DIY Affordable Garden Path Ideas

DIY / Craft By Nancy Raven Kirk

A DIY garden path can elevate your backyard into a peaceful, nature escape. There are many different styles you can build on a relatively low budget with minimal time commitments. With more time, skill and budget, there are many more layouts to consider.

Before beginning your pathway, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want an informal or formal pathway?
  • Will your pathway be leading anywhere?
  • What is your construction skill level? 
  • What is your desired budget? 
  • Do you live in an environment that requires snow removal?

In this article, we’ll dive into some common DIY garden path designs, the materials you’ll need, and tips on building. Continue reading to learn about the most popular materials for pathways and borders.

Tips on Constructing an Affordable Garden Path

  • If you don’t have your own tools, borrow tools from family and friends to save money. It will depend on the pathway style you choose, but you may need a wheelbarrow, rake, saw, and trowel.  
  • Before collecting any of your materials, measure the area where your pathway will go. That way you’ll know the size of the pathway space when you go to a home improvement retailer, and won’t overspend on tools or materials.  
  • Establish a clear budget and work with your retailer to find out what materials will suit your needs best. Make sure to consider future upkeep when setting your budget. For example, while mulch is more affordable, it needs to be replaced every 5-6 years.

Garden Walkway Options

Popular garden walkway materials include gravel, mulch, grass, stepping stones, and brick. The material you choose will depend greatly on your style preference, budget, and skill level. For example, gravel and mulch are both great options for garden walkways because they’re affordable and easy to construct. However, some people prefer the more natural look of wood or brick. These are also very attractive options, although they require more skill and upkeep to build. Continue reading to decide which option suits your needs best. 

Gravel 

Grawel walkway leading to the garden
The path to the garden is made of small brown and white stones. Photo by: Scentrio.

Purchase gravel from a nearby nursery or landscape supply specialist. After you measure the length and width of your path, share the dimensions with the gravel supplier so they help you purchase an adequate amount. When shopping for gravel for a pathway, opt for smaller stones less than ½ an inch wide. These will be more comfortable to walk on, especially while barefoot, and will pack in together more easily. 

Pros of gravel — Gravel is very low-maintenance and requires little skill. It doesn’t require much upkeep and the material itself will last several decades without needing to be replaced. A gravel path can also appear more refined.

Cons of gravel — While gravel is the sturdiest material, it’s much heavier to transport. If you’re building your pathway in an area where you need to shovel snow, consider a material other than gravel. During winter, it’s possible to shovel gravel rocks onto your lawn or flower beds. Gravel can also get stuck in your shoes and get tracked into the house. 

Mulch pathway

wood chips pathway
The beautiful natural look of a mulch pathway. Photo by: Logdog7.

Mulch provides a more natural look for your pathway. The best mulch options for a garden pathway are wood chips, cocoa beans, or cypress bark. You’ll need a thick layer about 3-inches deep for the pathway to appear completely filled in. Buy mulch in bags at your nursery, landscape supplier, or home center. You may be able to find it for free by calling tree trimming services to see if they have free piles of wood chips for the taking. 

Pros of mulch — Mulch is much lighter than gravel, so it’s easier to transport and spread, especially if you want your pathway to be a one-man job. Mulch pathways also tend to be more affordable than gravel, at least for the initial purchase. 

Cons of mulch —  Mulch eventually decomposes, so it needs to be replaced every few years. So although cheaper initially, mulch can actually become more expensive over time if you plan to keep your pathway for years to come.  

Turf 

Gray color stepping, strip line pavement and green grass lawn in garden
The most common and elegant combination of turf and stone. Photo by: Arunee.

If you’d like a grassy walkway in between your garden, consider turf. Turf offers a natural look and is very comfortable to walk on. However, beware that turf is more expensive and requires additional care and maintenance. When deciding the width of your turf pathway, make sure it’s at least wide enough for your lawnmower. 

Pros of turf — Turf offers an attractive, natural look, and is comfortable to walk on.

Cons of turf — Turf is more expensive and requires more upkeep, such as water, sunlight, and proper care. It may turn into mud if not well-cared for or if harsh weather persists.

Stepping stones 

Stone stepping pathway
Choice of sizes and shapes of stones are unlimited. Photo by: nuwatphoto.

Stepping stones can be an elegant, aesthetic option, and they’re quite easy to lay out. Plus, installation tends to be relatively quick compared to installing heavy gravel or building a wooden deck. Dig a slight indent in the ground before placing your stones to give them more stability. Opt for stones about 16-20 inches wide, and 2-3 inches thick. Spread the stones about 6 to 8 inches apart for comfortable walking. 

