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Stepping stones are mid-sized stones placed in either the ground or a body of water to allow for a dry crossing. They are often used in gardens as an aesthetic device as well, even in areas where wet earth is not a concern. Stepping stones may be found naturally occurring, particularly in rivers and streams. In this context, they are any stones which protrude out of the water enough to allow a traveler to cross without having to enter the water itself. Natural stepping stones are often very slippery because of their constant moistness and the buildup of algae.
Earth-embedded stepping stones have existed as long as written history in most regions with substantial moisture. On commonly used paths, rather than letting people slog through mud and puddles, it is a simple fix to install either natural or man-made stones into the earth to provide a dry way of crossing a garden or greater property. In gardens, stepping stones provide the additional benefit of demarcating a clear path to take in order to avoid crushing plants and seedlings underfoot.
For home projects, natural stone may be your material of choice for stepping stones. Natural stones offer an aesthetic many people prefer, as they appear to be a native part of the landscape. Take care when choosing your stones that at least one side is relatively flat, and if possible choose stones with a fair amount of grain so they will not be too slippery when they get wet. To install them, simply dig holes of the appropriate depth and sink the stones into the earth so that the flat side is upright. Some people choose to add a bed of gravel, or even concrete, in order to brace the stones and make sure they don't sink too far when the earth is wet.
Making concrete stepping stones is another simple solution. You can build your own frames by joining pieces of 2x4 scrap wood into squares or any other shape you desire. You can mix a small amount of concrete on your own and then pour it into the molds. Either let the concrete dry as is, or etch your own designs into the concrete as it is setting for a more personalized set of stepping stones.
Stores sell many different types of stepping stones, and if you don't wish to build or scavenge your own, it is nearly certain you will be able to find a set for sale that meets your needs. Stepping stones may be round, square or any sort of 'natural' feeling shape. They may be plain, painted a matte color, carved into ornate patterns or adorned with detailed paintings. Some stepping stones are made to resemble bits of classical architecture, with the stone artificially aged. Others, such as those based on patterns by Frank Lloyd Wright, make use of intricate geometric shapes to blend into their natural setting.