Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop - Paths and Walkways


From the space station, or the moon or somewhere up there, you can see my raised bed vegetable garden with its paths (compliments of Google Earth).

When I take pictures of the garden from ground level, it doesn’t really show how the beds are laid out and you can’t see all the paths.

Good paths are key to a raised bed garden like this.

The paths should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow and allow you to walk all the way around each raised bed. And they should be covered with mulch or stone or some material that is easy to walk on and keeps the path from getting muddy after it rains. These are clearly utilitarian paths designed to fill the space between the raised beds.

The second kind of path in my garden are shortcuts.
I just added some of these last summer in a few places where I was regularly cutting across a flower bed, rather than walking all the way around it. I want these paths to blend in a bit and not be obvious to others. I think once the plants grow up around them, they will be more hidden. These are my secret shortcuts.

The third kind of path in my garden is the kind of path that should gently guide the visitor to one section or another of the garden. I really only one have of these. As you enter from one side gate, it is pretty clear that you should follow the path and turn to the right, which should take you to the patio area.

But once you get to the patio, my entire yard is exposed in one view. There isn’t much to invite you to go in one direction or another to see what else is there. It’s all there, right before your very eyes.

I think this “all the garden in one big view” is a problem prevalent in a lot of suburban lots which start out as flat expanses of lawn. It might seem like a dream to have such a blank canvas, but it takes a good design, and a pile of money, to turn such a lot into a garden, the kind of garden with paths and views and surprises around the corner. There are no corners! There are no paths! There are no surprises! It is truly a blank slate.

So how would you approach this blank canvas? Would you start with the paths first and then build the beds around those, or would you add various garden beds and let the paths form between them?

Perhaps others who’ve been thinking about paths and walkways as part of the November Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop hosted by Gardening Gone Wild have some advice to offer?


  1. Every time I click on your website, I smile and wonder, "What's Carol been up to?"


    Google Earth!

    I wonder how you find the time to post great things every day?

    Your paths and steppingstones are great. During the next few years, I hope to turn my landscape into something as eye-pleasing as yours.

  2. I have paths in the east side of my garden but right behind the house where you have seen my pile of leaves for a new bed it is wide open. I have been thinking about this for some time. This is how i approach an area. I sit and think about it and stare at it. I make a list of ways we use the area. Then how I think we should use it. Then how we will use it.

    Does this make sense? It doesn't to me.

    I usually start thinking about where I want a plant, which requires a planting bed, which requires a way to get to and around it. So it goes... Sometimes there are starts and stops.

    I like your cobblestones for your short cuts.

  3. Since I started my garden with little money it has grown slowly over the years. And I haven't been in a rush to be "done" since I doubt that will happen until I'm no longer capable of lifting a shovel! But my answer would be that as my lawn disappeared, paths and beds revealed themselves where they were needed. I have no idea whether anyone else would like my placement but it works for me and feels right to me. And I am not big on permanent hardscape...I've moved bricks and flagstone a ridiculous number of times as needs, sun exposure and whim have dictated.

  4. Great always, you're an inspiration, Carol. I like the stone path shortcut very much!

  5. I've tackled those large blank suburban canvases , Carol, and you are right about it taking a lot of greenbacks .

    I think getting the basics in -decks or patios, come first. For both privacy and to add a bit of mystery, I often create beds next to the deck or patio and plant small ornamental trees and shrubs, grasses and perennials. Then , depending on the wish list, things such as lawns,vegetable garden, irrigation system, ponds, curved paths and flower beds come next.

    Of course the above is just one way-there are so many others.

    Homeowners who want to do the landscape themselves, and I encourage them to try, would be wise to measure and make a rough plan of their yard, noting the sun and shade patterns.

    Such popular books as Landscaping for Dummies is extremely helpful in breaking down the process.

    Often times the local garden center can be of help in advising on the selection and placement of trees and shrubs.

    I think it's great that Gardening Gone Wild is sponsoring this helpful workshop.

