What Is Best in the Garden: Sand or Gravel?

Updated April 17, 2017

Sand or gravel both have their place in the garden. What works best depends on the purpose of the sand or gravel. You can use both items a number of ways in the garden. Sand and gravel are used in Japanese Zen gardens as well as in other projects such as a base for stepping stones. Choose fine sand in sandpits for little children. Incorporate gravel as part of a landscaped dry riverbed.

Sand Garden

Sand is often used in Japanese Zen gardens as a specific type of garden. A light wooden frame is built, varnished and sealed. A plastic weed guard is then set down before the sand is deposited. You can fill the garden with bonsais or sculptures and rake the sand to show various designs.

Other Possibilities

In the garden sand also is used to lighten heavy clay soil so water can drain more easily through the mud particles. Sand is useful for children's sandboxes or establishing a base for laying down flagstone or other patio materials.

Gravel Gardens

Gravel gardens are easy to create and simple to maintain. Decide what shape and where the garden path will be and plot it out on paper along with other elements such as plants and garden benches. The garden path is usually one type and colour of granite so it is well defined, while other parts of the gravel garden may contain other colours of gravel to complement the path.


Installing black plastic beneath the gravel will virtually eleminate weeds. The gravel itself is cleaned each time it rains, and you can use a leaf blower to remove leaves from the garden site. Rake the gravel occasionally to keep it looking smooth.

Edging and Other Uses

Edge your gravel garden to prevent the gravel from travelling. Edging possibilities include large rocks or stones and cement blocks. Use pea gravel as a base for laying flagstones or as part of a dry riverbed.

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About the Author

Beverley Burgess Bell has been a professional freelance writer since 1986. She has worked for Medigram, a medical poster and Rodar Publications. She also was editor of "Epilepsy," Canada's national newsletter and wrote for various publications including "Future Health." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Concordia University in Montreal.