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. From an aesthetic point of view I have absolutely no qualms with gravel or stones. Yet, very few gardeners think past the visual when they add this stuff – or so it seems.

pea gravel

Pea Gravel used in the garden

Landscaping with pea 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 this in your yard.

Issues with Pea Gravel in Your Garden

  1. Pea Gravel Rolls

  2. 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. Pathways made with gravel can obviously become hazards for toddlers who are learning to walk. It’s also hazardous for 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.

  3. Gravel Won’t Stop Weed Growth

  4. Next, while you may lay pea gravel to a depth of 6″(15cm) 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. However, if you’re looking for some maintenance-free surface then pea gravel is not the greatest option. If you still want to go ahead with gravel as a mulch then it would be advisable to lay down some landscape fabric underneath.

  5. