GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Steps to Integrating Stepping Stones

“We have stepping-stones in crushed granite that lead to our deck in the back yard.   What would be a good groundcover to use around them?  Drainage comes off the house and washes the area, so we need something that will take the water run-off and also doesn’t mind staying wet.”  Eileen P.

Stepping stones – whether pre-made concrete rounds or squares, natural stone, wood, pavers, or brick – are a  relatively inexpensive way to get from one part of the landscape to another.  In spots where solid paving cannot be used for some reason (subdivision restrictions, easement issues, temporary access, drainage problems), a path of stepping-stones might be the perfect solution. Properly installed stepping-stones selected with an eye for aesthetic appropriateness can even be an attractive, permanent fixture in your garden.  So here are a few things to consider if you decide stepping-stones might be the path to a more beautiful landscape for your home.

flagstone on crushed granite

HIT: Good planning of a stepping-stone path includes selection of the right material FOR and BETWEEN the stones!

1)  WHO  will be traveling the trail you’ve created?  Crushed granite is an excellent base for stepping-stones, but the sharp edges of the granite hurt little bare feet headed to a swimming pool or swing set.  Beautiful, moss covered antique bricks are slick and can be dangerous.   Also look at the size of the feet of those using the path and match the material size to fit the footprint.  A tiny piece of flagstone could teeter or even flip if not anchored well when a big foot hits land on it.

2)  WHAT will make the journey down your new path?  A narrow, winding trail – although romantic – may not allow for a mower to access the other side of the garden.

Place stepping stones close together if the path will have handicapped users.

And if the path becomes a waterway when it rains or will be used by someone who needs it to be handicap accessible, you might want to reconsider and use a solid material with a drain, or butt stones against one another as tightly as possible.

3)  WHEN will the path be used?  If the answer includes after dark hours, be sure you not only have lighting, but also keep it free of anything that would trip up users, like irregular ups and downs in the material, or those slick, moss covered bricks.

Antique bricks make a quaint pathway for a shady spot, but can be dangerous when the worn faces become covered with moss or settle into an irregular surface.

4)  WHERE does your path lead?  Although the destination is important, so is the view.  A lovely line of stepping-stones taking your eye straight to a trash can should be avoided.   Create a more circuitous route and add evergreen shrubs along the way to keep your trash from being the focal point in your landscape.

5)  So, back to the original question: WHICH plants or material will surround the stepping-stones?  Many times, it is fine to simply leave the space between the stones free of plant material.  Whether crushed stone or sand is used to set the stones in place, the simplest solution is to use that same material around the stones.  However, if erosion control is an issue, or if you simply don’t like the sparse look of bare ground, plant material can be added.  Many groundcovers run low or mat well and several websites offer lists to help you decide which appeal to you and are best suited to your geographic area.  The stepping-stones may be put directly into lawn grass if the path receives enough sunlight.  But be sure the stones are above soil grade so water/mud doesn’t pool on the stones if it will be used during a rain, but below the grade of the grass so you can mow over them.

MYTH: stepping stones can't be put right into a lawn

Planning out the system as a whole is crucial and thought should be put into choosing the right materials for both the stepping-stones and what goes between them.

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2 thoughts on “Steps to Integrating Stepping Stones

  1. We are thinking about doing a path from the driveway to the house made of leftover stones and bricks. What do you think of mixing the media?

    • Jo, if your leftovers are left over from the materials on the front of your home, no problem combining them again on a horizontal surface like a new walkway. If they are NOT from the front of your home, you might consider using them for a new backyard project and trying to stay with materials you’ve already introduced, or at least in the same color family. For patterns to integrate the two, this website for Johnson’s Landscaping in Wisconsin (http://www.johnsonsnursery.com) has some great examples of how it can be done. Just click on their landscaping services portfolio for ideas. c:

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