Upon just a little walking around while tilling, I can see that foot traffic
packs down the soil. Is it good to have designated walkways, or pavers or
stepping stones or the like to avoid packing soil or stepping on plants?
If you use a tiller correctly you wouldn't be walking on the freshly tilled
portions... with your final passes stand off to the side, some tillers have
an offset position... anyway by then the ground should be fluffy enough that
you only need to guide it with one handle. It helps if after primary
tilling to leave the ground rest in the sun like a day to further dry out
before final tilling.
Nah, just stomp the crap out of your plants, and be sure not to miss any or
the gardening gendarmes will arrest you... what do you think. I wouldn't
use stepping stones, you'll only have to lug them out before the next
tilling, and weeds will grow in the spaces creating much extra labor. I
make pathways of corrogated cardboard, eventually it decomposes and what
doesn't gets tilled in. If you can't collect sufficient cardboard over the
winter then your local booze emporium will be very happy to accomodate. It
gets windy here at times so I use split firewood and such to hold down the
corrogated. And to keep weeds down directly around plants I use weed block
cloth. You need to develop a system that works for you... if this is your
first attempt expect a few years to pass before you get it figured out and
accumulate the necessary supplies... expect to make stupid mistakes,
Walking on the ground or lawn compresses the soil. It all depends on
how much is done before compaction is an issue. It is a good idea to
have pathways to gain access for weeding, tilling, etc. Stay off the
ground when soggy.
It is quite important that foot traffic (all traffic actually) is directed
off your garden beds to avoid compaction. Compaction will collapse the
structure of your soil and lead to much reduced productivity. Likewise
frequent tilling damages structure and is not necessary.
What you make paths from and what size and shape they should be is the
subject of a lengthy paper or a book. You need to find a solution that fits
you and your garden situation that is affordable. There are many
compromises to be made, one size does not fit all.
Not only does a designated path keep the rest of the soil from getting
compacted, but it also keeps shoes and feet clean.
If your climate does not involve the soil freezing, you can use
decomposed granite, stepping stones, brick, salvaged broken concrete,
wood or bark chips, or pea gravel. Put ground cloth down first and then
whatever you choose for a surface layer. This will prevent weeds from
getting establish (but won't prevent them from starting). You can omit
the ground cloth for stepping stones if you wish your plants to grow
between the stones.
For masonry -- brick or broken concrete -- you should put a layer of
sand and pea gravel on top of the ground cloth and set the masonry into
that layer; the sand and gravel will hold the masonry in place. You can
even plant a shallow-rooted, small ground cover into the sand and gravel
between the pieces of masonry. Try creeping thyme, Scotch moss, or
If your soil freezes in the winter, check with a local landscape
contractor for recommendations.
You don't need a path through a grass lawn if there is no traffic along
a constant route. If there is a well-traveled route, even a lawn needs
At a public garden where I'm a docent, there is a large lawn that is
open most of the year for visitors to walk, sit, and even picnic. All
other grass is off limits. The large lawn is closed for 6-8 weeks
starting in January or February for renovation. It's aerated, reseeded,
and top-dressed with compost. This year, one particular area -- a
frequent route onto the lawn -- had to be renewed with fresh sod; it was
worn and compacted beyond what the usual renovation could fix.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
Yes, walkways are preferred. Raised beds are even more preferred,
Despite what the others may say, tilling your garden is damaging the
soil structure and the worms, who are your friends. Read up on all
the methods of no-till gardening, ie: google no-till gardens.
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