Set stepping stones into the soil so you can mow right over the path.

How to Lay Stepping Stones When Gardening

by Amelia Allonsy

Stepping stones are much more casual and easier to install than paver, brick and concrete walkways, but they similarly reduce damage to turf and soil through high-traffic areas. When gardening, you might find you can benefit from a stepping stone path leading from your patio to a flower bed, or simply to define the best walkway between vegetable garden rows. Stepping stones can wobble and shift out of place when simply laid on the ground, but they provide more stable footing when you set them into the soil. Additionally, in-ground stepping stones don't interfere with lawn-mowing equipment.

Lay stones on the ground to create the basic design for your stepping stone path. Use a garden hose as an outline to guide the placement if you desire a curved pathway. Stepping stones should measure at least 12 inches across so even large feet can comfortably fit on each stone.

Walk along the stones to determine the best spacing. The stones should be no more than a normal stride apart so you can walk comfortably without taking large steps. Leave smaller spacing between the stones if desired. While a path that's a single stone wide is all you need, you might prefer to place two or more stones side by side to create a wider path. Leave the stones in place on the ground.

Cut around each stepping stone, using a trowel or a long-handled spade. Place the tip directly against the stone and push straight down to cut through the turf layer and into the soil.

Remove the turf layer to reveal the stepping stone shape; use the spade to cut the turf into strips that you can roll up like carpet strips. Measure the thickness of the stepping stones; dig out the soil to a depth equal to the stone thickness.

Place a small level in the bottom of each hole; add masonry sand to each imprint to adjust for level. If you have rocky or hard soil that could cause the stones to wobble, dig each imprint 2 inches deeper and fill the imprints with a 2-inch layer of leveled masonry sand. The sand cushions and conforms to the stones to stabilize them.

Return each stepping stone to the prepared hole in the ground. Tap the stone surface with a rubber mallet to set the stones in place. Pack the soil tightly around the edges of the stepping stones.

Spread grass seed around the stepping stones to fill in the bare soil.

Items you will need

  • Garden hoses (optional)
  • Garden trowel or spade
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's level
  • Masonry sand
  • Rubber mallet
  • Grass seed


  • If you prefer to give a casual stepping stone path a more finished look, you can add edging and fill in the space around the stones with pea gravel or mulch. Lay garden hoses to mark the width of the path. Remove all turf between the hoses and dig out the entire area to the same depth as the stepping stone thickness, plus 1 inch. Place benderboard or similar edging material along the edges of the pathway. Spread 1 inch of masonry sand, set the stones in place, and fill in the empty space with your choice of gravel or mulch.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images