Garden Paths of Decomposed Granite — keeping the garden accessible as I age

The area we fancifully call the courtyard, outside of the house, is now an accessible and inviting place to garden or sit with a cuppa.

This year we did the best thing we’ve ever done in the garden. And actually, we didn’t do it.

We hired a professional landscaper to install granite paths for us. I want to say a special thanks to the amazing crew at Anchordoguy Landscaping for their exceptional work! Not only is the result stunning, but they were some of the most considerate people we’ve ever encountered.

Snowball viburnum
Snowball viburnum and vegetable garden beds, now with granite paths to make them more accessible, given my physical limitations.

Our garden has been transformed into something extraordinary, and I can easily admit that it was SO worth it to have professionals install the granite paths. Every day now we walk out to the garden and just pause in awe and the wonder of it.

Over the decades, we mostly used bark mulch for our garden paths. But, due to gophers and weeds, they tended to devolve quickly back to messy, uneven, and even dangerous surfaces to walk on.

I’ve mentioned recently the worsening state of my knees, which now usually require some kind of assistance to get around. Since gardening is more important to me than almost anything else, it was worth it to invest in some better paths.

The courtyard garden before granite paths
THE “BEFORE” PHOTO! We kept having to apply more mulch every year. Gophers would pockmark the surface, creating walking hazards, and the weeds always came back.

If you are not familiar with it, decomposed granite (DG for short) looks kind of like sand, but compacts down to a semi-solid surface. Additives can be used to make it more like cement, but I wanted ours to still allow the rainfall to percolate into the ground to replenish groundwater, so we requested they not use the additive.

The area we fancifully call the courtyard, outside of the house, is now an accessible and inviting place to garden or sit with a cuppa.
The area we fancifully call The Courtyard, outside of the house, is now an accessible and inviting place to garden or sit with a cuppa.
The Installation of Decomposed Granite Paths
Vegetable garden in process of getting new granite paths
Vegetable garden in process of getting new granite paths

First, to prep for the crew, we marked off the edges with chalk spray, and moved a few plants to update the garden design. We also demolished an old decrepit doghouse and a rotting deck — leftover from previous owners decades ago.

When the crew arrived, they started by very tidily removing our copious drip irrigation lines, and then set to work grading the soil. Gopher wire was installed over the whole surface, and that was topped with landscaping cloth. Lastly, the decomposed granite was spread and compacted on top, and the irrigation lines reconnected. If that sounded easy it surely wasn’t! One crew member in particular worked tirelessly for weeks! We are very grateful for all his hard work. Thank you!

Potted plants in the courtyard after granite paths
Potted plants in the courtyard after granite paths. We reduced the the size of the landscaped area on account of the drought.
Maintaining Decomposed Granite Paths

The gardens are now more accessible to me again. I use my electric trike to get around, and the firm, even surface makes walking so much easier too. And yet it is not as hard as cement, so if I fall, I don’t think I would be badly injured.

This electric accessibility trike from Urban Scooters gives my knees a break in getting around the garden.
This electric accessibility trike from Urban Scooters gives my knees a break in getting around the garden. The design makes it possible for me to get on and off without bending my knees much. This trike is meant only for street paving, and can be a little difficult to turn, but I’m strong and manage it well enough. The back tires are a bit difficult to find replacements for–an area for improvement. But I love that it has a carry shelf on the back. It’s plenty powerful, has a reverse gear, and the battery charge lasts a long time. The granite paths give the trike a firmer surface for navigation.
Sombreuil Rose
Sombreuil Rose — not only are the decomposed granite paths easier to walk on, they set off the beauty of the plants so well!

For weeds that do manage to sprout on top of the decomposed granite paths, we are using a 30% vinegar spray.

For debris that falls onto the paths, I either rake or use a broom called Better Broom, that we got from Harmony Farm Supply. The bristles are very stiff but also not too dense, so that it is perfect for sweeping up any debris on top of the paths without displacing much of the granite.

To keep the sand-like granite particles from being tracked inside, be sure to use doormats. Luckily, this isn’t too much of an issue for me, since I have travertine tile flooring. (We got it on sale and I installed it myself back in my salad days. Glad I did that back then! Whew.)

It's so much easier to get around the garden vegetable beds now!
It’s so much easier to get around the garden vegetable beds now!
Keeping Our Gardens (and Homes) Accessible As We Age
Lettuce inter-planted with pollinator-friendly plants
Lettuce inter-planted with pollinator-friendly plants

While we’re on the topic of accessibility in the garden, I want to thank another blogger, writing as Going Batty In Wales, who has posted a series recently about Building Resilience so she can continue living and enjoying her garden and home into her later decades. This is my wish as well and I read her pieces on this topic with great interest.

