Paving Paradise

We recently headed on down to the local Fieldays event for farmers and rural types.  I’ve been meaning to go for a decade.  We’re rural types and with over a 1000 exhibitors and all things country it seemed like the perfect thing for us to do.   It was a lovely day out, but my head was all about the garden, and my wallet – in spite of all the great deals, was intrinsically linked to the house and at this point is a finite resource to be guarded tightly.   Fortunately, my heart was blinded to all the exciting possibilities found at many points along the crowded paths and bursting stalls.

Such an incredible event and the thing I came way with the most was the mud proof flooring! Funny the way your mind works from time to time!

However with the garden foremost in my head, the thing that drew my eye was the wood chips on the ground to mark out trade sites and keep down the mud in the paths.  I kept wondering what they would be doing with it after the show – there must have been acres of it in nice thick layers.  It turns out the event centre reuses it, shame.    Now for me right now, picking up a truck load or two of preloved woodchip at a bargain basement price would be the deal of the century.  Alas not to be.

But it did get me thinking about my garden paths.  It is still a bit early to be making a decision but not too early to start thinking about it.   What would be the ideal medium for the ground between the gardens.   I put a post out on Facebook and Twitter to see what others used and what they thought.

Sandy paths
At the moment the paths are a blank canvas. I did toy with the idea of leaving the sand, however in the height of summer it would be hot and the slightest breeze would kick it up into my face as I worked… so yeah… bad idea.

It basically came down to about four main options each with pros and cons. It was good to see what others thought, and added to my own experiences and I think I have come up with a decision.  However I’m open to persuasion.  So please let me know your thoughts.   Here’s mine.


I love the look of well mowed lawn between the beds.  It is comfortable and cooling to sit on in the summer as I tend the beds and isn’t to difficult to set up – scatter seeds and wait.  The last garden has grass all around and after a mow it looked stunning.

However, the new garden is about the same size as the last one and will introduce the same problems.  Due to the MS, keeping it mowed was exhausting.   I tried mowing in sections so I wouldn’t get exhausted, but then I never achieved that lovely well mown look all across the place.  It often left me too stuffed to actually do the pottering about.  I have tried getting others to help but they often did more harm than good as a trailing cucumber vine was mulched to a pulp, a hanging pea shoot became ensnared in the passing handle and ripped ruthlessly from the earth, among other things.  Non gardeners just don’t get it.

grass paths
While I love the look of grass paths, they take a bit of effort to keep looking nice.

Then there are the edges the mower can’t reach.  I find a weed eater is a bit unwieldy in a tight spot and I got quickly fed up with the bit of plastic snapping off the strimmer line as it repeatedly hit the sides of the beds.  I don’t want to add unnecessary plastic to my garden.  I’ve had help in this area too in the past, resulting in a severe haircut for my poor onions!  So I found the only way was up close and personal with shears.  It was good in I was in regular connection with the garden, but it was extremely time consuming.

I do love a lawn but on an energy output scale Hubby the Un-Gardener has said no for my own good.

Gravel bed
I could make the paths gravel like the platform the plumbers created for the water tanks. It does look kinda nice, but I’m not convinced it is the right thing for the garden.


I have written these off right from the start.  I have experience here.  In our very first garden when we didn’t know what we were doing, we put in a lovely white pebble garden with a few poor unfortunately plants to suffer in.  We put down weed mat and then stones, but it didn’t take long before we lost control.  The leaves blew in and landed among them, plants crept across from under the fence and in the end we had a lovely rich compost above the weed mat with nasty weeds thriving above with their roots piercing the pores in the mat making it next to impossible to pull up.  Add to that the weight of the now invisible white stones that had sunk to the depths of the debris and clearing it all up (to make the house presentable for sale) was something I don’t care to repeat any time soon.  Without the weed mat the gravel will quickly be lost in my sand and I’m not keen on weed mat at all so however lovely it looks on day one…  It’s a no from me.


This would make it my dream garden.  Maybe a lovely pattern and play on shapes, sizes and colours.  It would be low maintenance, weed free and look fabulous.  There is just one drawback.  Cost.  I priced it up.  It would be over ten thousand dollars new!   Eek.   I think this will need to be a long term plan to source enough second hand ones for free or next to nothing and then one day when I have enough I could make it wonderful.  Or I could learn to make pavers – but then there’d still be a cost…   So that’s a no for now.

So that leaves

Wood chip
And the winner is…. wood chip – unless someone else has a bright Idea… I’m open to suggestions.


A lot of people use these.  The common complaint seems to be the blackbirds make a mess of them and they break down quickly and need replacing often.   I’m not worried about the birds – it would be contained within the outer walls of the beds. But the thing that sold me for now is the continuous break down of the chips themselves – I don’t see it so much as my paths being eroded, but my poor sandy soil that lies beneath the entire space will get a continual nutrient boost, not to mention the benefit it will bring to microbial communities in the garden.  The paths will have more of a job than just covering the sand and being worked upon.  They will be working just as hard as everything else.

Wood chips it is…  now where to find several truck loads at a good price….

Come again soon – good things take time.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)


21 thoughts on “Paving Paradise

  1. Wood chips are my favorite. I stone looks nice for awhile, but weeds still grow through, or on top, however you want to look at it. These days I’m more concerned with getting down to the ground and back up. Raised beds are in my future- next year.

  2. Wood chip sounds a brilliant solution. I used to work for a sawmill, the chip was free but I paid for the truck to deliver it in a large quantity. Do you know anyone like that?

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I’m a fan of wood chip. The birds and hedgehogs love it because of the myriad of creepy crawlies that hide in it and, yes, they can make a mess looking for breakfast, dinner and tea but it’s a very natural looking mess, if you know what I mean. Oh and also the nutrient benefits as it rots down into the ground.

    Win win if you aske me 😀 xx

  4. In Auckland, many tree trimming companies will give you their chipped green matter for free if you take a truckload as it save them disposal fees. As an added nutrient bonus, this way you get leaves and twigs in with the wood chip. Do you have a local tree trimmer you can contact?

  5. I’m a massive fan of wood chip mulch (with leaves and all mixed in). But if you don’t have any luck getting wood chips for some reason, you could line the paths with a thick layer of cardboard boxes (free) then put larger stones (1″ size) on top. The cardboard works as a barrier to break the weed cycle for a decent chunk of time. Then to manage the weeds when they do turn up, use one of those gas wands from time to time. It works well and there’s no bending required. It’s what I’ve found works well in one of my garden areas. And the passive heat gained from the sun on the stones is quite beneficial as a slow release overnight. No replacement of stones ever needed either as they’re of a size that they don’t end up buried and part #of the dirt!

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