Glass, tiles and brick create a path at LotusLand  Photo by Jane Gates

Stepping stone paths in the landscape are perfect to lead through fencing. Or, as I’ve mentioned before, you can use them to funnel traffic across lawns to reduce wear and tear. Use them singly to herald an entryway. Or even paint your name or your street address on a paver as an entry marker. Ring a patio or play area with stepping stones or make passage to a compost pile easier with a stepping stone path. Decorative stepping stones can reduce tracked dirt and mud and keep traffic from straying onto more delicate areas. They can be grouped together to form an informal patio or seating area. You can mix fancy stepping stones into a larger area of stone or cement, too.

To set single stepping stones or pavers, cut out the soil beneath to match the shape of the piece you are using. You can outline the shape with a stick or marking paint. Then dig down a couple of inches deeper than the depth of the paver. Pouring a one or two inch layer of builder’s sand to line the bottom will form a cushion so your paver is more likely to sit flat, steady and less likely to shift over time. If the area you are setting them on is not very stable, then dig a couple of inches deeper still and add a layer of ¾” gravel or road base under the sand. This should keep them solidly in place in your landscape for years.

For a larger area of outdoor flooring, dig out your area to at least three or four inches in depth. Deeper is better. If you have the room, spread a layer of gravel or road base one to three inches deep (depending on have big your area is and how much weight you want to support). Then top the area with at an inch or two of builder’s sand. The deeper your foundation, the more stable your surface will be. Set your stepping stones or pavers on the smoothed and leveled base and fill with more sand or gravel. You can also inter-plant with ground-hugging plants like Dymondia, mosses or Thyme or you can plant lawn grass between more widely set stones. The closer you set your stonework, the smoother your flooring will be.  A patio that will be furnished with seating, tables or other small-footed objects should be built with very stones that are carefully set together leaving gaps no bigger than ¾ of an inch. Check with a licensed contractor if you want to build areas that will support considerable weight, like pads for structures or driveways.

You can use stepping stones for straight-forward practical use. If you have a dry river bed and don’t want to build a bridge for crossing, you can set a meandering pathway of flat areas to step across the rocky channel. Rather than carving stairs up a hillside, you can sculpt out flat areas and set stepping stones flat on top to create stair surfaces. Consider placing pavers around areas that can get messy or muddy like around hose bibs or valves where it would be handy to have a flat, solid place to stand or work. You can even floor small areas like in greenhouses or around a gazebo.

Have fun designing and choosing materials for your paving. By using stepping stones and pavers in your landscape you can transform the ordinary garden into something special. And they are easy to install and easy to move if you change your mind later. A stepping stone design can make your landscape unique, artistic and serve double-duty by being helpfully practical.