Fancy a change by moving on from your traditional garden, which takes up so much of your time? Weeding, mowing, fertilising, watering – it’s a never-ending battle to keep on top of all those gardening jobs, right? Well, you can find a great solution to this by creating a low-maintenance gravel garden.
Gravel garden designs come in all sizes and shapes and are relatively easy to make. You may prefer a garden in a Mediterranean style, opt for a Moroccan clean look or decide on a naturally evolving self-seeding garden… But regardless of the design, in all cases, your landscaping efforts will involve a fair bit of preparation.
Laying the gravel the right way, choosing suitable plants and learning how to maintain both are vital aspects of the process, in order to achieve the desired aesthetic result. So, with this post, we’ll help you accomplish the goal of establishing a beautiful and easy-to-maintain gravel garden from scratch.
How to Lay a Gravel Garden Correctly
Below is a universal 5-step process of how to prepare the ground for your new hardscape:
- Clear the space of all vegetation. This includes the regular grass along with all the weeds and plants.
- Remove weeds and carefully take out plants you want to keep and introduce back into your gravel garden.
- Dig over the ground once or twice to enhance the condition of the top layer of soil.
- Rake well to even out the surface and break down any lumps and bumps.
- Feed the soil with granulated fertiliser, compost or manure, as this will be your last chance to boost its fertility.
- Add coarse sand if necessary to improve drainage.
- Dig an outside border (about 4 inches wide and a couple of inches deep) to separate the area from other garden features that you want to keep, whether it’s a grassed patch, a patio, a path, a rockery or a flower bed. A pro level garden design of an irregular shape may involve creating soft edges to accommodate different focal points – an existing water feature, a tree or a shrub. This means that you may need to dig an inside border around a central garden feature or plant.
- Finally, lay a weed membrane over the prepared area and secure it with staples or weights (large stones and rocks). Skip this step if you wish to make a self-seeding gravel garden.
How to lay gravel in the garden
To complete your gravel garden project, purchase a sufficient quantity of gravel. Note that you will need about 40 kg of 20mm gravel to cover one sq.m at a 2-inch depth. To measure the area of a funny-shaped garden, multiply the length and width of the imaginary rectangle that surrounds it. If this measure method fails, just use an online gravel calculator.
What plants are suitable for a gravel garden?
Drought-resistant plants are your best bet when deciding on your gravel garden vegetation variety. Herbaceous perennials, herbs, grasses, shrubs, succulents and some types of bulbs that are tolerant to dry weather, will all thrive, once planted properly. Poppies, irises, rock roses and lilies; lavender, marjoram and thyme; daisies, salvia and santolina; fountain grasses, cosmos and feather grass, cacti, yucca and aloe require less watering and will flourish if you live in a region with relatively dry summers and low rainfall.
Gravel garden planting tips
Think about where you want each plant to go and place the pots in position on top of the weed-suppressing membrane. When happy with the floral and foliage display design, cut crosses (not holes) into the sheet. Dig holes and plant your specimens. Add compost to give them a good start. Tuck the membrane edges under the plants and water them well.
Ensure that you space your plants out to provide them with enough room to grow. Smaller sun-loving plants should not be planted near larger varieties so that their shade doesn’t prevent them from thriving.
What type of gravel
It’ll be entirely your choice as to what type of gravel you decide to use to cover your garden. Pea gravel, crushed stones or different coloured slate chippings are all suitable for dressing the membrane around your plants and existing garden features.
Our advice is to avoid using very small gravel, as it can easily escape outside the borders. Also, it may attract neighbouring cats to use as litter. Beware of the sharp edges of crushed stone, as it may pose a hazard to bare-feet children and pets. Very light coloured gravel can become looking greyish and dull with time from accumulated dust and rain won’t wash it, necessarily.
Did we manage to make you a gravel garden convert? Or do you have any different gravel garden design ideas and maintenance tips? Then, please, share them in the comment box below!