Finishing the Paths in the Potager

It's been several months since I started on the paths in the potager. As I am disabled these kind of jobs take me a while and I have to set myself a goal of completing a step every other day. This means that a garden can take some time to form at Pig Row but it also prevents me from storming ahead and building something I regret. There is also a chance to reflect more and alter the plan to fit the planting and my needs. I have been busy completing the posts for a new gate to lead through to a larger hen run, it will stop the nosy devils from getting into the potager and eating all the food.

fence posts

Though I have been using concrete to set the steps and path I decided on a low tech approach to the edges that harks back to the 1930s. The edging I chose were bricks, simply placed at a twenty-five degree angle and half buried in the soil for stability. The bonus to doing it this way is that some of the bricks have holes in and therefore make great habitats for lone bees. It also means no need for digging a hole, filling the hole with hardcore and cement. This was a quick job for me, taking around thirty minutes, meaning that I saved my energy for something bigger.

Path edging

Path for bees

Time for me to complete the final step out of the potager towards the hen run. This step does two things, it creates full stop to the style of the potager, though the use of bricks is echoed throughout the quarter acre because we have loads of bricks (I'd like to say it was a style choice but it is more a price decision) and will stop the chickens digging under the gate (yes, they can do that). I've shown you how to make steps before and this process is exactly the same and gets rid of another bag of hardcore behind the house meaning that by degrees we are cleaning out the mess behind the kitchen. 

Brick step

As is normal when you mix cement it starts to rain, even though rain wasn't forecast, it does it anyway the minute I slap the mix down.

Protecting cement

In comes the low tech way of protecting that drying concrete, a plastic sheet weighed down with some bricks to create a micro atmosphere which is humid but not saturated by rain. I don't want to see my new steps washed away. I will leave this on for several days as it will stop anyone else from standing on it and gives the cement a slow cure (the time it takes to go hard). After a few more days of recovery I set to on the path leading into the potager. Originally this ran beside the hedge to create a large plot but slowly it has drifted to the left, further and further away from the hedge. The soil beneath is compacted from years of us walking on these 'make do' cottage paths. I laid this path around two years ago but used the same principle of laying the bricks onto the soil. You may be holding up your hands aghast but I learnt this trick from Geoff Hamilton in his Cottage Garden series. I lay the bricks onto the soil and then allow them to settle over the coming weeks, they will drop but not by much. The soil becomes quickly compacted and becomes the hardcore layer rather than having to heave hardcore up the hill.

Cottage garden path

I have paths that are seven years old done like this and they have never shifted, and in some cases never even dropped. Yes, they do look rustic but I like that look. I have a hard standing path here due to the compost bins, it makes it easier to get into them and not lose any gravel in the process. Yes, I have decided on 20mm pea gravel which is on its way and will be laid straight onto the ground to allow some self seeding. I looked at gravel that bonded but as we are on a hillside it didn't seem a good idea. The building merchanteer (like a muskateer but with ton bags) also pointed out that in our area when it rains heavy it can turn 'sludgy', which shows that local knowledge is worth it's weight in sludge that you could slip in. Maintenance of brick paths is relatively simple, a handful of sharp sand every winter and spring brushed across them with a stiff brush takes off any algae or moss that could cause you to slip.


The potager is coming together, the steps are complete and even the dry mortar has been brushed into the steps. Now it's a matter of waiting for the gravel to arrive.


I wanted to show you what the paths looked like when they settled and had some dry mortar brushed in. This is just a small section as the rest of the path is still settling but you get the idea, and it shows that you can get a rustic path that looks great in most gardens that embrace plants over fashion.


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