Making new beds & paths

If you are starting a new plot from scratch, or expanding an existing plot, then read on as we look at some options for setting up beds and pathways.

Beds

Raised Beds

Pros

  • Easy to set up without needing to break your back digging over the soil – you can just lay cardboard at the base and then fill with compost
  • Easy to maintain and keep weeds down
  • Good drainage
  • No need to worry much about the soil quality underneath as you will most likely be growing in compost or top soil
  • Plants can put their roots down into the soil below and will have good access to nutrients

Cons

  • Slugs & snails hide between soil and wood, and can become more problematic
  • Potential cost of wooden sides and other equipment you may need
  • Eventually wood will rot away and need replacing
  • You may need a lot of compost to fill them initially, which can cost money

Traditional Beds

Pros

  • Easy to keep costs down – all you need is basic gardening equipment to dig over the soil.
  • Once established and weed-free, there should be fewer hiding places for slugs, snails and other pests.
  • You can grow a lot in a fairly small area
  • Plants have good access to nutrients in the soil

Cons

  • Depending on weeds in your area, you may have quite a job on your hands to get it set up and maintained in the first season or two.
  • Poor soil quality can be an issue, and may need a lot of additional compost added to improve it.
  • Drainage can be an issue depending on soil type

Pots & Containers

Pros

  • Fewer weeds to contend with
  • Easier to keep slugs at bay (by removing any that are hiding underneath the pots on a regular basis)
  • Ability to grow veg in a patio garden/decking/balcony
  • Easy to move around to optimise growing in different weather conditions where necessary
  • Very decorative & you can pack them in close together to use minimal space

Cons

  • Compost used in pots will quickly run out of nutrients, so you will need to feed plants more frequently
  • Need regular watering during dry spells as they’ll dry out quickly
  • You are generally limited to 1-3 plants per pot (but you can use a small rectangular planter to increase your space)

Grow Bags

Pros

  • Good for very small gardens – you can easily use them at the base of a trellis to grow vertically
  • By planting through holes you can keep them weed free
  • The plastic keeps the compost warm which aids growth
  • Good for plants that can be planted close together, like lettuces, rocket, dwarf beans etc

Cons

  • The plastic element
  • They can dry out quite quickly if you cut the top of the plastic off, and can be tricky to water through relatively small holes in the plastic
  • They will run out of nutrients quite quickly so will need a liquid feed regularly
  • Don’t provide much depth for roots

Paths

Wood Chip

Pros

  • Can be quite low-cost if you source wood chip from a tree surgeon
  • Easy to lay the paths
  • Looks good & is very natural – the wood chip will break down into the soil after a year or two
  • Has good drainage so your path won’t get boggy in the winter

Cons

  • Weeds will come through fairly easily so you’ll need to keep on top of them
  • You’ll have to top it up with new wood chip every year or so
  • If your beds aren’t raised, the wood chip can get kicked into the veg beds

Grass

Pros

  • Looks lovely & natural
  • Fairly easy to maintain as long as you have a mower/strimmer
  • It is long lasting – once it’s growing, it’s growing

Cons

  • It’ll get soggy in the wet winters, and can become a bit of a muddy bog if you are walking on it often
  • Not easy to cut if paths are very narrow

Paving/Stone/Brick

Pros

  • Looks charming
  • Keeps paths nice and dry when the weather is wet
  • Long lasting

Cons

  • Weeds will quickly grow in the gaps and can be difficult to pull out
  • Slugs & snails hide between cracks
  • Can get a bit slippery sometimes
  • It can be hard work to lay the paths if you have a bigger plot
  • Can be expensive, depending on where you source the stone/bricks

Compost Mulch

Pros

  • Feeds the surrounding soil and can help improve soil quality
  • Doesn’t get too soggy and claggy in wet weather
  • You can hoe it easily to keep weeds down
  • It keeps things very natural
  • Few places for pests to hide

Cons

  • You’ll need to top it up every year or so
  • It requires extra compost that you could be using in active growing space
  • It is not 100% weed proof

(ps. you could use sawdust mulch instead)