Paths

Hello,
I recently had my backyard redone. I got rid of all the grass and had native plants put in so that that the watering needs are reduced. The paths that are there now are made out of decomposed granite (DG) which may or may not have been installed properly. At any rate they have to be redone because they are essentially wet sand that gets everywhere and just look like crap.
My basic desires for this are a) adequately sheds water or at least keeps it off the surface b) has a reasonably natural look c) is low maintenance
This is San Diego. In the summer it is generally bone dry. In the winter we get rain occasionally, sometimes quite hard, and we get significant condensation every night. It's this condensation that leaves the DG a sodden mess. We don't have spring or fall.
Some of the obvious choices are
1) concrete This seems pretty severe and doesn't exactly fit with the theme of a native landscape. I also have a gas pipe running under the area where the path is and I'd really rather not have to deal with a slab if it ever needs repair.
2) pavers w/mortar Again sort of severe though less so than concrete. I am a bit skeptical of being able to get a firm bed for the stones as the ground is mostly sand. This will probably lead to mortar crumbling.
3) pavers w/o mortar with a sand "grout" I could live with this with a "natural" looking paver but I'm a bit leery of all the sand washing into the drainage piping and clogging them. This is a current problem with the DG that is there now.
4) stepping stones set in decorative gravel This is what I am leaning towards at the moment. The downsides I can think of here is that you have to make sure you walk on the stepping stones in bare feet, and it's not as good of a surface for casters as the ones above.
5) grass While the whole idea was to get away from grass I could live with a grass pathway. Downsides here are that it has to be watered, mowed, and edged, but it does have good water retention and would look natural. Plus you can walk on it in bare feet. Unusable for casters though.
6) other ground cover One book I have suggests pavers or flagstones using just dirt as grout and planting aromatic herbs between the stones. Idea is that walking on them releases the smells. Kind of a neat idea.
So that's the extent of my thinking on this so far. I welcome comments and suggestions from everyone, especially those that have direct experience with 3-7. Also if you have a suggestion for something not listed above please suggest away.
thank you ml
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clipped

We have used pavers with river rock (much larger than gravel) and river rock alone in places around our Florida condo where grass doesn't grow. We put them on top of landscape cloth and they work very well. Alongside our patio, we have large square pavers surrounded by rock and keep our grill there.
We use the black plastic edging - heavy duty - to keep rock out of the lawn (rocks are dangerous if picked up by mower). Rock and landscape cloth stays free of weeds and is easy to clean off with leaf blower. Smaller rock or gravel might be disturbed by blower. The rock itself is tough to walk on barefoot.
There are quite of few different ways to use pavers, including decorated or home-made ones with designs in them. In a dry climate, slices of logs might work for "stepping stones".

Flagstone would probably be my choice if there is a suitable ground-cover available. A local garden center or extension service can probably recommend ground covers. There is one here in Florida that grows in clumps, stays dark green, and only gets to about 3 or 4" tall. Doesn't spread.

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On 1/15/2008 9:50 AM, kzin wrote:

You should be patient with your DG. After it has been wet on and off and walked upon, it will become quite firm if properly installed.
I have DG. I was quite dubious about it when the landscape contractor first proposed it. However, it was among the least expensive options, and I was quickly running out of money. It was installed about 3" thick over ground cloth, which prevents weeds from sending roots below the DG but which allow water to seep through. After it setup firm, I was even able to rake leaves off it, even with a heave hand on the rake. It dries quite quickly. If you don't walk on it immediately after it is wet, you don't leave footprints.
Only in the extremely heavy rains of three years ago did I have any significant erosion. But that was the least of my problems from that rain. Edible asparagus that I had planted 30 years previously and from which I had a good crop each spring rotted in the ground. Worst of all, the hill in my backyard tried to become part of my lawn; the cost to repair approached four times what I paid for my house (a loss for which insurance does not exist).
Now that my hill has been regraded, I had to have my garden restored. I had the landscape contractor install the same DG walkways he did before. I now recommend them highly.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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wrote:

That would probably be an excellent substrate for some flagstones in the high traffic area. I just scattered them in the sand here (Florida) and within a month they had stabilized into a nice path. If you raked the ground flat and worked them in they would be good to go right away.
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I read it with interest and noted (to myself) that my DG was probably improperly installed, and saved it away as the procedure for properly installing DG. There was nothing in your response that indicated you were looking for any sort of reply. You didn't ask for any further info. I'm not in the habit of posting just to hear myself speak. If you found my lack of response rude then I apologize.
ml
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On Wed, 16 Jan 2008 04:21:11 -0800, Smitty Two

DG does't alway work. It needs to be pushed into the soil to truly be effective. Putting landscape fabric is making it a landslide when it rains if the paths are on an incline.
I would recommend using crushed granite as an underlayment, then over that a few inches with decomposed granite. I love the way this type path looks.
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Ok, I can see your point but I usually don't like clogging up newsgroups with a thanks message. I generally write thank you with questions I ask meaning thank you in advance.
You are correct regarding my opinion about DG, correctly or incorrectly installed. It is not a suitable material for paths given the situation here. I agreed to have my paths made with it at the suggestion of my landscaper, who despite the possible misintallation of the stuff by his crew, is still a pretty knowledgable guy. I had no prior experience with the stuff so I took his advice. I made a mistake and he did as well. It happens.
You say that DG will shed water if properly installed. I'm sorry but I just don't see this happening. It has been wet from the day it was installed. Every night it absorbs the condensation and a proper base won't keep that from happening. If it just wasn't such a mess I would be tempted to leave it for a while and see if it *cures* in the dry summer. I may still do this.
And no, I will be finding a either new installer or more likely doing the job myself. It seems the only way to get jobs done properly around here with rare exceptions.
thank you for your responses ml
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"kzin" wrote

Bad choice, cost you in loss of sales value too.

Define 'pavers' in this case? If you mean brick or a brick like substance, this would be my solution. We have a trail in my backyard to the built in grill, with this sort but ours are mortored.

A good choice, easy to put down

My MIL had wood bordered walkways. Using external treated lumber on 2x4 risers, then just cut neatly and layed atop. Very easy to replace a few strips as they degrade with age.
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