Getting around your vegetable beds needs to be relatively easy for gardening to be a practical and productive exercise. Because we often take the same route and our footsteps are repeatedly planted in the same place it can be handy to have a resilient surface to spread the load and prevent deep ruts from forming in the ground. This also comes into play when we are manouvering wheelbarrows and carrying heavy bags of manure or compost – situations where level ground is a real bonus and can prevent twisted ankles. Vegetable gardens are accessed all year round and this requires that we can get to and around them in all weathers. Having a surface to paths that allows water to run off or drain away makes wet weather gardening more of a breeze than it might otherwise be. Seating and storage areas are often more easy to use if they are level and water doesn’t pool on them. Tables and chairs need a firm surface if legs and feet aren’t to sink into soil.
A garden path should ideally be wide enough for a wheelbarrow to go along it but in some places this is not essential and paths can be as narrow as a brick laid sideways. Paths can be purely functional and they can also have an aesthetic contribution to make – especially where they form the entrance to an ornamental vegetable garden. Try and use materials that are in harmony with the other structural elements you have in your garden. Often a temporary solution can be better than none at all, I have seen many a plot where planks were laid down for a particular day’s work and they are still there years later. Its amazing what you can end up living with! Bark or gravel over weedmat, old carpet, scaffold boards, bricks can all be put down without too much fuss. Alternatively you might want to really do the job properly and dig out a sub base that is then filled with compacted aggregate before bricks, slabs, tiles or poured concrete are laid.