Thursday, January 2, 2014

Build a Flagstone Walkway in Your Garden

Often there is a spot in your garden that you are especially proud of, and you would like to share it with others, but how do you guide garden visitors to this special spot? Why not install a flagstone walkway to invite and entice garden explorers?
Start by laying out the shape and size of your walkway--garden hose works well for this. Keep in mind that gently curved paths appear more inviting than straight or angular ones. Once you have your path laid out, remove the soil and/or sod to a depth of about 5 inches.
This is when you will need a compactor, which you can rent from your local equipment rental company--they can also instruct you on its operation. You will also need 1/4" minus crushed rock--this is finely crushed rock that is no larger than 1/4" and also includes much finer material that compacts well and makes a solid base for your walkway. If you are not sure where to purchase 1/4' minus, you can check with your local landscaping company to find this product.
First, run the compactor over the entire walkway area a few times to compact the soil. Then add a couple of inches of crushed rock, rake it out smooth and run the compactor over the whole area several times again. Repeat the process of adding a couple of inches of crushed rock, then raking and compacting it, until the level is about 3" below ground level. Now add about 1" of crushed rock and rake it out smooth--do not compact this final layer.
Now you are ready to install flagstone. Remember to wear your gloves and steel-toed shoes. Also, keep in mind that flagstone can be quite heavy, so lift with your legs, not your back. If you are not sure where to purchase flagstone in your area, check with your local landscaping firm--they will have it, or know where you can get it.
Laying flagstone is like assembling a large puzzle that has no rules as to where the pieces go--just make them fit any way that you like--alternate larger and smaller stones for the best look. Set each stone into the loose upper layer of crushed rock, push down on it with both hands, and wiggle it downward into the crushed rock.
You can add or remove crushed rock beneath individual stones, to level and stabilize them as you go. You can also use the hammer and masonry chisel to knock pieces off stones to get a better fit--safety glasses and gloves will be needed.
Once you have all your flagstones in place, you can fill in the gaps with crushed rock, or use a polymeric sand to fill in the gaps. If you don't want anything growing in the cracks, the polymeric sand is the best choice, as it hardens to a rubber-like consistency, which prevents weed growth--check the product packaging for exact instructions.
You now have an attractive and durable walkway that can be enjoyed for many years to come--a walkway that invites friends and family to explore your garden.
Materials and Tools Needed: flagstones of assorted sizes, crushed rock (1/4" minus), polymeric sand (optional), masonry chisel, garden shovel, 3lb hammer, compactor, rake.
Equipment Needed: steel-toed shoes, safety glasses, work gloves.
Work Safe: always wear work gloves and/or safety glasses when you should. When handling heavy materials, lift with your legs, not your back, and remember to wear steel-toed shoes.

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