Paving slabs alongside cultivated beds
This type of path needs virtually no maintenance and requires the minimum of concrete mixing that is compatible with a firm edge to prevent undermining. The notes below refer to the use of slabs 50 mm (2”) thick, in sizes from 45 cm x 60 cm (1-½ x 2’) upwards. Garden centres and builder’s merchants also stock thinner, smaller concrete slabs or tiles, which are best used for making the next type of path. Dig the trench wide enough to allow a shuttering plank on each side, and to a depth that reaches a firm bottom. Mound the base material to allow a trough for a concrete under-kerb alongside each edge. Level off with sand after the concrete has hardened.
Lay the slabs on mortar dabs—four near the corners of each stone, and one at the centre—to allow you to tap the stone easily to true level. An alternative detail (b) is shown which gives a more pronounced, and more certainly weed-free joint.
Brick or tile paths alongside cultivated beds
A well-chosen type of brick can be used to form one of the most attractive of all the garden paths. Properly laid, it is virtually maintenance-free and as it gathers moss, it rapidly weathers to an agreeably soft appearance. Paths made of small concrete slabs or tiles gain richness from their multiplicity of joints and can be bedded in the same way.
For the unkerbed brick or tile path, the under-kerb and base are as for the previous type of path—the only difference is that instead of mortar dabs, a continuous mortar bed of about 2.5 cm (1”) is used for thin pavers, while ordinary bricks can be bedded either on mortar or sand. Point up those joints at the edges as you go. With the other joints, you have three choices: i) brushing sand into the joints;
ii) pointing on completion with a trowel and roller in the ordinary way, in which case they look more attractive if you brush them with a stiff broom just before the mortar is completely hard; or
iii) filling the joints on completion with ‘dry’ mortar mix that is moist but still granular and can be brushed over the bricks without staining them. Brush this all over until the joints are filled, and then gently wet the whole surface with water, using the fine mist adjustment on your hose nozzle or a hand sprayer. This gives a slightly recessed ‘rustic’ joint, and if well done, should leave the brick free from mortar stains.