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Gravel borders

I've been doing some unskilled gardening professionally this summer (weeding/mowing) and have come to the conclusion that gravel beds/borders/drives are not at all low maintenance.  Even with weed membrane, you will get weeds growing through.   I find it's difficult to use a hoe because it just messes up the gravel and leaves the weeds.   I don't have  a license to use chemicals professionally and don't like the idea of large area spraying with herbicide anyway.   If you have dogs or children or even yourself, you are introducing carcinogens into your environment (not to mention about the waterways and birds etc.) 

So that seems to leave hand-weeding, which is time consuming and not so pleasant.  Last week I was doing this in 3 different gardens---fortunately only once in the heat.  

  Coming from a dry place, I prefer greenery anyway and sort of admire the plants, which are so amazing to be able to grow in that barren environment, but it looks so untidy to have gravel AND weeds. 

It seems to me that in Britain,  a lawn is actually more low maintenance.  Even if it has weeds, you would just need to pay a neighbour kid to mow it weekly and it will still look neat enough. (No one but you actually looks at your lawn to see if it has broad leaved weeds as long as it is mowed neatly.)

I know gravel is more environmentally friendly and better looking than just paving over everything--and I do have a small gravel bed (more of a flat rockery) in a dry area...but enough plants to not have lots of room for weeds-- and I don't want to encourage more people to pave things.  I can understand choosing it for a parking area.  Just thought I'd mention that in my experience, there will still be lots of maintenance involved.  

Or am I missing something? 


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,838

    I find gravel easy enough to hoe and then tidy with a rake if needs be.  In an ideal world the plants grow together to cover the ground and prevent weeds but while they're getting to that size the gravel retains moisture and keeps the rain spots off them.

    This is what one should look like IMHO -

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • KT53KT53 Posts: 8,726

    As long as they aren't given time to establish, it should be easy to remove weeds from a gravel bed as their roots won't have anything much to hang on to.  If a poor quality membrane has been used it is entirely possible that it has degraded and then weeds will establish much more quickly.

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,904

    If the gravel has been down for a while there will be a build up of leaves and detritus and eventually there will be enough organic matter within the gravel for the weeds to take hold. They're not coming up through the membrane, they are seeds landing and establishing.

    I've just lifted about half a ton of small stones and riddled them! image As for the 300m² of "parking and turning" bit. It gets the good old spray if it gets away from me.

    If anyone comes up with any ideas for removing leaves, wet, dry or otherwise, please let me know. What happened to the student on here who was designing a machine? Where'd he go?

  • WateryWatery Posts: 388

    Those photos look gorgeous.  I have to admit, in my small graveled area, there are only a few weeds among the plants I want.  I suppose I've more been doing gravel drives.  Or gravel with one shrub in the middle.   I agree if weeds pulled up quickly, not so hard to do, but I still find the hoe not so effective...and don't you have to bend to pick up the results?   Maybe I'm doing it wrong.  And I suppose even weeding is less frequent than mowing entails.   I guess I just had a frustrating week.  It seems to take so long and is so difficult to get the little tiny weeds out. 

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 7,004

    I'm with you Watery - I put some gravel over membrane in a previous garden and found it acted like a nursery bed for weeds. And some come up well enough with a hoe, but some with very fibrous roots seem to work their way into the fabric weave and are a b**r to get out without ripping the membrane. I have got a couple of areas here with a similar thing but I used 40mm scalpings rather than decorative gravel and it seems to be far less commodious from a seed point of view. Horrible to put down though.

    Lawns are OK when you have a nice established one but they can be very hard to make from scratch unless you have the Lawn Gene (which I believe is on the Y chomosome - at least I definitely don't have it). I have a nice flat patch of clover instead image

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669

    I have a gravel area round my veg plot, every year I end up buying another ton bag and laying it, there is weed proof membrane, lots of plants like nigella,opium poopies self seed, but so do weeds brambles burst thru from neighbours, I find hands and knees, but yes difficult to keep on top off, but we inherited it, I do like the look and we wouldnt be able to afford to pave this area, we have added a couple mor raied veg bed since we have been here, but I am always amazed what manages to get growing in the shingle.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,497

    I think the real solution for drives is to have the gravel deep enough and then to do as the Victorians did and set one of the undergardeners to rake it every week. That way weeds never get chance to take a hold and it always looks neat. Shame we can't get the staff these daysimage

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,904

    I think you could be right Buttercup.

    Now to look up "staff" on Google.... image

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