Note: Stepping stones are often placed on top of sand, gravel, mulch, or turf. Depending on your garden floor, you may be able to place your stones directly on top of the dirt. However, this may get muddy. 

Pros of stepping stones — They are easy to place in the yard, and can look quite professional with minimal effort. Since they are spread out, you will not need to worry about entirely covering your pathway. This will also make the project more affordable. 

Cons of stepping stones — If your area rains frequently or if you have a pool, stepping stones can become slippery. If this is the case, opt for a non-slip stone. Certain stones will get extremely hot in the sun and may prevent you from being able to walk on the pathway with bare feet. 

Brick pathway

brown brick pathway between green grass field
Have fun with stacking too, make your pathway unique. Photo by: JR Harris.

Brick is a timeless option and can give your garden pathway an old-school cottage feel. Since you need to use proper building techniques, this option requires more skill, time, and labor than the other options. However, it can be worth it if you prefer a more structured look. 

Pros of brick — Brick can last for decades when applied properly, and requires almost no maintenance. It offers a professional, structured look. 

Cons of brick — Brick is heavy, more expensive, and harder to arrange. You’ll need to ensure you understand the proper technique before beginning your construction. 

Wood pathway 

wooden pathway winding in garden with flowers
Photo by: Xiaoliangge.

Wood pathways are aesthetically pleasing and can mesh well in almost any backyard environment. Wood can also be an affordable option for a garden pathway. Once you establish the shape and length, head to the lumberyard to pick up decking boards, which you then align and screw together. Another option is to cut wooden logs into short slices, which you then group together. This type of log pathway offers a more “enchanted forest” look. 

Pros of wood — Wood is affordable and lightweight, making it easy to carry without help. It’s also a more comfortable material to walk on barefoot, compared to gravel, mulch, and brick. 

Cons of wood — If you’re building a deck-style wood path, this requires more carpentry-type skills than you would with something like mulch or gravel. Wood is also likely to deteriorate over time and may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, depending on weather and upkeep.

Borders and Edging

walkway pavement construction
Photo by: Ronstik.

After deciding on your walkway style, you’ll need to figure out your borders and edging options. If you opt for gravel, pebbles, or mulch, they will require edging to keep the walkway tidy. But even if you choose turf or stepping stones, edging can be a stylistic pathway enhancement. 

Plastic — This will be the cheapest option. It’s also one of the fastest and easiest to install, and can be easily hidden by a plant border to prevent a “cheap” look.

Steel — Steel will offer a more sturdy, attractive edge than plastic, however, it is more expensive. It also can be difficult to install if your garden pathway has a slope.

Brick Brick is one of the more professional-looking options, but they are more difficult and labor-intensive to install. They are also more expensive. 

Concrete — Concrete is a more affordable option than brick or stone but provides the same benefits. However, depending on your technique, it may not be as aesthetically pleasing.

Natural rock — Natural rock requires little skill to install and can be very pleasing to the eye when done correctly. Rock borders pair especially well with gravel and stepping stone pathways. 

Timber — Timber is also quite easy to install, and it’s more lightweight than natural rock. However, you will not be able to create any natural curves. 

Time to Build Your Garden Path

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when designing your garden pathway, including desired length, budget, skill level, and maintenance needs. 

Once you’re finished, you may consider lining your pathway with plants and lights to enhance the beauty of your backyard. 

There is no “one size fits all” approach, and you can get creative with it! Your backyard should be a relaxing space for you to enjoy, and a garden pathway can help you achieve that.

Featured image by Xiaoliangge. 

KÜHL Craftsman’s Outfit


RESISTOR™
JEAN

KÜHL Resistor™ Jean in category Men's Pants

$119.00


BURR™
JACKET

KÜHL Burr™ Jacket in category Men's Outerwear

$129.00


FUGITIVE™
FLANNEL

KÜHL Fugitive™ Flannel LS in category Men's Long Sleeve

$85.00

LAW™
FLEECE LINED HOODY

KÜHL Law™ Fleece Lined Hoody in category Men's Outerwear

$169.00

Discover KÜHL Men’s Workwear Collections

Men’s Craft PantsMen’s Work Pants

Men’s Plaid ShirtsMen’s Fleece ClothingMen’s Casual Jackets


path leading through a garden
Nancy Raven Kirk
Nancy is a writer, traveler, and outdoor enthusiast originally from Los Angeles. She's had work published in the L.A. Times, OC Weekly, and various other publications. Check out her website at www.copybykirk.com.