How to Create a Gravel Garden

A gravel garden is a great way to have a pretty and well kept garden with minimum maintenance, ideal for those who would rather spend their free time enjoying the garden rather than maintaining it. 

Gravel gardens require a bit of time and hard work at first, but once they are in place they will pretty much look after themselves and will cut down your time spent weeding and mowing. Sound good? Follow our tips below on how to create a gravel garden.

Good For:

  • The lazier of the gardeners! Those who would rather sit on a garden chair in a nice garden, rather than push the lawn mower up and down it.
  • Gardens with sandy, low fertile soil are perfect for gravel gardens.

How to Create a Gravel Garden:

  • Start by clearing the area that you plan to turn into a gravel garden. The soil should be clear and raked level. Gently walk over the surface so it is firm but not too compact.
  • Using a membrane sheet under the gravel will cut down your weeding, but it will also stop plants self seeding. If this is not an issue, cover the area in a membrane sheet.
  • Draw a plan of how you want your gravel garden to be laid out, with the location of beds, paths and the overall shape you are aiming for. It is a good idea to then mark this plan out on the ground – this can be done by pouring sand out of a bottle.
  • Put your flowers in position in their pots and keep moving them until you are happy with the arrangement.
  • Cut crosses into the membrane sheet where you want to dot plants, or cut larger squares out where you want to grow larger beds.
  • Plant your flowers and plants in position and water them well.
  • Now you will be ready to add the gravel. Fill it gently around your plants and use a rake to spread it evenly across the surface.
  • Gravel is commonly sold in bulk bags (often referred to as tonne bags) which cover approximately 20-25sq/m, or for smaller areas a 25kg bag covers around 0.6sq/m. Decorative gravels are usually between 10-20mm and come in a range of different colours and styles so choose the one that suits your taste. If the area will be walked on quite frequently, 20mm gravel is the better option.
  • Try using a couple of different types and colours of gravel to create different sections within your garden.

Choosing Plants:

Mediterranean and drought tolerant plants are perfect for gravel gardens. The choice is not limited so you will easily find plants that you like that will also be happy in a gravel garden. Here are a few of our favourites to help get you inspired:

  • Crocuses
  • Hyacinths
  • Poppies
  • Primrose
  • Foxgloves
  • Shrubs – Californian Lilac, Juniper, Rosemary, Thyme…
  • Grasses – Silver grass (Miscanthus), Fountain Grasses (Pennisetum)…

Added Touches:

Along with choosing the right plants, a few finishing touches can add character to your gravel garden. Bird baths and plant pots can add colour and height to your garden, larger paving slabs can add distinctive paths through your garden and break up large areas of gravel, and if you are feeling a bit fancy, water features make a good focal point. Along with this add benches and seating so that you can enjoy your garden throughout the year.

Maintenance:

  • Whilst plants are small in the first couple of years, some weeding will probably be necessary in between the plants. Once your gravel garden becomes more mature however, the larger plants teamed with the membrane should suppress most weeds.
  • Gravel levels can be topped up as and when needed to keep your garden looking fresh and tidy.
  • In prolonged dry periods particularly in the first year, water your plants to help them get established. The water will soak through the gravel and the membrane through to the soil, and the gravel will then prevent the water evaporating at the surface.
  • You can always add new plants to your garden, just make a gap in the gravel down to the membrane and cut a hole for your new plant to be placed into.

Top Tips:

  • Make sure you are pretty set on a gravel garden before you start ripping up your lawn and bringing in tonnes of gravel. Once you have changed to a gravel garden, it would be hard work taking it all out again!
  • A gravel garden is definitely low maintenance but it is not no-maintenance at all unfortunately! Remember to give it a bit of TLC every now to keep it looking tidy and check for any weeds that need removing.

If you have been thinking about turning your garden into a gravel garden, you should now have a good idea where to start. Following our tips you can create a nice yet low maintenance garden that you can enjoy all year round.

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