Pathways guide visitors through your backyard and protect garden areas from trampling feet. They can even make your outdoor space more welcoming and you don't have to spend a lot of money to reap these benefits. With proper planning, you can build your own inexpensive trail using natural materials or improvisational borders.
Mulch and Wood Chip Pathways
Recycle lumber scraps by creating a natural path with wood chips. Carpenters and woodworkers need to dispose of their scraps, so they might be willing to supply you with their wood residue for free. You can also purchase bulk quantities of mulch inexpensively at home center and hardware stores. To install the path, dig a shallow, 3 inch deep trench along the route. Line the area with landscaping fabric and place the chips on top. Maintenance will be minimal but you may need to refresh the trail each year with new wood chips to keep the path fully covered and sustain the depth.
Embedded steppingstones are another inexpensive option. Prefabricated stones are available from garden stores in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, or you use decorative stone tiles and bricks. For greater cost savings, you can create your own stones using a casting mold and concrete filler.
Instead of buying stonework, you can gather natural stones from around your property. Flat pieces work best, but shape doesn't matter. You can line up the unique edges of each stone like a mosaic before securing them into the ground.
Pebble walkways are inexpensive to create too. Landscaping shops sell the tiny stones and they do not need to be rooted in the dirt to create a path. Just dig a shallow trench, line it with landscaping fabric to deter weed growth and dump the pebbles inside. Line the path with wooden planks for extra stability.
Illusion pathways create the overall feeling of a walkway and direct pedestrian traffic without physically changing the yard's landscape in a major way. One strategy to create the illusion of a walkway is to define the preferred route across your backyard with lighting. Solar lanterns hung from poles will do the trick, as will staked-in ground-level fixtures that you can affix anywhere you choose. For a simpler idea, you can utilize a few petite fence sections -- of the type used to border garden ares -- to suggest the proper footpath, and complete the implied border with strategically placed flower boxes, potted plants and lawn ornaments.