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Pea Gravel Landscaping Ideas–Patios, Playgrounds, Gardens, and More!

We’ve talked about pea gravel before on the blog. From talking about pea gravel’s impact on patio furniture, to the pros and cons of building a pea gravel patio, there’s a lot to say about landscaping with pea gravel. For those of you new to using pea gravel, we thought we’d discuss 5 great, basic pea gravel landscaping ideas.

Pea gravel can be great for affordable, DIY projects, or can be used in more upscale applications by contractors and landscaping designers. Put in a pea gravel patio in your backyard, or add an organic touch to garden paths! This versatile material lends itself to all kinds of outdoor projects. Let’s talk about some of our favorite pea graveling landscaping ideas.

1. Pea Gravel Patios

Let’s start with the basics. Pea gravel patios are among the most popular applications for the material. While traditional patios made from poured concrete or pavers can get expensive, and require professional help, pea gravel patios are appealing to homeowners for their affordability and ease of installation.

Pea gravel patios are made by first shaping and flattening or leveling a designated area. Then, a base of pea gravel is poured and packed. Remaining pea gravel can be poured and packed over this top layer, and raked to an even finish.

This can be done by yourself, or with the help of a landscaping crew. Rock is heavy, so you will need a truck to transport the material, wheelbarrows to move around your yard, and some strong friends to help you out.

Try multi-colored pea gravel as a fun way to bring color to your space, or opt for slate gray to take a modern approach. The smaller your pea gravel, the more tightly it can be packed. This is good for patios as it will discourage movement of the stones.

Keep in mind that not all furniture is gravel-compatible. You can fight scratching or other damage by breaking up your pea gravel with slabs of stone. This provides a level, non damaging surface for your chairs and table to rest against.

2. Pea Gravel Pathways

Looking to stray off the beaten path of concrete steppers? Pea gravel is excellent for creating pathways around your yard or through your garden. The process of installation is largely the same as that of a pea gravel patio. However, creating defined borders is of utmost importance here.

To ensure that your gravel does not migrate, be sure to put up garden borders. This will help contain the material to the right space.

When it comes to design, you can take several different approaches. Lay flagstone steppers, and fill the negative space with contrasting gravel. Or create winding paths of red pea gravel for color, and a southwestern appeal.

3. Pea Gravel in Garden Beds

While your first thought when it comes to covering garden beds might be mulch, you shouldn’t overlook stone. Mulch, while organic and affordable, is not your only option. Like mulch, pea gravel provides similar if not superior weed-resistance. It also allows water through to the roots of your plantings.

At the same time, pea gravel comes in a wider variety of colors and textures than mulch. It can pick up on other hardscaping elements in your space, and holds no smell. Pea gravel will hold up to rain and wind, and is a great option for modern spaces.

4. Pea Gravel in Outdoor Fountains

If you have an outdoor fountain or backyard pond, know that concrete is not your only option. You can spice up the boring concrete floor of your fountain by covering it in pea gravel. Water features are meant to feel organic. What’s more natural than mimicking a river bed in your running water feature?

It’s important to keep in mind that adding pea gravel to your fountain does not spell the end of cleaning. Smaller fountains should have their stone replaced annually so that dirt and grime do not build up, or algae infestations do not develop.

5. Dog Runs and Playgrounds

Grass doesn’t always stand up to the hard wear and tear of dogs and children’s feet. Pea gravel is a great option for areas of your yard that experience the heaviest foot traffic. From yellowing caused by urine, to digging and muddy paws, traditional lawns and dogs don’t always mix. Pea gravel prevents most of these common problems, and is great as a base for dog runs.

This durability also makes it great as a base for a playground where children run and play. Grass beneath swings can get torn up by dragging feet. Pea gravel can be pushed around and leveled back out after use. Not to mention, you can match your gravel to the rest of your backyard. space.

Should you landscape with pea gravel? It depends.

Whether or not pea gravel is the right material for your landscaping depends on how you intend to use it, and what matters most to you. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of the material is important to making an informed decision.

We’ve talked in depth about the pros and cons of pea gravel, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll give you the cliff notes version here.

The Pros

Some of the best arguments for installing pea gravel in your backyard living space include:

  1. Affordability.

Pea gravel is extremely inexpensive when compared to other hardscaping options. Costs vary, but standard pea gravel runs homeowners between $30 and $50 per ton. This adds up to $220 to $365 per 200 square feet, roughly $600 cheaper than the average $800 to $1200 for 200 square feet of poured concrete.

  1. Availability.

There’s no use in a material that’s impossible to get your hands on. COVID-19 has taught the outdoor design world that material availability matters. Specialty pavers run the risk of shortages or supply chain delays, while pea gravel is everywhere, and easy to source. From landscaping wholesalers to your local Home Depot, it’s easy to find.

  1. Permeability.

Outdoor design is moving towards becoming more environmentally friendly, and permeable hardscaping is a major key to a greener backyard. Unlike concrete slab, which maximizes runoff, permeable hardscaping such as pea gravel allows water to penetrate into the ground below.

  1. Customization.

Pea gravel comes in all kinds of shades, colors, sizes, and weights, and can be used in almost any size space. While pavers and concrete require time and effort to fit into uniquely shaped space, pea gravel can simply be poured and raked flat into almost any configuration.

  1. Repair and Cost of Maintenance.

It costs a lot of money to fix cracked or uneven concrete. A lot of times, it means removing entire portions of the space to one small area. You know what doesn’t require this kind of time and effort? Pea gravel. If gravel is removed or displaced, more can simply be added and then packed down. This makes the long term cost of pea gravel hardscaping less expensive than alternatives.

The Cons

Pea gravel isn’t the right material for all situations. The cons of pea gravel in landscaping include:

  1. Loose Pea Gravel–Displacement

Pea gravel is essentially a lot of small, tightly packed rocks. And as much as you tamp this material down, the surface will still be highly moveable. Rocks can easily be displaced, move around, and sent flying into your surrounding grass or planting beds. Heavy foot traffic exasperates this issue.

  1. Comfort

Let’s just be honest…walking on a bunch of little rocks isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. If you love the idea of going barefoot in the summer on your patio or around your yard, pea gravel might not be compatible with this dream.

  1. Bad For Furniture

What’s a patio without a chair and table? Patio furniture helps you get the most use out of your outdoor living space. While it’s entirely possible to place furniture on pea gravel, sharp stones can cut up and damage the legs of your outdoor furniture.

  1. Not Weed-Proof

While pea gravel is great at discouraging excess weed growth, it isn’t perfect at eradicating it all together. Like all permeable paving, pea gravel leaves room for weeds to grow, a problem not had with poured concrete or interlocking pavers.

Landscaping with Pea Gravel is Easy, Affordable, and Customizable

There is a long list of ways that you can use pea gravel in your own landscaping projects. Whether you want to give your furry friends a damage free place to do their business, or you are looking for an affordable, easy way to create more living space, landscaping with pea gravel is an opportunity for you to get creative.

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