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How to Build a Path in the Garden Using Sand

A sandy garden path is relaxed, foot-friendly and beachy -- worth the fairly minimal effort of adding one to your landscaping. Japanese formal gardens equate sand with the element of water, so make yours a meandering trail, like a slow river or small stream, between the shrubs and flowers.

Chart your course.

Determine where and how wide the pathway will be, measure and mark it out, using string anchored down with small rocks, or a long, snaking garden hose. The absolute minimum width for a narrow path is 24 inches, but 36 to 48 inches wide presents more options for passing and strolling. Wind your path around trees and boulders for a more natural appearance.

Dig the trench.

Break sod or compacted soil with the flat edge of a shovel and dig your trench about 6 inches deep to allow for some substrate to stabilize the sand. Tamp the trench down evenly -- it's not necessary to compact it tightly.

Lay weed screen and gravel.

Place a 2-inch layer of gravel in the trench and tamp it down with a hand-tamping tool. Check for even gravel distribution with a flat board and a carpenter's level, and fill in or remove gravel from any uneven areas. Lay weed screen in the trench over the compacted gravel.

Add edging.

Tap plastic edging into the ground along the perimeter of the trench so the top will be level with the sand when the path is complete. Or add decorative large stones or old, weathered brick to create a border along the outside of the path. Edging is completely optional. It contains the sand better, but sand will spread out a bit and look natural without it.

Pour on the sand.

Dump sand into the trench by the wheelbarrow load. Play sand is the softest underfoot. Builder's and bricklayer's or masonry sand are coarser. Real beach sand has a high salt content that might affect plants along or near the path. Fill the trench a little over the height of the surrounding ground level. Smooth or tamp it in place -- you can't really tamp sand down securely, but you want it pathlike and more or less even. Then mist the path with water from a garden hose to encourage the sand to settle and compact before you kick off your shoes and test your handiwork.


If you're looking for additional budget-friendly approaches to building your garden path, see Cheap Walkway Ideas.

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