  6. I never realized before how wide the paths are between your raised beds. Ours are FARRR too close together. I can't tell you the number of times I tripped myself up in those narrow paths! I wonder how hard it would be to take out all the frames, till up the remains and start over? What are you doing Saturday morning, got any plans? - LOL!!

  7. I love Google Earth! I have it marked with all the places i've ever lived, friends' houses, everything.

    next time I'm in, I shall whizz over to indianapolis and look for some raised beds :)

  8. It's so funny you should ask this particular question: I don't have to think about it, I'm living it! I have a completely blank slate!! I have a rough plan and I'm going section by section, but I do plan to put the paths in first along with the beds, because I hate trying to retrofit pathways in. That and it's really muddy here a lot of the year. Speaking of which, I think the truck of gravel just arrived!
    ~Angela :-)

  9. With such a wonderful vegetable garden [how amazing that it shows up on Google Earth!] isn't everything else just the anteroom to the theater of tomatoes and corn? Where the awed crowd stands in wonder ;-]

    Once through our back gate we also have the problem of not enough mystery. I have some ideas, and am enjoying the path posts, too.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Google Earth is awesome. But how can your raised beds be so clear? The images I get of our house are pre-garden and several years old. They aren't nearly so detailed. I am baffled. Perhaps different areas of the country are updated at different times?

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  11. Although the area is utilitarian, your raised vegetable beds in boxes is an attractive garden. The little cobbles for cutting through is a great idea. (I'm stuck with concrete stepping stones the kids make.)
    If you start with planning paths, consider what you want the path to do. You might want to make at least 1 path part of an axis terminating in a focal point. Another thing to consider is the Japanese idea of making a path curve to slow down a person's steps & planting something interesting right at that point. Think of a journey and plot the course. In my garden, the main paths lead to a garden swing. If there is a spot that will be a destination, maybe a garden bench, start from that point & plan interesting views from there, with paths leading to destinations naturally. Or just let the paths happen.

  12. Mary... I work, I garden, I blog. Don't we all find time for what we enjoy doing?

    Lisa at Greenbow...I've been thinking about what to do to some areas of my yard for YEARS!

    Leslie... I like your approach, just doing what works for you.

    Jodi... Thanks, your comments are so nice and uplifting.

    Carolyn Gail... Thanks for all the suggestions. I have several trees planted, so I'll be working new beds around those, too.

    Sister with the Homestead... Wouldn't you know it, I'm busy on Saturday, but it wouldn't take too much to re do your raised beds now and make the paths wider. Go for it.

    Sue Swift... If you find me, let me know. Indianapolis is a big city!

    Angela(Cottage Magpie)... Looking forward to seeing the results of your hard work.

    Annie in Austin... Yes, at times of the year, the vegetable garden is the jewel of the garden, but not always. I'd love to read some of your own ideas for your expanse of space. Maybe some of your ideas could work for me?

    Robin(Bumblebee)... I think different areas are updated at different times. I think my Google Earth view of my garden has been updated at least once and this picture appears to be a few years old (maybe three).

    Mr. McGregor's Daughter...Interesting thoughts. I do need at least one path to take me back to the vegetable garden, since it is in the back one-third of the yard.

    Thanks all for the suggestions and kind words. You all have given me a lot to think about!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  13. Okay, this post helped to motivate me. I have to do a landscape plan for this whole house thing - and my side garden, where I have three raised beds (and still a whole bunch of space) - is an area that I have wanted to look like your garden beds with paths, but I just haven't committed to it. I think it's time! I'll need to make a few more beds, and then - decide on the paths. I especially like your shortcut paths (but honestly have more of the third kind!). Gorgeous. I'll have the winter and spring (which means cool and not HOT weather) to start working on this. Thanks for the motivation - I did need it.

  14. It's been great catching up with the garden path posts as I haven't a clue...and it's been food for thought.

  15. That's really cool that you can see your garden in outerspace ;)

  16. Pam...I'm honored to have provided you with some motivation to create your own raised beds!

    Blueblue... There are a lot of posts about paths linked to from the host blog to check out.

    Nelumbo... I thought it was cool, too. Couldn't believe how clear it was!

    Thanks all for adding to the conversation!
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens


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