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It’ll Only take 5 Minutes

It’ll only take 5 minutes. Never let me say that again.

We have a back garden that is seriously out of control. I admit it. No one really sees it but us – so what if it is a bit wild. We have one path that we haven’t seen for the last 15+ years. To be honest we weren’t really sure where exactly that path was. And another path – well that’s so overgrown with grass and weeds we walk on the grass next to the path as it’s less mucky.

But, in May I decided to clear the weeds off that path so we could use it again. So the hoe came out of the shed and, to be fair, that did only take me about 5 minutes. If only I had left it there. But no, I couldn’t – I was looking at a bed of ground with a puckle of stones on top. The penny dropped, if I left it like this it would be just as bad in a months time.

So what do you do? Well to me, pretty obvious – you dig the lot up. Now, you don’t have to be a genius to work out – that IS going to take more than 5 minutes.

Serious Destruction - and what we found

Now the fork and the spade came out of the shed. And serious destruct mode got switched on. Hmm, that’s odd. This path doesn’t seem to have been constructed in the “traditional” manner – this one has about 1” of stone chips, ground and builders rubble. Yep, this wasn’t the path my husband had constructed (the bit he added didn’t need any work) this was the bit the developer had “created” (I use that term very loosely). No wonder we had problems with it.

So, out came the stones, we cleaned them, and then replaced them on a properly constructed base against a new path edging. Well, when you’re in the middle of doing this you may as well do the job properly and sort all those niggly little things – so a hard standing area at the bottom of the back door steps was added, along with an extra piece of path to the shed. Plus, 2 tonnes of new stones to make up for the lack of stones originally laid.

You would think that would be enough – but, oh no, not by half. You see, that only made the rest of the garden look even worse. So that was it – another “5 minute” job to remove all the grass and weeds on the bed bordering the patio. And whey, hey, we found the lost path! So obviously, that was going to have to be cleared as well. So a repeat performance on removing the stones, replacing the path edging, cleaning and replacing the stones (all 4 – 5 tonnes of them). Plus rerouting the path slightly. Now we have a second path to walk on, and a weed free shrub/plant bed between the patio and the path.

So what have I learnt:

  • Always have a good bottom to a path
  • The geology textbooks are absolutely correct – the roots of plants do break up stones, even granite
  • If a tree root meets a path border it will change route 
  • And…. I must NEVER, EVER, EVER say “it’ll only take 5 minutes”


Path on right, wooden edging and a tree root changing direction when it reached the edging
Tree root changing direction

This blog was originally published on:

3 August 2017

and subsequently modified on:  

10 February 2024