Pathways add a welcoming element to gardens; they invite us in by offering an easy way to meander through and enjoy the scenery. They are functional as well; gardeners use pathways for wheelbarrows and other equipment. Build a path on a slope that has good drainage and footing that isn't slippery. For extremely steep slopes, cut level runs joined together by steps, or zigzag the path across the hill.

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Use garden mulch to create an inexpensive pathway with good drainage.

Step 1

Hammer stakes into the ground and connect string to them to show the outline of both sides of the path, which should be at least 3 feet wide to account for the width of the railroad ties. Ideally, the slope rises gradually; about 1 inch per foot. Zigzag the path to achieve the gradual rise. Dig into the side of the slope with a shovel to make the zigzagged path wider if necessary.

Step 2

Remove 2 or 3 inches of dirt so the path becomes lower than the ground around it. Later, when you fill it in with bark, it will be slightly higher than the ground around it.

Step 3

Place the level every few feet along the path. Use the shovel to make the path as level as possible from side to side; move mounds of dirt to fill in places where dirt is missing. Remove any rocks, extra dirt and debris to make a smooth path.

Step 4

Dig 4-inch deep trenches along both sides of the path for the railroad ties, which will act as the border, to rest in. Line the path with weed-barrier cloth all the way into the trenches so the railroad ties will help hold it in place. Press garden staples into the cloth in other spots to keep it secure.

Step 5

Place the narrowest side of the railroad tie in the trenches, so the narrow side becomes its bottom. The tie will stand up about 5 inches above the dirt trench. Hammer one or two 12-inch stakes diagonally through the railroad tie into the dirt if the slope is so steep that the railroad tie may become dislodged.

Step 6

Fill the path with bark until it is at least 3 inches deep and completely covers the weed-barrier mat. Rake to smooth and level it.