Interior Decorating and Design Studio (Locust Valley, NY) Interior Decorating and Design Studio (Locust Valley, NY)

Everything you need to know about Pea Gravel: Gardens and Beyond!

Everything you need to know about Pea Gravel: Gardens and Beyond!
Sneak peek at our English Potager Garden!
After recently designing (and building!) our English style potager garden, I received a lot of questions on our pea gravel. So let's dive in to what I have discovered about these delightfully beautiful stones, and a few do's and don'ts.
Not only does pea gravel serve as an attractive way to enhance your garden, but it can also be very useful as well. The small stones provide drainage and can help break up pools of water from the rain. You can also use pea gravel in trouble areas where it may be hard to grow grass. It will create interest in an area that is otherwise hard to do something with.
Pea Gravel is generally made up of small white stones, up to 1/3" in diameter, and come in a variety of different colors. Some are all white, and some are a mix. The mix varieties come in many different shades of ivory and brown to suit your aesthetic. It is best to go to your local garden center to choose the color that works best for your project. If you are having a hard time choosing, I tend to think the soft ivory and tan shades resemble some of the most beautiful English and French gardens in the world. White or full grey stones are more transitional and modern. There is no right or wrong choice, but consider the home and the surroundings when deciding.
While it would be hard to give a definitive idea on cost, because it is location based, I will share some tricks. If you are planning to do anything bigger than a small, simple path, it is best to choose your gravel at the garden or stone center, and have them deliver a truck to your driveway. This is also something your landscaper can do, and they might be able to save you some money as well. We used our landscaper and he delivered it right to us.
Our landscaper delivered the stones right to us
Pea Gravel looks beautiful when it is maintained. But like anything, once you loosen the slack it will start to show. You will need to control the weeds that grow through by either pulling them up with your hands or using weed killer. If your gravel is in a high traffic area, it will be important to gently rake it often to fill in the holes or spots. Pets, children, wheelbarrows, and general traffic will all start to shift the rocks over time and some areas may become too bouncy while others will become bald. I rake mine every other day to keep it even and to maintain a pristine look. If you don't have a gravel rake, you can flip a regular rake over on its back side. I also use the blower on a gentle setting to remove debris.
For the love of all things holy, please use landscape fabric under your pea gravel. Amongst all the things we have to do in life, more weeding is generally not on the top of our list. I purchased a 3' x 100' roll for about $40, which is supposed to help keep weeds away for 5 years. I have pulled only a few up on the sides and it makes me wonder how many stubborn weeds I would have if we didn't lay the fabric down. Before applying the fabric, rake and even out the soil so the gravel can be laid out evenly. I will also recommend using the staples that are sold separately. We skipped this step and later went back in and hammered a bunch into the ground through the fabric. Not only do the staples stabilize the fabric but it prevents any edges from getting pulled up. You will have yourself a mess if you don't use the staples, especially in a high traffic area.
Laying out the fabric, use staples to secure it
Raking the gravel evenly
It is imperative that your gravel has edging, otherwise the small stones will start to spill into unwanted areas. There are many ways to edge your pea gravel, according to your style and budget. The most common ways are with metal edging. plastic or rubber edging, bricks, or rocks. Rocks and bricks (or any type of stone) are great companions for pea graveled pathways. Creating edging a couple of inches above the gravel will help maintain a defined line of separation for a crisp look.
Repurposed brick edging
Metal edging
Sneaking this in here at the end because it's an important one. Nothing says enchanting like a white pea gravel driveway. But if you've had one before you know it's a love/hate relationship. The rocks spill into the street, they will get stuck in anything from sneakers to car tires, it's difficult to plow, it's uncomfortable on bare feet, and you will have to replenish the stones every so often because they eventually vanish into thin air. But, the look is unbelievable if you're willing to maintain it. There is a new method called "Hot Oil Gravel" or "Tar and Chip" in which a thin layer of hot oil is put down on the pavement (or existing driveway), and the stones are spilled and evenly raked on top. A thin layer of loose stone is applied for a natural feel, allowing most of the stones to be stabilized underneath. You get the look without the fuss. This is a nice alternative to regular loose pea gravel, and one you should ask about if you're interested!
This is our road, tar and chipped
I hope you got some useful information out of this post, and I hope I have given you the confidence to try pea gravel somewhere at home. The look is lovely, and you will enjoy it for years to come. Thank you for reading, and be kind to one another xx -Chrissie

Comments on this post (3)

  • May 18, 2024

    Would you be able to comment on the name and color of the pea gravel you used up above ? Thank you!

    — Pratima

  • Jan 23, 2023

    Thanks for the advice about regularly raking the gravel path, especially if it is a high-traffic area. As you said, if this is ignored, there will be bald spots. We plan on adding gravel to our garden to increase curb appeal without having to plant grass. I’ll make sure to remember this tip.

    — Elaina D'Agostino

  • Sep 12, 2022

    Thank you for explaining how you need to maintain your gravel driveway regularly to keep it looking beautiful. I’ve been thinking about making our driveway gravel instead of concrete. I wasn’t aware of its maintenance, but I think that this is something we can add to our routine.

    — Olivia Smart

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