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Landscaping Gravel

An overview of the applications and decorative options for landscaping with gravel

gravel driveway
A gravel driveway can last for many years. joiseyshowaa.

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Decorative Landscape Gravel

Pea gravel is an affordable outdoor paving material that can be installed quickly and easily. When used for paving, gravel has a very natural and casual appearance, making it an excellent option for cottage gardens, or Tuscan style courtyards. There are a wide variety of pea gravel colors, sheens and sizes to choose from. Gravel will last a lifetime and when laid over landscaping fabric it will block weeds. Gravel provides excellent drainage, allowing water to readily flow through to the dirt underneath.

Since gravel is a loose material, you will end up with a surface that has a lot of texture and some unevenness. Gravel can be quite difficult to walk on since it shifts underfoot, but if compacted properly little shifting will occur. Additionally, pea gravel is rough on bare feet. To avoid having pieces of gravel tracked throughout your yard, landscape edging made of wood, concrete, or plastic will need to be installed.

Gravel ApplicationsLandscapers use gravel as both a paving material and mulch. Pea gravel is commonly used because it is small and has a fine texture. Gravel can be used to pave driveways, patios and walkways.

gravel patio
Medium sized, crushed gravel was used to pave this patio. Paul Sayer.

Gravel Driveway - A gravel driveway that is properly designed and built can serve as a lasting driveway paving solution. Using gravel to pave your driveway will be much more cost effective than other paving materials, such as concrete or pavers. However, there is a considerable amount of maintenance that comes with a gravel driveway. Vehicle traffic will cause low spots and disturb the edges of your driveway. These problems will need to be repaired periodically.

Gravel Patio - A gravel patio has a very earthy appeal, is affordable and can be installed quickly. If you are looking for a patio paving material with good drainage, consider pea gravel. However, patio furniture is more difficult to move on a gravel surface, which may pose problems if you plan to dine and entertain outdoors. Also consider that gravel is not comfortable to walk on when bare foot.

Gravel Walkways & Paths - Garden walkways are a great place to use gravel. A gravel walkway will blend with any style of home and garden. If you are looking for an understated pathway paving material that lets your plants take center stage, gravel is the perfect option.

Gravel Play Areas - Gravel is a good paving choice for outdoor play areas. When gravel is installed at a depth of at least 9 inches, it provides sufficient cushioning for areas with swing sets and slides.

Petscaping with Gravel - Gravel is a great material for people with pets because it allows you to easily clean up after them.

Gravel Accents - Gravel is commonly used as a decorative accent with materials such as pavers. Pavers are often installed with space for gravel to be added in-between. Gravel of different colors and textures can be used to create contrast with the pavers.

Gravel Mulch - Gravel can be used as mulch to keep your plant beds moist and weed free.

Gravel Types - Crushed Rock Vs. River RockThere are two types of gravel that are used in landscaping: crushed rock and river rock (sometimes called pebbles). Crushed rock gravel should be used on driveways as well as high traffic patios and walkways because its angular shape makes the gravel less like to shift. In other words, crushed rock gravel provides a stable surface. River rock, or pebble gravel, has been rounded and smoothed over the years by water. This type of gravel shifts easily and should be used in low-traffic areas or as decorative accents.

Decorative Options with GravelWhile it may not offer as much customization as decorative concrete or pavers, there is a wide variety of decorative gravel options. You will get to choose the color, sheen, texture and size of your gravel.

ColorsGravel comes in many natural colors, ranging from light grey to earthy red. A typical load of gravel will have color variations throughout, adding to the organic look. You may also be able to get man-made gravel in more vivid colors.

Pro Tip: Remember that dark colors absorb heat, and like paint, gravel colors may look different when you spread them out over a large area. For this reason, it is wise to bring color samples home in 5-gallon buckets to spread over an area for consideration.
- Scott Calhoun, Zona Gardens and author of The Hot Garden

SheenSheen refers to how shiny the surface of the gravel is. You can get gravel that has almost no sheen, or gravel that has a polished or wet look.

Texture There are two main gravel textures. The first is angular and rough and the second is round and smooth. If stability is important to you choose gravel that is angular and rough. If you are more concerned with how the gravel will feel to your touch, select the smooth gravel.

Size Gravel comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from as small as ¼" to as large as 1". The smaller the gravel is the more uniform, smooth and stable the patio or walkway surface will be. Pea gravel refers to small 1/4" gravel.

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