Gravel Bed Garden Design: Tips On Laying A Gravel Garden

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

There are many useful mulches touse on the garden bed. Some help retain moisture, as does the gravel gardenbed. Gravel beds aresomething you won’t see in every garden, but they can provide somethingdifferent in your landscape. Read more to see if laying a gravel garden is anoption for you.

Gravel Bed Garden Design

Your gravel bed can be any shapeand as large or small as you need. The secret to beautiful plants growing inthe gravel bed is plant choice and soil preparation. Drought resistantplantsare perfect for this type of bed. Once the gravel top cover is in place, youlikely won’t disturb it.

Use a border. This helps define thearea and keeps the gravel in place. Bury a metal garden strip around the edges,leaving half an inch above ground to hold the rock. Or use a wider border madewith garden pavers.

How to Install a Gravel Garden

Pick the spot for your gravelgarden bed. Remove all grass, weeds, and existing plants. Till the soil well, atleast five to six inches (13-15 cm.) deep. Mix in well-finished compost. Ifsoil is clay or drainage is poor, compost will help improve it. You may alsoadd coarse sand for a grittier mix and to help with drainage. Once the gravelmulch is in place, it’s difficult to enrich your soil. You can sprinkle dryfertilizer or use a liquid mix, but it is prudent to keep most plants growingin rich soil.

Level the soil with a rake. Add theborder when soil is finished. As mentioned above, you can install a metalgarden strip or use pavers for the border. This keeps the covering in place.

Choose plants appropriate to yourgarden spot and your area. Ornamental grasses, herbaceous perennials, and eventrees or shrubs may be suitable. Install plants into the soil.

Add any hardscape features such asbenches, water features, clay pots, or tin planters. Large boulders complementthe gravel garden construction. Upcycle items for planters, keeping in mindthat less is often more.

Choose medium size gravel to coverthe bed. You may include patterns by using colored slate chippings. Add apathway, if desired, using larger stones or pavers.

Use a hand spade to carefullyspread gravel around your new plantings. Use a rake for other parts of thelarger bed, leveling the rock throughout. Save some of the gravel for later incase it is needed to fill in as the new bed settles.

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Landscaping with Gravel

How to choose and use this easy, plant-friendly paving for great paths and outdoor rooms

Hard yet soft ― these seemingly contradictory qualities are part of gravel’s appeal.

Durable enough to cover paths, terraces, and driveways, gravel conveys a softer mood than most other types of paving, says Susan Calhoun, garden designer for the Bainbridge Island, Washington. “It feels more organic than pavers or brick,” says Calhoun, who prefers to limit the “harder” materials to entrances and heavily used outdoor areas, choosing gravel everywhere else.

“It’s the perfect transitional material from house to garden.”

Gravel is also versatile, says Los Angeles landscape architect Mia Lehrer. It looks totally natural outside homes in the Italian, French, or English style, yet equally at ease around sprawling ranch houses and contemporary structures.

“It can look casual or crisp, depending on how you use it,” Lehrer says.

Flexibility is what Los Angeles landscape architect Rob Steiner most appreciates about gravel. It conforms to any shape, he says, and it’s easy to change.

Want to add a new flower bed? Just move the gravel aside ― “no jackhammers needed.” Gravel works well in all climates, but for different reasons. In arid regions, it makes a great groundcover for areas of the garden that won’t be planted and irrigated.

And gardeners in the wetter Northwest appreciate gravel’s quick drainage. “It never puddles up, which is why I love it for paths,” Calhoun says.

Affordability is, of course, another benefit, especially if you use local rather than more expensive imported gravel.

“It’s a highly cost-effective way to cover an area,” Steiner says.

Finally, there’s the sensuous quality. Gravel’s earthy texture, its give underfoot, and its crunchy sound are the reasons why this oldest of hardscapes will always be perceived as the softest of paving materials.

What is Gravel Shed Foundation?

A gravel shed foundation, or pad is a non-permanent stable structure on which to place or build a shed. It supports your shed on a solid ground level or near ground level pad similar to a concrete pad.

Unlike concrete though, it can be easily removed. It provides a permeable well drained compacted level base and keeps your shed off the ground, and is less expensive than concrete.

The size of the shed determines the size of the gravel pad, which also determines to cost of materials. The gravel pad should extend a foot or two beyond the sides of your shed too. Gravel pads are best for flat or near flat locations, but retaining walls can help level almost any location.

Check with your local building department to make sure your project meets local requirements. Also, give your local utilities a call too before you put a shovel in the ground and through your phone or cable line. Better safe than sorry.

A gravel pad can support a great deal of weight if properly constructed. It is a favorite for sheds on skids, prefab sheds, and even sheds on blocks or deck blocks.

If building on flat ground you don’t need to frame or box it in, but for the more uneven ground it should be boxed with 4×4, 6×6 or larger pressure treated material.

The type of soil in your area determines its weight bearing properties. A dense gravel or dense sand and gravel soil can support more than 600 kPa or 12531 psf (pound per square foot). A compacted gravel base will provide similar support and stability if properly constructed and drained.

A gravel pad unboxed, boxed, or with retaining walls is an excellent DIY project. However, if you need to excavate a lot of material and construct large retaining walls, you may want to speak to a professional.

Saving a buck or two on something you feel you can do and have the time to do is great. Heavy equipment rental and retaining wall construction may make the professional a better deal though and often includes a warranty.

  • Suitable for almost any size shed
  • Less expensive than concrete
  • Can be removed
  • A permeable foundation
  • Close to ground level
  • Dry storage underneath

  • Can settle over time
  • Moisture may damage wood if not properly drained
  • Not good for open floored sheds

What about gravel to suppress weeds?

Many believe that covering a planting area with decorative rock will keep weeds from growing. But, weeds are tough and will easily push right through a permeable pebble or gravel layer.

The soil beneath multiple layers of landscape fabric & a thick covering of stones is hot, dry & hard as a rock. It’s going to take a while to rejuvenate this bed. Once the pebbles & fabric are removed, covering the bare soil with fresh arborist chips will help suppress weeds, give the bed a finished look, allow moisture to pass through the soil & invite soil microbes to return the this rock-hard garden bed.

Too, a thick layer of stone placed over a planting bed may raise temperatures enough to burn tender plant roots below. While flame weeding over stone may be possible in some situations, running a flame weeder around plants may burn and even kill your garden.

Watch the video: Laying a block edge course

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