Step 2: Form the trench

Forming the trench with a shovel.
Photo: Kolin Smith
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When digging the trench, use the square-edged spade to make the sides of the trench straight, and the bottom as even as possible. Occasionally check the depth of the trench with a tape measure as you go. Next, smooth the bottom of the trench with a steel rake, then compact the soil with a hand tamper.

Tip: When digging, place the excavated soil onto a tarp to make it easier to remove.
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    Tools List

    • square spade
      Square spade
    • metal garden rake
      Steel rake
    • tamper
      Tamper
    • utility knife
      Utility knife
    • hammer
      Hammer and block

    Shopping List

    Shopping List

    EDGING: Three-inch edging is tall enough to contain a path with a couple of inches of stone. To line both sides of the path, you'll need enough edging to equal twice its length.

    GRAVEL: Most home centers carry gravel in bags of ½ or 1 cubic foot. Buying stone in bulk from a landscape center or stone yard is a better option for longer paths. For a 2-inch-deep layer of stone, you'll need about 5 cubic feet for every 10 feet of length on a 3-foot-wide path. View our gravel gallery, The Stone Yard.

    STONE PACK: Stone dust mixed with crushed ¾-inch stones. Because it gets tamped down, you'll need more pack than gravel—2 ½ inches to compact to 2 inches, or about 6 or 7 cubic feet to cover every 10 feet of path.

    LANDSCAPE FABRIC: A shiny black woven nylon that keeps weeds from coming up through the gravel and keeps the gravel from settling into the stone pack, landscape fabric comes in 3-foot-wide rolls.