Gravel and Rock

Landscaping Rock

Natural stone is one of the most versatile elements available for a landscape makeover. Rocks add texture and contrast, serve as a durable groundcover and require little to no maintenance. Typically used for walkways, driveways, edging, borders, drainage ditches and tree rings, rock can also be used as an addition or alternative to mulch beds.

Types of Rock

There are several types of landscaping rock including pea gravel and Tennessee River Rock. Tennessee River Rock is harvested in the mountains of Tennessee. It is a smooth, natural aggregate that has a blended color palette of browns, grays and neutral tones.

River rock is available in sizes ranging from ¾ inch to boulder size. Small ¾ inch to medium 5-inch rock is ideal for use with ponds and water features, rock gardens, edging for plant beds and dry creek beds. Large 6- to 14-inch rock can be used to cover block masonry walls or chimney exteriors and is also an excellent choice for edging.

We do not recommend using large rock for use in building freestanding, all-stone-stacked walls without mortar.


Boulders accent any landscape, whether grouped amongst plantings or used to divide areas in a garden. The choice of boulder should coordinate with both the details of your house and your landscape.

Keep the boulder size to scale with the space. The most common mistake is using undersized boulders. If larger boulders aren’t possible, use several modestly sized ones.

Boulders tend to exist in groups of varying shapes and sizes. Think of nature. You don’t typically find one boulder all by itself. A boulder placed among a group of smaller-sized stones will result in a more beautiful composition.

A single boulder usually doesn’t look good because there is no context. Always use odd numbers of at least three boulders to create a more natural look.

Boulders are “planted” into the ground. They sit in the ground, not just on top. Plant the stone so that it appears to rise up from the vegetation surrounding it.

Gravel Applications

Because it can conform to almost any shape, gravel is an excellent transitional material from house to garden and is the perfect option for covering paths, terraces and driveways. Gravel is also affordable and easy to install.

Simply by mixing the various colors, sheens and sizes of rock, gravel will add depth and texture to most any landscape, and its natural and casual appearance works well with homes in most any style.

Gravel Driveway

A properly designed and built gravel driveway can serve as a lasting driveway paving solution. Using gravel to pave your driveway will be more cost-effective than other paving materials, such as concrete or pavers.

However, gravel driveways do require a considerable amount of maintenance. Vehicle traffic will cause low spots and disturb the edges of your driveway. These problems will need to be repaired periodically.

Gravel Patios, Walkways and Paths

Gravel is an excellent choice for patios, walkways and paths. It has a very earthy appeal, is affordable and can be installed quickly. Gravel also offers an understated solution, allowing your plants to take center stage.

If you are looking for paving material with good drainage, consider pea gravel. Keep in mind, though, patio furniture can be difficult to move on a gravel surface, which may pose problems if you plan to dine and entertain outdoors.

Gravel Accents

Gravel is commonly used as a decorative accent with materials such as pavers. Gravel of different colors and textures can be used to create contrast with the pavers. While it may not offer as much customization as decorative concrete or pavers, there are still a wide variety of decorative gravel options. You get to choose the color, sheen, texture and size.

Gravel Mulch

Many landscapers use gravel as both a paving material and mulch.

Pea gravel is commonly used as a mulch material. Gravel can be applied around trees, shrubs and drought-resistant subshrubs. As a mulch material, gravel helps keep plant beds moist and weed-free and provides depth and texture. Gravel, though, should only be used around long-lived perennials. You also will need to prepare your beds prior to installation. A landscape fabric, such as a geotextile, will prevent the gravel from working into the soil.

Installing Gravel

  • Step 1: Choosing Your Gravel

    Gravel is defined as rocks ranging in size from 1/8 inch to 1 1/2 inches. There are two forms of gravel: man-made crushed rock which has sharp, irregular edges and nature-made river rock or natural pebbles, which are rounded.

    When choosing which type of gravel to use, consider how you plan to incorporate the material into your landscape.

    For high-traffic areas, such as walkways, paths and patios, man-made crushed rock is the best choice. It creates a more stable surface. The most common size is 3/8 inch, which is considered an all-purpose gravel that is also suitable as mulch around your plants, trees and shrubs. However, if you prefer a softer surface, consider using 1/4 inch or finer natural pebbles.

    For low-traffic areas, a good choice is river rock. While the pieces are less stable and not ideal for walking on, the larger size creates more presence.

  • Step 2: Installing Your Gravel

    Use a tamper or roller to compact the area where you plan to lay the gravel. Once you have prepped the area, lay a two to 3-inch thick layer of gravel. Gravel can be laid directly on bare, weed-free soil or you may choose to use a landscape fabric as a barrier.

  • Step 3: Maintaining Your Gravel

    To keep the gravel tidy, remove leaves and other debris with a round wire tine rake.

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