There is much talk of aging in place these days. A quote from this site says,

Within 20 years, one in five Americans—almost 80 million people—will be older than 65 and, surveys indicate, they will want to remain in the current homes for as long as possible. However, the country currently lacks the accessible housing units and supportive social services needed to accommodate these desires.

And an article on the UN website says,

“The world’s population is ageing. Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population.Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century….”

A fountain for birds and a rainwater collection tank
A fountain for birds and a rainwater collection tank (water comes from the gutter above, not shown)

Being able to age in place is something I increasingly find myself pondering. Not just making my home more accessible but keeping the garden accessible. We will and do need help, and it can be hard to find. Due to the extremely high real estate prices in California, people with important skills are being pushed to live further and further away and understandably need to charge more and more to cover their cost of living. This means that assistance that we need is becoming less available and less affordable. So I’m not only looking for help, but also in deep thought about how to continue to make the garden and home more functional as we age.

I would love to hear any ponderings or strategies any of you have in aid of this topic. I think it is something we can all help one another with in the coming decades.

Happy Gardening to all of you!


California Poppies in the garden
California Poppies are in bloom in the garden

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15 thoughts on “Garden Paths of Decomposed Granite — keeping the garden accessible as I age

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. We are in the process of locating a landscaper to replace our back yard lawn and pathways with DG.

  2. Lisa, I am so sorry to have left such a brief comment. My internet flickered on and off a few times so I sent the first part and thenm it died completely for the rest of the evening. Your paths look lovely and sound a very good solution for your mobility problems. I particularly like ‘the courtyard’ – it looks a lovely place to sit and admire the results of your hard work.

    1. Hi! No worries… sweet of you to reply further. Thank you so much! 🥰 It truly is nice to have a welcoming place to sit and watch the birds enjoy the fountain. We get hummingbirds, finches, bluebirds, and all kinds refreshing themselves there. It’s so wonderful to be able to walk and get around easier in my garden. And I want to do more thorough reflecting on building resiliency, as was the topic of your blog! I have considered sustainability quite a bit, but not as pertains to getting older and aging in place. Some of the best information comes from real people in their actual lives who share, like you. Warmest wishes to you!

  3. The paths look amazing! I am so glad you are able to enjoy the garden with these paths in place. I suppose gradually we could reduce the borders and just let the natural grass to grow between the trees. A lot of non-gardeners in France prefer this option. Amelia

    1. Hi Amelia! Great to hear from you. Thank you so much! Out in our field we just let the grass and wildflowers grow. But due to ever increasing wildfire danger, we mow them once it dries up in summer. Luckily I can still do that task.

  4. Hi Lisa…this is beautiful! Very helpful and encouraging ideas for “aging in place”. We’re pondering whether to move into an easier house & garden, now that we’re “elders”. It’s a big decision…will keep you posted;) Val

    1. Hi Val! I look forward to hearing your process with your home and garden as well. Yes, a big decision! I’m catching up on reading my favorite gardening bloggers now after a few weeks of apparently falling into a garden rabbit hole, as it were.

  5. I love your pathways. I have crushed shell pathways and they are a little too mushy for easy walking. We are boomers and hopefully aging in place, I need to firm up the walkways.

    1. It’s really helped a lot to have the firm paths. I can walk without crutches most of the time. And the little trike helps me keep mobile to the further parts of the garden. I can weed from it and do a lot.

  6. I was thinking of making DG pathways too but everyone keeps telling me that it’ll just erode and wash away. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Joann! Thanks for writing in. Good question… pondering. Well, I can only share my experience of it, which is short-lived at this point. But I have seen it on paths and patios at commercial places so maybe you could find one of those and ask their experience of it over years? Maybe a local landscaping company could direct you to a many-years-old project they did? I’m guessing variables might be whether the additive is used or not (which makes it more like cement), or how well it was compacted upon installation, how much rainfall you get at your exact location, the slope you are on… things like that. Our area is mostly flat and we are on sandy soil which drains pretty quickly. From the sections we did ourselves before this larger installation, I would say that it did not erode. As I think I said above, landscaping cloth is installed underneath it, so it doesn’t merge with the earth below if that is the question. Some weeds do manage to sprout on top which we control with vinegar. During heavy rains, it does settle further, and some water does move over the surface, creating minor wash-ways, I guess I could call them. I could see touching those up a little over the years. I would say that any maintenance on them is (so far) less than the maintenance we had to do with bark paths or just mown paths. Bark paths actually float away somewhat in heavy rains. Cement paths would probably be the only thing with almost no maintenance? But those are hard on the feet and don’t allow for the percolation of rainfall into the ground to restore groundwater. I don’t know if that was helpful, but I hope so. 🙂 Good luck in finding what works best for you! I will try to provide updates in the following years. Warmly, lisa

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