This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

September 26, 2015

How to use gravel in your landscape

Rocks, including gravel, are great in the garden. Done correctly, typical 1/2" landscaping gravel looks great. I converted my front yard from grass to gravel when I moved into this house, twenty years ago.

But, like everything else, if you do it wrong, it looks terrible. And one of the worst mistakes I see people make is to put gravel in places where people need to walk. Big mistake. Don't do that.

I just want to grab my guitar and sing a sad song when someone proudly shows me that they have converted an area where people walk, like a small lawn, into a gravel area. It looks great for exactly one day - then people walk on it.

No, I'm not criticizing people walking where they shouldn't be. If the design has gravel in walking areas, the fault is with the person who designed the space, not the people walking. Designing a space that encourages people to walk on gravel is always a mistake. I see it everywhere - around parking lots, for example. People walk on the gravel, they kick it up and they mess it up. People will always walk in the most direct path, they won't go all the way around. No, they're not lazy, you're just a poor designer.

So if you have gravel where people need to walk, you have made a mistake. Try again. And no, don't try to do "stepping stones" - that just makes it worse. Create a place that's designed for walking. I have artificial turf in my backyard, and I have large flagstones that welcome walking. The gravel surrounds the plants, and people know (or they should know!) not to walk up into the garden.

A garden should look better and better over time, not terrible starting the next day. Use gravel correctly.
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