How to Lay Stepping Stones in Mulch: A DIY Guide for Beautiful Pathways

Paul West/ Backyard Ornamental, Backyard Construction

Laying stepping stones in mulch is a great way to create an inviting garden path or walkway. The natural look of the stones combined with the mulch offers a charming, rustic feel that you’ll love – especially in very open backyards. With some planning and preparation, you can install these stones yourself, avoiding the high cost of professional installation.

This guide will walk you through the entire process of how to lay stepping stones in mulch – from choosing materials to maintenance tips, so you can enjoy a beautiful new stone and mulch path.

Why Use Stepping Stones and Mulch?

Stepping stones allow you to create a walkway through your yard while still allowing grass or plants to grow in between. The purpose of the mulch? Well, the mulch helps prevent weed growth while adding visual interest. Here are some key benefits of this type of walkway:

  • Provides a natural, eco-friendly ground cover that reduces mud.
  • Allows you to avoid pouring large amounts of concrete.
  • Gives an organic, whimsical look compared to structured pavers.
  • Helps prevent soil erosion from excessive foot traffic.
  • Mulch retains moisture and insulates plant roots.

Whether you want to accent your flower beds or create a meandering path, stepping stones and mulch offer versatility for many landscaping needs.

Choosing the Right Materials

Picking quality materials from the start will ensure your path lasts for years to come. Keep these considerations in mind:

Selecting Stepping Stones

  • Opt for a durable natural stone like granite, limestone or slate. These resist weathering.
  • Larger stones 12″ x 12″ or bigger provide stability underfoot.
  • Ensure a consistent thickness of at least 2″ for an even surface.
  • Consider aesthetics – mosaic vs. monolith, colors, shapes.

Mulch Types

  • Hardwood, cedar, or cypress mulches resist decomposition and splintering.
  • 2-3″ size mulch pieces allow for airflow while suppressing weeds.
  • Dyed mulches add color but will fade over time. Natural is lower maintenance.


  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, steel-toe boots.
  • Shovel, rake, level, tape measure, wheelbarrow, stakes, string.
  • Plate compactor, rubber mallet.
  • Landscaping fabric, crushed stone, mulch.

Preparing the Ground

Proper site preparation is key to a long-lasting pathway. Follow these steps:

Measure and Map the Pathway

  • Mark the path’s width and curvature with stakes and string.
  • Space stepping stones 12-18″ apart for comfortable walking.
  • Curve gradual turns for visual interest and flow.

Position the Stepping Stones

  • Lay stones end-to-end along the path to visualize placement.
  • Adjust positions as needed before excavating the base.

Cut and Remove Sod

  • Outline the path with a shovel to cut the edges.
  • Remove strips of sod using a flat shovel or spade.
  • Discard sod or compost it for later use.

Excavate Base

  • Dig 6-8″ down throughout the pathway area.
  • Slope the base slightly for drainage.
  • Rake smooth any lumps or rocks in the soil.

Add Gravel Base

  • Spread 2-4″ of compactible gravel.
  • Compact with hand tamper or plate compactor.
  • Gravel creates a solid foundation to prevent sinking.

Installing the Stepping Stones

Now comes the fun part – laying the stones in place on their base. Follow these tips:

Mix and Spread Stone Dust

  • Combine stone dust with a bit of soil to firm it up.
  • Spread 1-2″ thick to form the setting bed.
  • Mist lightly with water so dust consolidates but doesn’t get muddy.

Set Stepping Stones

  • Place stones end-to-end, maintaining consistent gaps.
  • Tamp down with rubber mallet to flatten.
  • Use a level on top of stones to ensure they are even.

Ensure Proper Drainage

  • Check that water will run off, not pool on stones.
  • Add more stone dust below any dipping stones.
  • A slight crown or slope aids drainage.

Finishing Touches

You’re on the home stretch! Finish up with these final steps:

Add Mulch Topping

  • Spread mulch 2-3″ deep between the stepping stones.
  • Keep it an inch below the stone surfaces.
  • Mulch will settle over time, replenish annually.

Consider Creative Touches

  • Intersperse pebbles or gravel for visual interest.
  • Add flower pots, signs or solar lights along the edges.
  • Encourage moss growth in shaded spots for natural flair.

Perform Regular Maintenance

Of course, to maintain your pathway you’ll need to keep up with the maintenance.

  • Refill any washed out areas with fresh stone dust.
  • Weed or trim vegetation encroaching on stones.
  • Sweep off debris like leaves or sticks.

Wrapping It All Up

Creating a stepping stone and mulch pathway is a very doable DIY project. With the right materials and proper base preparation, you can have a beautiful and eco-friendly walkway to enjoy for years. The natural charm is sure to complement your landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right stepping stones for laying in mulch?

When selecting stepping stones, consider durability, texture, shape, and color to match your yard’s style. Opt for a natural stone at least 1.5 inches thick to prevent cracking. Larger stones 12″ x 12″ provide stability underfoot on mulch.

What mulch is best with stepping stones?

Shredded hardwood mulch in a 2-3 inch size is a good choice. It resists decomposition and provides an attractive, natural look. Cedar and cypress mulches are other quality options that retain their rich color.

How do I properly grade the base?

Proper grading involves removing sod, digging down 4-6 inches, and adding gravel for drainage. Position stones first to visualize spacing. Use a level on each stone to ensure an even pathway. Slope slightly for water runoff.

Can you make curves with this method?

Yes, curves create visual interest. Place stones closer together on the inside corner and farther apart on the outside corner. Adjust gaps between stones to maintain spacing of 12-18 inches on curves.

Further Reading

  1. How to Make a Flagstone Path – Learn to make a quick and easy flagstone and mulch path.
  2. How to Level Stepping Stones – Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford – Tips on fixing stepping stones that rock back and forth.
  3. DIY How To Install A Paver Walkway For Beginners! – A beginner’s guide to putting walkway pavers around the perimeter of a deck.
Paul West
Share this Post

About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!