More in Outdoors
The first step in making a path is to lay out square concrete pavers in the design you've chosen. A straight path works fine, but a curved or offset path gives the optical illusion of more space in a small garden. To lock the steppingstones in place, use a rubber mallet to tap them down and a level to get the right height. If you're making a casual garden, the stones don't have to be perfect, but they do need to be level enough that you can walk easily across them.
Pour sand under the stones to raise or lower the height of each, then use a tape measure to space them evenly. For this project you could use fieldstones or bricks to create the same effect; wood timbers would work as well if you placed them closer together.
To guide visitors into your new herb garden, and also to give the area more height, add some tall pots (Image 1). Pots are a great way to add interest because they enhance the design -- and they're easy to move around. To prepare the pots for the plants, add a few inches of gravel (Image 2); this keeps the holes from getting clogged and helps water run off the roots and out the bottom of the pot.
Cut a piece of landscape fabric to fit over the gravel (Image 1). This keeps the soil at the top of the pot where it belongs and helps keep it from running out the bottom of the pot and making a mess or stain on your deck or patio. Pots need good drainage, as standing water will cause root rot and bacterial infections. It's better to have too much drainage than not enough. Once you have the bottom of the pot ready, add a good-quality potting soil to the top (Image 2). Good soil is critical because you're essentially trapping the plants in this container with no other place to get nutrients. Never reuse potting soil: buy a fresh bag each time you make a pot. This will ensure that your plants get off to a healthy start.
Fill the pots half full with soil. Then add 3 tablespoons of slow-release fertilizer (Image 1) and water-saver crystals (Image 2) and stir them into the top layer of soil. These small crystals soak in water like a sponge and swell to several times their size. Then they release the water back into the soil when it dries out. With the plants in their new pots, add more potting soil to fill in the gaps. Then move them into place and watered with a light dose of liquid fertilizer (Image 3), which will give them an immediate dose of nutrients to help them adjust to their new container. Potted plants dry out very quickly, so be sure to check them daily during hot or dry weather. Water the pot thoroughly, until the water runs out the bottom, to make sure you've soaked all layers of the soil. Mint tip: Since mints grow with such wild abandon, put them in pots to protect the rest of your garden (Image 4). Otherwise they will take over more delicate plants and run into areas where you do not want them to go.
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