Building these two garden walkways was fun, but were high-energy projects. I wanted to replace an overgrown path through a perennial sun garden, and I wanted to build it myself, with the end product looking like an English garden or cottage garden walkway.
Before taking on the bigger project that would require 14 stone pattern sections with 9 stones each frame, I did a trial run by building a 6-section walkway between 2 raised garden beds for my aunt. She wanted the finished stones to have terra cotta color to more closely match the large pots she has throughout her yard.
Step 1: Materials and Supplies
For the smaller Garden #1 for my aunt, I made 6 frame sections, each section having 9 stones. One 60 lb. bag of Quikrete was enough for almost 1-1/2 frame sections. I mixed the Quikrete by hand and added in the liquid cement terra cotta color. That was a lot of hard work on a hot day. Since I needed to make 14 sections for my much larger Garden #2, I borrowed a small cement mixer from a friend. Many local and big box hardware stores have concrete tool rentals.
Quikrete® Walk Maker (6921-32) - plastic frame for the stone sections, each section has 9 interconnecting, but not interlocking, stones of different sizes and shapes
QUIKRETE® Quick-Setting Cement, 60 lb. bags - sets in approximately 10–15 minutes. I used Quikrete, which is a blend of portland cement, sand, and gravel or stone. Just add water, mix, and and it's ready to use.
QUIKRETE® Liquid Cement Color - used in Garden #1
Garden landscape heavy-duty black plastic - used in Garden #1
Cement mixer - optional
Hand Tamper or Sledge Hammer
Soil compacter - optional; I hand-compacted the soil for the smaller Garden #1 with a sledge hammer and hand tamper, but used the soil compacter for Garden #2
Step 2: Garden #1, Before & After
Unfortunately, I didn't take any process photos for the stone work in Garden #1, but here are views of before and after.
To start, I removed all of the sod and weeds, and compacted the soil using a heavy mallet and hand tamper, making sure that the ground was level.
One 60 lb. bag of Quikrete was enough for almost 1-1/2 frame sections. I mixed the Quikrete by hand, one bag at a time, and added the liquid concrete color until we had the terra cotta color that we wanted. I packed each individual stone section as tightly as possible with the Quikrete, carefully checking to eliminate any gaps or spaces. I made 6 sections of stones, and turned the frame a half turn for each new section of stones so that the finished pattern would have a more random appearance.
After the stones hardened, I lifted them out, covered the ground with a layer of black landscape plastic to help control weeds growing between the stones, and then repositioned the stones.
My aunt and I were really happy with the finished walkway. Now having a bit of stone-building confidence and a couple days to rest, I was ready to take on the much larger 14-section path at home. Doing this smaller sidewalk by myself was fine, but for Garden #2, my husband helped make it happen.
Step 3: Garden #2 - "Before" Garden & Prepping the Path
What I started out with was an overgrown garden disaster, long overdue for a make-over. Before we could compact the soil, I removed the existing field stones and everything and anything that was growing in the pathway. Next, it was time for the soil compacter.
Step 4: Making It Happen!
Quikrete sets in 10-15 minutes, so we mixed one 60 lb. bag at a time; for this project, one bag filled the frame almost 1-1/2 times. Set the frame in place, tightly fill with Quikrete, wait 8-10 minutes before lifting the frame to make the next section. I wanted as random of a pattern as I could get. To do this, I rotated the frame a half turn for each new section of stones, built that section, and repeated the process for the entire garden path.
We live in the country and don't have municipal water, but have well water. In the center of the path in this garden is the well head that we camouflage with a sundial on a decorative pillar. Surrounding this pillar with stones was easy since the stones are not one large section, but all of the stones rest beside each other, similar to a jig-saw puzzle, except that the pieces don't connect. This makes it easy to rearrange the stones as needed, replace a broken stone, or use a stone as a base for a large flower pot. For us, it's important to be able to move the stones for occasional well maintenance, which we wouldn't have been able to do if we built a solid concrete walkway.
Step 5: Garden Happiness!
This garden is in full sun, so I planted small, low-growing plants called Steppables between some of the stones. I didn't put a layer of black landscape plastic or fabric under the stones and haven't had a problem controlling the few weeds or volunteers flowers that grow occasionally between the stones. This walkway can withstand all types of weather; I've never had a stone break for any reason.
We have the finished appearance of an English or country cottage garden that we wanted, and an added bonus for me was being able to build it!