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I can get some satisfaction out of a freshly weeded bed of veggies, but weeding paths is just a chore. So I'm looking around for a good solution. I don't mind investing some time and effort, as long as the pay off is worth it.

My current thought is digging down a few inches, laying down some cardboard, pinning down some landscaping fabric, and putting a few inches of wood chips on top of that (I think I can find free wood chips from local logging operations).

A few questions:

  • is that overkill? should I skip the fabric?
  • how long can I expect this to last?
  • would this be as weed free as I'm hoping?

And of course if you have a faster, easier, effective approach, I'd love to hear it. Thanks.

  • What is your path currently constructed from? Paving? Loose chippings? Something else? – Bamboo May 18 '16 at 12:01
  • At the moment it's just the dirt between beds. This is the garden's second year. – doub1ejack May 18 '16 at 12:01
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Personally, I have tried weed fabric/landscape fabric and I now have a seething hatred of the stuff. YMMV. As the wood chips (or whatever is on top of it) break down, weeds start to germinate above the fabric, while the fabric interferes with normal processes in the soil. I consider it worse than useless in the long term.

Given the age of your garden, I'd suggest just adding woodchips (or newspapers under woodchips) to what you have (not going to the effort of digging out right now), and running a lawnmower over them if your paths are wide enough for a lawnmower, or a hoe through them if not, because I'd bet you have not arrived at your final path/bed layout yet - voice of experience...

When you are sure you've arrived at a long-term layout, if woodchips are easily available to you, a simple 4-6 inches of them makes a pretty weed-free (and easily weeded, if need be) path that can be maintained by adding an inch or so of fresh chips yearly, and which does not have an annoying plastic layer lurking under the surface. I'm unclear how Bamboo finds them a potential trip hazard, for anything I'd call chips, rather than chunks. I find that they make a nice smooth path, and you can roll them if you like. The best way to keep the chips on the path is to keep the path lower than the beds - and little chip migration at bed edges is not a problem.

Other approaches include turf (do size for a lawnmower, and consider edging (the process) if that's not something you consider by default - virtually all the British gardens I've visited edge/trim turf edges, it seems a far less popular concept in the US), thyme-turf and chamomile-turf, stone slabs with thyme in the joints, concrete, etc. - in my garden, the introduced european fire ants make hard surfaces a dubious proposition, as they like to set up housekeeping under them (and are both very annoying and hard to kill.)

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    I'm halfway through the summer now and the woodchips (with cardboard underneith) have been working wonderfully. I'll be curious to see how they do over the years. – doub1ejack Jul 30 '16 at 18:14
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Skip the cardboard - it'll rot down very quickly and won't provide any stability for such an area.

Many people who have vegetable gardens simply lay fresh chipped wood or whole branch cuttings onto 'paths' or areas intended for walking on between beds. These sort of layers are not always easy to walk along, particularly when you stop to cultivate or tend an area, and can be a trip hazard. Putting weed fabric beneath bark chips or smaller wooden chips will stop most weeds from growing through the layer, but there is still some possibility of things germinating in the top layer of chippings or bark over time, and it will need topping up annually.

Laying the weed fabric is best done on compacted soil, so that it doesn't simply get trodden in and become lumpy and uneven over time, so best done on an undug, uncultivated part. It will, though, significantly reduce the amount of weeding you have to do on pathway areas, certainly for the first year. The hardest thing is preventing the chippings sliding off the membrane onto the beds themselves, particularly as you're walking over them, so inserting some sort of edging will help prevent that happening (log roll I've seen used, or sometimes a roll of green plastic edging, if you can find one deep enough). Serious veggie growers eventually tend to lay a true path, constructed from concrete beneath with slabs or bricks on top, pointed between, but this does not allow for changing planting area sizes because obviously, its a permanent fix. Well, until the pointing needs redoing, because once that starts to deteriorate, things germinate in the cracks between!

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