The importance of gravel for low-water landscapes

The importance of gravel for low-water landscapes

Despite its rough and tumble reputation, gravel is a durable and lasting option for low-water landscaping. Gravel is great for keeping sun-baked soil cooler, holding weeds at bay, reducing or eliminating the need for watering, and it has natural good looks. Gravel also affects how heat, cool, and water are retained and it is an ideal habitat for dry gardening.

Benefits of landscaping with gravel

What makes gravel such an excellent landscaping choice? It’s all about drainage. Water drains much quicker through gravel than through most soil types; that means puddles and other waterlogged issues are less likely on gravel surfaces.

Naturally, gravel does not require watering and is easily weeded. In fact, most graveled areas won’t need weeding at all, aside from a renegade intruder after a lot of rain. Gravel is also neat and tidy, unlike some alternatives such as wood chips that tend to break down and get tracked into the house by the bucketful.

Gravel is one of the best low-water options for borders and pathways as well. One popular location is regularly trafficked areas between planting beds, and main “thoroughfare” walkways in various locations of a yard. Pea gravel is arguably the most used and effective type, with many color variations to accent a home’s landscaping, and soft edges that make it comfy for people and pets to walk on.

Applying gravel

While some landscape pros suggest installing layers of sand and crushed rock as a stabilizer prior to applying a gravel top surface, a straightforward 2- or 3-inch gravel layer on its own is often sufficient to deter puddles, defend against weeds, and keep sand and scattered rocks in the soil from working up toward the surface.

In preparing a garden for gravel, weed the area and then rake loose topsoil to establish a layer of organic matter. Keep in mind that part of the beauty of using gravel in native, low-water planting beds is how the seeds fall into the rock and root quickly without mulch or dry soil wicking away precious moisture.

Gravel for landscaping projects is often ordered in bulk and dumped in the street or your driveway. Then it’s time to gear up with scoop shovels, at least one wheelbarrow, and solid, hard-tonged bow rakes.

Fill a wheelbarrow, dump it at the site, and rake it out. This gives you a quick estimate of how close to dump ensuing loads. Covering a 50-by-50-foot space with gravel will be a morning’s work for a pair of hardy souls. Moving gravel around is hard work but it’s the last time you’ll have to do it and the result is a beautiful, tough, water-friendly landscape.