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Pea Gravel Landscaping: Benefits and Drawbacks

Hailing from an area where pea gravel is readily available, and not too expensive, you would think that I’d have nothing but praise for this landscaping material. And, from an aesthetic point of view I have absolutely no qualms but very few gardeners think past the visual when they add this stuff – or so it seems.


Pros and Cons of Pea Gravel in Landscaping

Possible Problems with Pea Gravel

Landscaping with gravel is a very common improvement material but it does come with some downsides. Here are some problems you may encounter, or hopefully consider, when installing pea gravel in your yard;

Pea Gravel Rolls

At least it has the ability to. While it doesn’t have the same effect as laying marbles on your driveway it’s not that distant to be incomparable. Paths made with pea gravel can obviously become hazards for toddlers (learning to walk), the elderly (trying to keep a surefoot) and women in heels.

If you can guarantee that members from any of those groups aren’t likely to traverse your pathways then pour them on – otherwise, in this day and age, brace yourself for a possible lawsuit.

Using pea gravel in a playground

Gravel Won’t Stop Weed Growth

Next, while you may lay pea gravel to a depth of 6" or more it still won’t stop the weeds coming through. Laying plastic underneath will eventually dissipate and a rug or carpet may grow mould before finally disintegrating.

Compared to other rock, stone or pebble materials there is no difference but if you’re looking for some maintenance-free surface then pea gravel is not the greatest option.

Pea Gravel May Leach Ochre

Regardless of whether the pea gravel is washed it will still leech ochre tainting as rainfall and irrigation runs off it. This will discolour other paths, the bottom of fences, your clothes – or those of your children, and maybe even your street if run-off meanders onto it.

Gravel Prices Aren’t Cheap

How much does pea gravel cost? This is another item to consider in your decision-making process. If it’s not readily available in your area then the extra cost for heavy haulage may impede your decision.

Plus, you may need to top it up every few years as much of it will shift and mix with the soil below it.

It’s becoming more common for parents to create a pea gravel playground for their children and while this may seem like a neat option it also has many downfalls. Speaking of falls, this is one area where pea gravel fails as a softfall alternative.

In order to make it completely safe, parents need to lay it to a depth of at least 1 ft and ensure that it gets raked prior to each occasion the children want to play in it. Otherwise it has a tendency to be compact and little pebbles can easily lodge themselves in soft knees and elbows.

Benefits of Pea Gravel

Benefits of Pea Gravel

But, there are benefits too for using pea gravel. Landscaping with rocks offers some stunning contrasts between lawns and garden beds and can look neat without too much effort.

Some gardeners have been using it to create a pea gravel patio and this can be a benefit as the gravel offsets heat much better than paving and needs less cleaning than its hard counterpart.

So, while pea gravel has some major disadvantages, used in the right context it can provide stunning results in most gardens. For more inspiration, check out our compilation of landscaping ideas for your outdoor space.

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