When it comes to snow shoveling, this winter has been a little on the forgiving side for most people in the North.
Well, at least that was the case until January, when Old Man Winter in all his fury decided to dump everything that hadn’t fallen in December on the western half of the Northscaping world in one fell swoop at New Years, and again this week.
When the snowfall was less than usual, I had all but forgotten why I had been considering redoing my sidewalk in the front yard.
Then reality set upon my corner of the Northscaping region, and here I am again thinking about how to redo my sidewalk.
I have lived in my home for 5 years now, and by the end of each winter I’ve come to the same conclusion; I need to do something with my walk to make it easier to shovel the snow.
Now when I first moved here, I had great plans to relocate the walk and not use concrete, but rather make it more earthy, warm, and inviting.
Now as I scoop and throw each mound of snow out of the way in my charge toward the street, I realize that maybe the use of concrete isn’t such a bad thing after all.
But what of the other materials? Is there something available that could offer me an aesthetically pleasing walk without the bleak, stark white imposition of concrete?
True, I could color the concrete and that would give me the warmth I’m looking for. But as a designer, I also want something that states who I am, and which says that I can do something different than what everyone else is doing.
There are other options to look at, and maybe I shouldn’t be discounting them too soon.
The De-Facto Concrete Slab
Many new homeowners immediately resort to the de-facto patio slab for an instant walk until they are ready to take on the challenge of a permanent path that’s a little more inviting to the company.
Patio slabs are really only meant as a temporary solution. I cannot recall how many times I’ve felt the vibrations of the snow shovel reverberate throughout my body as I hit an unlevel stone.
It still resonates today, even as I think about it! For heavy snow shoveling areas, the patio stone is not totally practical, unless installed on a base that won’t move.
Unfortunately, most Northscapers do not live in an area where mortaring the slabs in place will work.
That’s why people tend to resort to the unit paver method. Paving stones come in a wide array of shapes, colors, and even textures.
But if not installed correctly, they can lead to a similar experience as the patio slab. Besides, when this happens, there are always little patches of ice left, where someone can slip and fall.
However, an advantage of using unit pavers is that an edge can also be made along the border of the walk.
This border will help guide your shovel along the walk and not disturb the grass or garden abutting the walkway – maintaining the insulating factor of the snow where your garden needs it.
This type of edge can also be used with a gravel or crushed stone pathway.
Not only will it help keep the stone in the walk as you grade along the top of it with your shovel, but it also helps to give a little more warmth if you use crushed granite, shale, or other warm-colored stone as the walkway material.
Finally, wood walkways also have a place in the northern landscape.
My only suggestion is that when planning the walk, make sure you have the boards running in the direction that you will be pushing snow.
And never use a metal snow shovel to clear a wood path!
The other factor when designing a walk in the North is to consider where the snow is going when you shovel it off the walk.
If there is a wall, a hedge, or dense plantings immediately adjacent to the walk, then you will be required to lift the snow and throw it over or turn around and throw it in the opposite direction.
These are two things that chiropractors and massage therapists will tell you are wrong to do. Therefore, make certain that there is a location where the snow can be easily dumped with minimal lifting.
Open flowerbeds or perennial plantings work quite well. Remember though, you should avoid using salts or other deicing agents when dumping snow into a flowerbed, as these will likely cause problems for the plants.
Advantaged By The Snowplow
Another factor that I have experienced all too often is that the snowplows always come by on the day you aren’t home or when it is just too bitterly cold to go out and clean up their mess.
And they always seem to dump just after you’ve cleared an opening to extend your walk out to the street.
If you have a driveway that is street-facing, then you’ll know what I mean.
I have noticed, though, that the snowplows will actually clear up onto the boulevards wherever fire hydrants are located.
For obvious reasons, this is a proactive necessity, as the last thing one would want is to have clear access to the fire hydrant in the event of a fire.
It also made me realize an opportunity for snow clearing on my part.
By redirecting my walk to pass immediately by the fire hydrant, I would never have to clear the boulevard when the snowplows came by – they would do it for me! True, I may have to shovel a somewhat longer walk.
But if I haven’t walked on it, the snow would likely come up readily. And if don’t have to worry about cutting an edge along the curb, then all the better for me!
So now I am rethinking and redesigning the walk of my dreams, taking into account the snow-clearing concerns along with the other aspects that I would normally consider in a walkway design such as focal points, views, and overall aesthetics.
Thanks to the three feet of snow that is sitting on the ground right now, I am able to envision what I will do in the spring when it comes time to redo my walk.
Until next time… Happy shoveling!