Pathway for Life: A Path is an Invitation

This is the story of one of my primary gardening mentors. I might not be 100% accurate, but this is what I recalled and understood. Eddie Suarez is a permaculture designer who has installed many flourishing food forests in Miami-Dade County. Before doing this full-time, he was an art teacher in an elementary school. He had a great passion for edible gardens, and in front of his classroom, he started to build a garden little by little. The garden was in a grassed area in front of the hallway of his classroom and it stretched approximately 20 feet until it reached the other hallway across. 

He told me that the principal and the community were not too excited about it at first; they didn’t seem to understand much of the concept, but everything changed the day he built an intentional garden pathway that crossed from his hallway to the hallway in front. Once he did that, people started walking through the garden. It was a shortcut, but it was more than that. It was an opportunity for people to stop and look closer at the beauty of the plants and insects, the smells, the colors, the shapes, etc. It became a little momentary escape from the ordinary, the cement, the walls; the do-to list. He explained to me how that pathway changed the garden so much because it gave people the green light to come in and participate. As humans, especially in urban areas, there is a deep psychology about pathways; we are so used to them. Therefore, if you intend to build a community garden, a path is an invitation; it attracts people, opens their curiosity, and tells them it is ok to come in.  

I particularly like to make round pathways with circular shapes, so they break the straight lines of the concrete. I even make them a central part of my design process. When you install a garden, its success can depend a lot on the traffic in an area. Even at home, if you plant your veggies in an area you must pass through all the time, like from your main door to your car, you will be forced to look and take care of your plants more often. Furthermore, along your pathway, you can design your garden so you can multitask and make everything more efficient. You can design it, for example, to bring the compost to the back of your property, and on your way back, you can harvest some veggies and herbs for dinner. If you had two ways, one to throw your compost and one to harvest your veggies, it could be double the effort and be less efficient. Remember, if you are an average human being with a job and a family, you must always think about how to be as efficient as possible with your garden, so you get to enjoy it. 

Pathways can be all fantasy made from gravel and stepping stones or recycled mulch, yet I always recommend adding some edging on each side and a weed barrier under need. This could add some extra work first, but it will save you a lot of maintenance in the long term. Also, if you want to do it right, go at least 3-4 inches deep with mulch, gravel, or any material you wish to use.

Pathways can also be significant to mitigate flooding, for the water can go into the path and drain easier into the ground if you have a material like gravel that goes 4 inches deep. Again, there is always an exception to the rule, but my rule for pathways is that I like curves, even if they will take you a little longer; curves are always fun and organic. They make the whole garden more natural, appealing, and welcoming. However you do it, do it one time the right way and put all your love into it so you can enjoy it and feel a little proud every time you go through it; a good pathway is a good symbol for a good life!