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A fieldstone walkway is made from randomly sized and shaped stones gathered from fields, walls, or quarries. These paths can be either formal or informal depending on how linear their edges are.

The best materials for such footpaths are flat mica schists from the Northeast, randomly shaped bluestone from Pennsylvania, or sandstones from Arizona or Colorado.

The size of the pieces you lay for the walkway can vary anywhere from only a few inches across to three, four, or even five feet. The smaller the pieces are, the firmer the base on which you lay them has to be.

One of the most appealing elements of a fieldstone path is that the edges are so flexible. Stones can flow out to meet bedrock, reach out to surround the trunk, or a nearby tree pulling it into the path. They can swing around boulders, and tiny pools, swell out to provide a space for a bench or chair, or dissolve into individual stepping stones that wander off into another part of the garden.

Fieldstone walkways Ideas

Fieldstone pathways are most associated with rural architecture or gardens that emphasize indigenous plantings and informal designs.

Broad straight paths 5 to 6 feet wide frequently lead from country houses, gazebos, or outbuildings into large gardens. Meanwhile, narrow paths 2 to 4 feet wide act as more initiate walkways through smaller gardens.

Slightly rounded river stones or randomly shaped fieldstones of varying sizes from 6 inches to 2 feet wide or even larger are laid close to one another to produce a clean edge and a walkway that can be straight, broadly curved, or meandering.

You can make an inexpensive stone path out of odd bits of stone. Consequently, you can introduce other materials among the stones- brick, tiles, cut stones, cobbles, or small pebbles to create an intricate mixed material path. But keep in mind that too many materials run the risk of creating a very busy-looking surface.

Though these paths are less tightly laid and thus less formal than cut stone paths, they can include cut stone typically at the edges or they can be strictly edged to increase their formality.

The direction the path flows can be suggested by existing rock outcroppings, existing beds, borders, trees, or the contours of the land.

Consider an existing patio the beginning of a new path, and whole new areas might be pulled into a relationship with your home. The patio may overlook open woodland or a bench or a slope down through a meadow to a pond or stream. You could make a path of randomly shaped stones that invite guests to walk from your patio to the distant landscape. The entrance of that path could be marked with shrubs, boulders, or a gate, and subsequent design choices could follow.

Stone carpets look natural in desert gardens, too, where they mimic dry stream beds. The path provides the garden with structure and places for plants and stones. Dense plantings close to the path can block sections of the view but leave just enough to tease people to draw them on along the path.

Fieldstone can also be set in concrete. But by setting a stone carpet in concrete, you gain a solid footing but give up on the wonderful effect that results from planting the gaps.

Laying a fieldstone path takes time, a good eye, and an awareness that the stones look best when they fit snugly together.

Where to use fieldstones

  • A path from a patio out into woodland or down a slope to a beach, stream, or pond.
  • A path from a deck out into woodland that presses periodically against existing bedrock.
  • A path cum drainage swale that prevents erosion. This is particularly useful near a driveway, or along parts of your garden where seasonal run-off erodes the soil.
  • A broad area that extends out from the back door, with a perennial bed on either side. Side paths can emanate from the main path to link up with other parts of the garden.
  • To provide gaps between the individual stones for low and fragrant plants. See this article regarding plants between stones and pavers.
  • Paths through a vegetable garden.
  • For negotiating gentle slopes, possibly eliminating unwanted steps.
  • A path that flows up to and around rock outcroppings or trees.

Designing a Fieldstone Path

Stone paths can vary from 18 inches, that is, a ribbon path snaking through beds, lawn, or woodland, to a 4-to-5-foot-wide walkway broad enough for two people to walk side by side, perhaps between formal perennial beds.

Because stone carpets can be laid on flat or gently sloping land, consider a wide variety of places in your garden; Once you have decided where the path should go, define the path by pounding stakes into the ground and tying strings between them to determine the exact width and length of the path.

If you want to create broad curves, use a garden hose to suggest the outer edges of the path and then set stakes every 5 or 6 feet to record the edges.

Consider, too, that the edges need not be perfectly straight or curved. You can set the edges of some stones a foot or more into adjacent beds to create an irregular, informal edge.

Laying Stones

The most important element of designing and laying a satisfying stone walkway is to be sure the shapes of the stones speak to one another: The convex of one should fit into the concave of the next.

Lay out all your stones on the nearby lawn or tarps so you can see all their shapes. Then start trying out various combinations. Take your time.

At the path site, start by laying the edge stones along the strings to create a pair of clean, straight, or curved lines; at first, simply set the stones on top of the sand so you can easily change your mind. Once you’ve got 5 or 6 feet of edges done, fill in between them to create interesting and complementary shapes.

And don’t be afraid to shape stones with your mason’s hammer to make them work well together.

Once you have a few feet just the way you want it, set the stones permanently into the sand an inch or so above the grade of adjacent soil for good drainage, and then tap with a rubber mallet to settle the stones in place. If you are using flat stone, consult your spirit level frequently; if it’s a rougher fieldstone, eyeballing usually suffices.

Gaps Between the Stones

The gaps between individual stones can be determined on-site, but the general guideline for a stone carpet is to join them within ½ to 1 ½ inches of one another. Suffice it to say that the larger the stone, the greater the gap can be.

As you proceed, fill the gaps with gravel and then water to settle the material around the stones.

If the color of the joint material in the gaps is similar to that of the stones, the visual emphasis will be on the shape of the whole walkway; if they contrast, the emphasis will be on the shapes and patterns of the walkway stones.

If you want to plant creeping thyme or moss between them, backfill with a mixture that is equal parts topsoil and peat.

Laying Fieldstone in concrete

Because smaller stones can mean an unstable edge, walkways built up with many small stones should be set in concrete or crusher dust.

Depending on the ability of your soil to drain, excavate to a depth of around 1 foot and lay down 6 inches of 1/2-inch crushed stone. Then set thin edging wood in place, held by stakes pounded into the outside of the wood.

Pour a 3-to-4-inch concrete slab. Let it set, leaving the uppermost surface rough. When it has set, you are ready to lay down 3 inches of wet concrete on which you lay the stones that will make the finished surface of your walkway.

The joints could be filled with mortar that has been colored with a pigment that will blend with the color of the stone. The grout surface should be at least half an inch below the surface of the stone to create well-defined shadows.

In areas of the country where no frost stays in the soil, you can lay the stones directly on the soil, without preparing a base, but to be certain the stones will hold in place, set them in a bed of concrete poured right onto the soil; then pack the concrete in under the stone and around the edges. Grout the stones with the same concrete mix, wait 20 minutes or so, and then sponge the excess off the surface of the stones.

If you want plants between the stones, leave a gap at least 2 inches deep and wide between the stones, wait until the next day when the concrete under and around the stones has hardened, and then backfill the gaps with a loamy sand.

George Gitau

Meet George, an advocate for traditional craftsmanship. I will provide you with educational content, techniques and ideas for your next garden and home improvement project. Together, let's create beautiful spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional

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