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Vegetable gardens can become one of the most entertaining and productive parts of your garden.
Most of the time, vegetable gardeners are more concerned with building healthy soil and general maintenance. However, many vegetable gardeners do not pay much attention to surfacing their plots.
Effective surfacing within a vegetable garden can reduce maintenance, provide easy access and keep pests at bay. The best surfacing for vegetable gardens will be a solid and impermeable surface free of cracks.
It will also enhance your growing areas visually and provide easy mobility to wheelbarrows and other forms of carriage.
I will examine the top 6 surfacing options for vegetable gardens and discuss the effectiveness of each.
In reality, most vegetable gardens are merely rectangular borders cut out of lawn. This results in grid like pathways of grass in between your growing areas.
This can form quite a satisfactory pathway surface for between vegetable borders. It is especially so if your vegetable garden is already adjacent to a lawn.
These green pathways are easy to maintain and regenerate easily. The only drawback with lawn is it can become messy in times of heavy rain.
Edging the grass can become an extra chore and pests like slugs find it easy to travel across and hide.
Wood chippings and bark mulch can provide an organic and naturalistic aesthetic for vegetable gardens. However as a pathway or surfacing material it has some serious flaws.
Firstly, bark will eventually rot down leading to the continuous need for re-spreading. Not only can this be laborious it can also be expensive. One of the biggest threats with surfacing vegetable garden paths with bark is weeds.
The inevitable spillage of soil means there is a continuous threat of weed establishment and eventual domination.
It is interesting that gravel is the most common surfacing material for vegetable garden areas and pathways. Gravel does have some advantages including looking good and allowing water to pass through.
However, if you are considering laying gravel I would recommend basing it correctly. This means not simply laying membrane and spreading it over soil.
Make sure you excavate to at least 100mm spread 60mm of compactable sub-base and 40mm of gravel.
This will give the surface extra stability and reduce the threat of weed establishment. Bear in mind that gravel is not ideal for surfacing around vegetable gardens.
The aggregate will eventually become clogged with soil and organic matter. This will lead to weed establishment and a generally unsightly look.
This is not to mention the inconvenience of displacement when wheeling barrows and other tools.
Concrete is a surfacing material which has really fallen out of favour in the past 30 years. However, the truth is concrete is a very practical surfacing material.
Concrete is fast and easy to lay and is one of the most affordable methods of hard surfacing. The great thing about concrete is it can always be re-surfaced later with other pavers and other surfaces.
A well installed concrete path will provide easy access with no threat of weed establishment.
Block paving is a popular surfacing material and now comes in a wide range of products and styles.
Conventionally used for driveways these concrete blocks are aesthetically pleasing and hard wearing. If you want to surface between raised vegetable beds block paving is a reasonable option.
This is especially so if you have a specific look and design in mind.
However, the only drawback with block paving in vegetable gardens is the sanded joins.
Continuous, digging, planting and harvesting will lead to continuous soil spillages. Over time this will lead to an infiltration of dirt, debris and eventually lead to weed establishment.
The term paving slabs covers a very broad range of paving materials on the market. Paving slabs can be anything from concrete aggregate pavers to natural stone paving.
However, the thing which makes paving slabs consistent is normally the way they are laid. Slabs, if installed correctly, are laid upon a solid and consistent mortar bed with a compacted sub-base.
This means they are very unlikely to move or crack.
When jointed properly with a strong mortar mix there is almost no risk at all of cracking.
This makes paving slabs ultimately the best surfacing material for vegetable garden pathways and other surfaces. Paving will provide study accesses for wheeled carriages such as wheelbarrows and wheelchairs.
It will also provide a robust surface which will last the test of time and prevent weed establishment.
Therefore, the best surfacing material for vegetable gardens is paving slabs laid to a correct specification.
However, like most things in life, this is also the most expensive option! If you don’t want a messy looking vegetable garden I would at least recommend concreting between vegetable beds.
Thank you for reading our article on the best surfacing for vegetable gardens. If you require a vegetable garden builder please do not hesitate to contact us.
We can design vegetable gardens and install self sufficient and sustainable garden systems.
For more information we have linked to some of our other vegetable garden articles below.
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