gravel surfaces

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    mark foster

    Pea gravel–the bane of my professional career….

    I get quite a few calls about placing this as a surface.  Apart from the sensation of walking on marbles, it eventually silts up and becomes an excellent weed farm.  In the past, we have mitigated this by placing crushed stone/dust under it, but this solution is far from perfect (the lighter limestone migrates upward, it still doesn’t keep the gravel from moving out of the bed, silting still occurs)

    My question:  has anyone tried using acrylic sand and/or soil binders with this, and has it worked?

    I know we have had a gravel question before on the forum, but I don’t remember this solution discussed.


    Tosh K

    This seems to work – more of a single mat-surface but the look of gravel…

    mark foster

    Thanks Tosh,

    Have you used this product?  

    Ernst Glaeser

    Hi Mark,

    Here in the MENA region gravel mulch is everywhere. It is considered as part of the xeriscape. Our main issue is that the permanent dust and sand flying around blocks all cavities. We have little problems with weeds or grass but need to blow clean – what a stupid job to blow the dust from one tree pit into the next – as this is easier then emptying and refilling the pit. During my professional time we had used all sorts (granite, marble, gabbro, various types of lime stone), grain sizes (pea to 15/20 cm and also mixed 30/x mm), and source (washed river or lake and pit crushed).

    The least satisfactory result was achieved with any type of pea gravel, as you said it rolls away and you can find it spread over the whole town.

    But our most worrying problem is the heat island effect created by the combination of granite pea gravel (layer of 10cm) in a granite on concrete walk way. The trees are all cooked. Where the gravel was removed early enough the trees are still stressed and show reduced green and growth compared against other trees in planter beds on the same project or covered with limestone or gabbro gravel.

    I am convinced that in our situation all granite gravel on tree pits in walkway areas will be replaced by a proper tree grate.

    I’m wondering how all the contemporary materials like glass chips, plastic, or the like would behave. The alternative of wood chips or bark is not really favored by me. This organic material is too much an attraction to birds and the litter by spreading is as complicated to control as the dust and sand or the rolling peas. Beside of that it needs special treatment by adding high nitrogen fertilizers to feed the bacteria, otherwise they will take it out of the ground and we’ll have pale leaves.

    Right now I’m searching for proof that my theorem about heat conductivity and storage and slow release is correct. Otherwise I might be f….d.

    Regards Ernst

    Tosh K

    I will be – there’s an installation of it at the children’s garden at NYBG, it seems to be holding up well.

    mark foster

    Thanks Ernst.

    While we don’t have the heat you do, I remember studies from around here showing that gravel mulch was detrimental because it heated the soil and caused plants to come out of dormancy early, but they were concerned with shrubs and perennials–not trees.  Maybe something to your theory….

    Good luck with it.


    Michael A. Hill

    Check out Penn State’s Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies.  I used their Trail Mix formula on a youth garden with pretty good results.


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