How to Landscape Using Gravel & Grass

Written by j.e. myers
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Combining green grass with the unique texture and colour of gravel can produce a functional and beautiful landscaping arrangement. While many homeowners dream of achieving lush, emerald green grass lawns, do not overlook the potential of gravel as a partner. Gravel looks good throughout the seasons, serves as an excellent pest-free mulch and is very low in maintenance. Bring the two ground covers together with a well-thought-out plan.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Graph paper
  • Garden hose or rope
  • Street-marking spray paint
  • Spade
  • Edging material
  • Landscape fabric
  • Pea gravel
  • Sod or grass seed

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Draw a plan of your yard. Indicate any features, such as fences or sheds and any large plantings you intend to keep, such as trees and hedges. Make three photocopies of this finished plan.

  2. 2

    Indicate the sun's location at midmorning on the first drawing. Show the sun at midafternoon on the second copy. Spot the sun at late afternoon on the third copy. Calculate the shade cast during these times of day. Note any areas shaded more than once across the drawings: These are areas of "deep" shade.

  3. 3

    Plan grassy areas strategically. Avoid planting grass in deeply shaded spots. Few species thrive in deep shade. Also, avoid grass on pathways and around play equipment. Planting grass in high-traffic areas is usually futile.

  4. 4

    Consider where gravel might serve better than grass. Pea gravel works well in areas of deep shade. Pea gravel is also a good pathway material and can form a soft "landing zone" under playground equipment. Large expanses of pea gravel are attractive and practically maintenance free.

  5. 5

    Identify the transitions between any grass and gravel areas. Pea gravel must be contained within a solid barrier to prevent scattering. Suitable barriers include black plastic landscape edging, wooden "soldiers" or masonry.

  6. 6

    Move from the plan to your real yard. Lay down garden hose or rope to indicate grass and gravel areas. Adjust these lines to find the most pleasing and practical design. Trace the final line of the designs with street-marker spray paint. Remove the hose or rope.

  7. 7

    Cut into any turf along this paint line with a sharp spade. Install the edging product of your choice at the proper depth, leaving 3 inches of edging above ground level. Follow the product directions and install the edging so it cannot shift position and is not likely to "heave" out of the ground.

  8. 8

    Remove any unwanted grass or weeds from inside the designated gravel area with a shovel or hoe. Lay down semi-porous landscape fabric. Create holes in the fabric for desirable shrubs or plants.

  9. 9

    Purchase pea gravel by the ton, delivered by truck, to cover large areas. Your gravel provider can advise you on how much gravel to order to complete the project.

  10. 10

    Install the gravel inside the edging to a depth of about 2 inches using 5-gallon buckets, a wheelbarrow, or shovels. If any permanent plantings like small shrubs are within the gravel zone, distribute the gravel around the trunks of the plants more sparingly.

  11. 11

    Groom the gravel to uniform level with a garden rake. Spray newly placed pea gravel with a mist of water to remove any mud or silt picked up in the delivery truck.

  12. 12

    Install sod or seed new grassy areas as needed.

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