens will quickly turn your path into a speed skating rink after any rainfall.

  • Avoid any decking or wood stepping stones (unless you love pressure washing)
  • Concrete paths can be OK as long as they are not too smooth (but they will still go green in shade)
  • Avoid lighter coloured stone paths – you can’t stop the green algae growing, you’ll just notice it less on darker colours!


3 – What is likely to drop onto the path?

This may not be an obvious tip, but your path will accumulate stuff, stuff blown in by the wind, stuff dropped by overhanging trees and also ‘stuff’ dropped by our feathered friends!

You need to decide not only how much stuff is likely to drop, but how much time you want to spend clearing it up!

  • Stones especially larger decorative stones are nigh on impossible to rake all the leaves  and other debris off, you need a blower or a leaf hoover of some kind. All of which take time. So under trees – have a path made of sweepable slabs or pavers.
  • If the birds roost in trees above any path, you will have bird poop. Beautiful crisp clean paving will show every dropping in all it’s glory. Shingle is a good alternative to disguise the pooping, but it needs properly edging in so you can easily rake it.
  • Will the soil wash off the borders onto the path
  • Are the plants hanging over the path and will they drop seeds into it?(weeding!!)

This path will have a lot of leaf fall and debris, on the plus side, there are raised edges to prevent soil falling onto the path, the planting does not spill onto the path too much. On the downside, the stones are too large to easily rake so you need a blower and although the light colour does lighten the space – you also see every bit of debris onto the path.



4 – Do your Edges properly!

All paths have edges, obviously, but what the path edges onto will also determine how time consuming any maintenance will be.


This may look attractive, but

a) the grass will creep over the stones;

b) it is tricky to edge the grass with shears and

c) the stones will camouflage themselves under grass ready to shoot out at breakneck speed onto your shin when you mow!

Any stone path need a proper edge that sits above the height of the stones to keep the stones where you want them and stop soil being washed onto the paths that will allow weeds to flourish.


shingle 1

5 – Weeding, make it easy for yourself.

You will not stop weeds growing, but not getting the path type right can allow more weeds to grow that you would want! There are some simple rules to follow

  • The more joins you have, the more opportunity for weed seeds to sprout through the cracks
  • If you use block paving anywhere – don’t plant self seeding experts near or upwind of the path….think ornamental grasses, forget me nots etc!
  • If soil can get washed into the path (especially shingle or stones), it provides a perfect growing medium for new seedlings to pop up.
  • Make sure before you make a path, you HAVE dug out any roots that are lurking underneath especially ground elder, couch grass and bindweed, amongst others.
  • If you lay concrete paths near large trees, the path is likely to crack as the ground moves with the amount of water the tree is using, so use a path that can cope with ground movement
  • Do not plant plants that spread via underground roots anywhere near your paths unless you have either planted them in pots or you have a really good root barrier in place.

shingle 3

So there you have it, you will not be able to reduce unwanted path maintenance, but you can reduce the amount of time you have to do, tidying up and trying to keep the garden looking it’s best.

Next week we are looking at hedging and making that a low maintenance task!

For some more ideas on paths and pathways, see our pinboard on Pinterest – although not all these are low maintenance, some are rather lovely!

Buy this book – it will help you plan, design and create a practical but beautiful garden, that is simple and easy to look after.

I Want to Like my Garden by Rachel McCartain available at Amazon and other online bookstores in eBook and Paperback

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