We've been adding wood chips to our community garden paths for five year now, and we've got great soil. There's about ten of us and 600m2 of garden.
The downside is, the soil is now so biologically active that a woodchip path doesn't last the season, even with cardboard below, and the garden is becoming a jungle!
I'm thinking we need to switch over to mowing the paths with lawn mower and petrol driven strimmer (we don't have the scything skills). How often, and at what times during the year, do we need to do this in order to keep paths open? We'll continue to use wood chip which gets delivered free, but mainly on beds and around bushes.
Another problem zone is the fence next to the neighbour who hates the bindweed that climbs up. Unfortunately, we can't plant anything valuable on that strip because of access to power lines below. Any ideas?
We are located by lake Geneva, Switzerland, which is a mild climate, but drier than England.
If your path is wide enough for a reel mower (the kind you push and the blades spin), that might be a good option if your weeds are easy to cut. I'f found my Fiskars Reel Mower doesn't cut through old, tall, or tough grass.
What weeds are you dealing with? That would also help determine which tool(s) might be best for you, as well as how often you have to maintain.
Sythes probably wouldn't be a good option for your paths, anyway, unless the paths are really big, as the scythes need quite a bit of swing to cut.
For my paths--which are usually overgrown by buttercup--I often use my new Fokin hoe. It does a nice job of working in narrow paths, especially on my buttercup, which is easy to cut and tends to get pulled out by the hoe.
I tend to have to mow grass short every week or two in the growing season to keep it short. For buttercup, I have to go cut it at least once every week in the growing season if I want to keep it looking nice. I live in the raining Pacific Northwest (Seattle area) of the US, which is kind of like England, and so things really love growing here!
You could keep adding woodchips and plant groundcovers anywhere people don't step. The community garden near me has alyssum, native violet, garlic chives, parsley and a few other herbs growing on the sides of the pathways and against the bottom of the beds.
I put in new strawberry beds this year, the strawberries themselves are in plastic mulch, but the paths were bare soil. this soon grew weeds, mainly goosefoots, creeping buttercup, dandelions, creeping thistle, dock, horsetail and a smaller amount of grass, After a few weeks I started to mow these paths and we found that they need weekly mowing just like a lawn would. as they were mowed higher than a standard lawn, a because the ground isn't very flat and b to avoid the edges of the plastic they really grow, getting 15cm tall in between cuttings. Over the year the plants have changed a bit, and they now look very much like a poorly kept and weedy lawn, rather than a patch of bare ground with weeds.
What is on the other side of the fence? and does the fence stop any animals or is it just a marker? One way to control the bindweed by a fence is to lift the fence so the nose of the lawnmower fits under and have grass there and keep it mowed.