DIY

Upgrade a Gravel Pathway

Reader Contribution by Lorene Edwards Forkner
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Let’s put water back into the soil where it belongs.
Permeable or porous surfaces, like a gravel path or patio, allow rainfall and
irrigation to percolate into the ground rather than spill into the street.
Excess runoff sluicing over paved surfaces carries landscape chemicals and road
gunk into the sewer system creating an enormous burden for municipal waste
management agencies and the resulting toxic soup threatens fish and wildlife
that populate our waterways and shorelines.

Search out affordable and creative options for gravel
materials sourced locally. In Coastal regions you’ll find crushed seashells,
and in many cities, stone yards and landscape material suppliers stock crushed,
recycled concrete or brick as gravel alternatives. Online calculators or your
supplier will be able to help you figure how much material is needed for
adequate coverage. While you’re exploring your options, look beyond stone to
other materials you might use to furnish your garden’s floor.

  • Recycled glass cullet
  • Beach stones
  • Decomposed granite
  • Broken and tumbled pottery or terracotta
  • Hazelnut shells
  • Wood chips
  • Pine needles

One of the best options for garden flooring, gravel won’t
break your back or the bank! One of my favorite go-to garden materials, it is
the quickest and most economical way to lay a durable pathway or patio surface.
Upgrade your hardworking but humble garden flooring with an arrangement of
bluestone pavers set into the gravel. The cool color of the stone echoes the
basalt gravel while veins of rusty brown add a touch of warm color. Marking the
transition from the pathway to our wooden deck, like a Stone Age welcome mat,
my bluestone pavers invite friends to one of our favorite spots for relaxing.

Gravel is graded by the size of its rock particles and may
or may not contain “fines,” or stone dust, which help to create a firm, solid
base. Larger sizes (5/8–3/4-inch) are suitable for heavy traffic areas like
driveways or building a sub-base. Finer grades (1/4–3/8-inch) lend a more
finished effect; use this grade for pathways, patios and to top-dress deeper
beds laid with a sub-base. “Washed” gravels have had the fines removed. Steer
clear of pea gravel unless you like the feeling of trying to walk on
ever-shifting ball bearings.


Purchase bluestone pavers at any home goods warehouse or
garden center that carries landscape building supplies—generally referred to
as “hardscape” materials—or a stone yard, (vendors that stock boulders,
pavers, stone and gravel). Or you might approach friends or neighbors who are laying
a patio to see if they might have a few extra pieces. Most tools needed for
this project are of the standard garden variety with the exception of a tamper;
a weighted plate at the end of a long vertical handle that makes short work of
firming up a newly laid gravel surface. Most large hardware stores and tool
rental agencies have tampers available on an hourly basis.

This is a project excerpt from Handmade
Garden Projects: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features,
Containers, Lighting & More
by Lorene Edwards Forkner, Timber Press
2011.

Lorene Edwards Forkner presented workshops at the Puyallup, Wash. 2012 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets are on sale now.

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