Using Gravel for Borders and Paths

Gravel Border

I’m not a huge fan of covering gardens in concrete or other aggregates but there are times when they really do have their place.

Recently I was called in by a couple, who had just moved to the area and were looking to get their previously neglected garden, up to scratch.

The biggest issue they had was that there was pretty much nothing growing in the whole garden, save a few bulb flowers and a whole tonne of weeds. Worse still, the area directly in front of their patio was uneven, overgrown and just trying to step onto the lawn was a precarious business.

The 2nd issue they had was budget. Funds were limited and they didn’t want to spend all of their budget on just sorting out one area, when they had plants to buy, a lawn that needed tending to and a whole border area toward the back of the garden, that was completely empty

If you take a look at the image below, it will give you some idea about the problem area in front of the patio.

uneven garden border

The ground was pretty rough, full of stones and other debris and had of course become populated by weeds and other unwanted growth. The couple has also indicated that they wanted somewhere to put their ever increasing number of potted plants, that were now dominating most of the patio area, not giving them much room to sit.

My plan was to dig out the area to make it as even as possible (not easy as there was an old, unused pipe running through a section of it), cover with landscaping fabric and then add the gravel to create an area for their pots and planters.

Gravel has as many disadvantages as it has advantages but for certain jobs it works:

Gravel might not always be the best thing to use (on it’s own), if people are constantly walking over it as it can take a while to settle. However if the plant pots are in the main, mostly going to remain static, this won’t be an issue.

Gravel also drains quite well and although on some pathways, it can be annoying because it shifts about all the time and finds it way into every nook and cranny, when working on a surface which cannot be made completely even because of certain obstacles, gravel can actually work to your advantage.

Gravel can be a pain if you put either too much or too little of it down, especially in areas that are going to be walked over. But with a gravel border, that is not going to receive too much traffic, you can afford to put down that little bit more because it’s less likely to shift about. You can use the extra gravel, to even off the whole surface area.

On this particular project, some of the gravel is around 3cm deep and in others it’s up to 5cm. The 3cm area is generally where the big pipe runs through but from the surface, it can’t be noticed. If this was a pathway, I’d never advocate such a thing but for a border, which is purely acting as a blank “backdrop” and area for putting plants, it really was the simplest and most cost effective solution.

The clients were very happy with the job, they even went out and bought some LED lights to put around the edge when I’d finished and were buzzing about what plants they were going to put down first.

Also, now that they have the gravel border edged off, there is a clear line now between the border and the lawn, which will help when we come to tackle that.

Gravel Border

Gravel only costs around £2.50 a bag for the 10mm natural product and if you buy in bulk, you can get it even cheaper. It’s a natural product, so it doesn’t cause any offence and if you’re going to place pots over it, you’ll notice it less and less.

If you need to create some tidy lines, for very little money, gravel might work for you. You still need to try to get the ground below as level as possible but if this just can’t be done for any reason, gravel can be quite forgiving.

I wouldn’t use it for every job but for this situation, it absolutely worked.