When you're dreaming of an elegant brickwork or elaborate pebble mosaic walkway but you're on a budget, cheap walkway ideas can give you a functional and beautiful path for much less. You can still have an attractive garden path while keeping costs low. Imagination and hard work make the most of less expensive materials to make your dreams a reality.
Round Wood Pavers
If you have access to fallen trees or a hefty pile of firewood and a chainsaw, then round wood pavers may be the choice for you. Cut logs into 3- or 4-inch-thick slices and lay them on a prepared foundation, spaced about 1 inch apart. This works best in a garden with a rustic look.
Corrugated Wood Walks
An easier method of laying a wooden walkway, though it requires more wood, is to lay the logs side by side in rows. The resulting walkway resembles a corrugated surface. It's durable and makes a sturdy woodland pathway. Cut logs to 2 feet or more in length for single-file walkways and at least 4 feet long for two people to walk side by side.
Flagstone or 'Crazy-Paving'
Where rocks abound, stone is a solid candidate for cheap walkway ideas. If your yard has slabs of slate, limestone slabs or other relatively flat stones, simply make a flagstone path. No need to dress or cut the stones for precise placement, just fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle using the natural shapes.
If you don't have stone on your own property, try approaching a farmer for permission to pick up rocks from fields and pastures. Because large stones can interfere with farm machinery, the farmer may jump at the chance to have them hauled away.
Alternatively, you may be able to remove rocks or even broken concrete pieces that you can use like stone from construction projects, road work or other excavations. Get permission before you take rocks, concrete slabs or any other materials from any property, including government-owned property.
Gravel or River Rock Paths
If you have chunky field stone or round rocks to work with, consider using them for cheap walkway ideas. Use the larger rocks to line the edges of a path, and then fill between with rounded pea gravel, river rock or crushed limestone. Gravel drains well and is usually inexpensive by the truckload. It also spreads quickly and easily with only a shovel and metal rake.
To prevent weed growth in the path, lay landscape fabric as a barrier before spreading the gravel on top. Unlike sheet plastic underlayment, landscape fabric allows for proper drainage. It's worth taking the extra time and going to the extra expense to lay it.
The larger edging stones act both to hold the gravel in place and create a distinctive border. One minor drawback is that wheeled vehicles can get stuck in deep gravel, so this may not be the best choice if you constantly need to move a wheelbarrow or lawnmower along the path.
Simple Clay Walkway
A dirt cheap choice for cheap walkway ideas in areas with clay soil is to edge with field stone and create a hard-packed dirt path between. Mound clay soil slightly in the center with a shallow gutter on one or both sides under the edging stones and tamp the entire path firmly with a tamping tool to solidify the surface. Water will slide off and prevent erosion to the path. If you wish, set a single flat stepping stone every 12 to 15 inches for added interest and firmer footing when wet.
Concrete 'Stone' Look-a-Likes
When your heart is set on stone, but nature or your budget has short-changed you, go for concrete look-a-likes. After all, concrete is composed of ground limestone so there isn't a lot of difference. This is an easy DIY project requiring only a faux-stone mold, concrete mix and a few simple tools. Alternatively, pour an ordinary sidewalk and stamp "flagstones" or other patterns into it while wet.
Cheap Walkway Ideas: Foundations
Whatever path you make requires a good foundation to support it. This usually involves digging out the area and adding foundation material. Crushed rock works well as the sub-base with sand as the base material for stones and similar pathway coverings. The specific cheap walkway ideas you use affect how you prepare the area.
Deborah Stephenson is a homesteader, lifelong organic gardener, former zookeeper, naturalist, artist and anthropologist who brings an eclectic range of experience to her writings. When not writing she can usually be found puttering in her extensive gardens or exploring the national forest next door with her dogs.