Using gravel for drainage and erosion control

Using gravel for drainage and erosion control

No matter the size, style, or space of a landscaping project; one of the most critical design elements is drainage and erosion control. Without efficient drainage, all the hard work you put into your home’s landscaping is susceptible to damage. Standing water quickly leads to water damage, oversaturated plants will die off, and mini lakes in your yard invite bacteria and are the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. What is a concerned homeowner to do?

The answer is gravel. Gravel is tough by nature, offers a rugged but attractive look, and beyond its visual benefits is the best option for maintaining an adequately drained landscape while controlling erosion. Gravel is an aggregate of smaller rocks derived from larger ones and as such is permeable, allowing water to gradually trickle and sift into surrounding soil rather than rush across in torrents as it does on pavement, concrete, and even compacted soil. Properly installed, gravel is also extremely adept at diverting water away from your home, play areas, and any other outbuildings.

Diversion tactic

Having trouble with rain water or spring snowmelt collecting near your house (or in your basement)? A swale might be just the thing you need. A swale is a gentle trench that slopes down and away from a home’s foundation. With the trench in place, fill the swale with river rock and then line the edges with pea gravel to create an efficient and attractive water diverter.

Erosion control

You don’t have to see dramatic mudslides and deep gullies in your yard for evidence of erosion. Soil naturally wears away and we speed it up by overwatering and digging and just walking around. Streaks of erosion gullies are unattractive at best but can also become dangerous if left unattended. Water rushing unchecked down a slope carves a path and washes away topsoil, uproots plants and trees, and carries fertilizers and other chemicals into our water supply. Fortunately, strategic placement of gravel does wonders in controlling this liquid rampage.

  • On a sloped landscape, gravel acts as a barrier to prevent soils from draining away.
  • Install an edging of bricks, low fencing, or plants to keep the gravel in place.
  • Water traveling down the slope encounters the gravel barrier and then slowly percolates into the soil.

Flora to the rescue

Arguably the most effective means to control erosion is using what already happens in nature. Plants are amazingly effective at taming excess rainwater. Select plants native to your area and once their root systems are established will provide and enduring and strong erosion defense. Blend a layer of gravel among the plantings for the extra drainage benefit.