Garden walkway design, especially in Zone 1 is, in my opinion, a very crucial part of homesteading. It serves to create an environment that not only is reflective of the gardener’s individual style, but can also be a big factor in plant health, productivity, and ease of care. Zone 1, in relation to permaculture, is the first outdoor area surrounding the main living space and typically gets the most traffic.
I can honestly say that while I plant for sustenance and self sufficiency, I am also trying to create a lush environment where I can relax and gear down . In the end, the layout of my property, it’s orchard, vegetable gardens, animal pens, sheds and outbuildings, if well thought out should be a reflection of what I find visually appealing. It should be interesting to others, but not something that would be exactly like they would create.
Since I imagine most of us have big ideas and plans, but are forced to grow our homesteads one, or maybe two projects at a time, it makes good sense to sketch out the design concept you have in your head, and then hash out the potential issues that might come up. A few details I tried to consider were , contour or slope of the land, building locations such as the chicken yard/coop, animal pens, gardens, paths,sheds and water and electrical lines. Then I looked at where fencing and gates would fit into my plan. It is wise to take into consideration the direction of the sun and amount of sunlight or shade an area will receive during each season when deciding where things will go.
I planted my fruit trees based in part on the amount of sunlight they will get as well as the amount and location of shade they will produce later. Planting a small peach tree beside a south facing garden fence might look great now, but as it matures it could block a huge amount of your daily sunlight to the garden behind it. Likewise planting that same peach tree in the yard directly west from a garden shed protects the shed from the harsh afternoon sun and helps keep it much cooler. That way I don’t pass out from heat stroke trying to find a shovel.
Once I had the major stuff laid out, I tried to decide where I wanted lawn, plants, fruit tress or a combination. I chose mostly plants for the area closest to the house, so I laid out my paths based around that premise. I decided for the main acre around my house it would not be important to get large equipment such as a tractor in and out. I plan to have a “no till” garden and will only use small equipment to move around the rest of the stuff. Since the pigs and larger live stock will go outside this aprx. 1 acre zone surrounding the house, and will have larger paths I will post about those later. I am making the walking paths 4′ wide which should accommodate a wheel barrow nicely. I decided to avoid sharp angles, even though they can be nice visually, so that I can get a 4-wheeler or small lawn tractor with trailer down the paths.
When we put in electric and water lines I dug the trenches based on having paths over the lines instead of fencing or gardens. If there are future problems with these lines, I can just dig up the mulched walkways instead of having to tear into an established bed. The truth is, I was thinking since garden paths usually stay unmolested, that should keep me from electrocuting myself or flooding the yard years from now when I am digging holes, and have forgotten where I put the lines. I should be able to remember….no digging deep on the paths. This brings up a good point to always update your land sketches with these sorts of things. That way you have an accurate map of where your utilities are located underground. Many cities regulate this and require you to turn in this info to the planning office. I am outside an city jurisdiction so I turned mine in to the wife in case I pass away and she needs to know where to (or not to) bury me 🙂
Once we decided where we wanted the paths I used a 4′ board to space out stakes and ran some string. The goal is to dig out the winter grass and weeds, take out a few inches of dirt, and lay down a layer of cardboard before we put down the wood chips. We will just toss the topsoil in the planting areas. Without equipment this is back breaking work. I found that using a mattock to break the land and then a shovel to dig out the soil works the best. Take it a few feet a day like us and remember the aspirin.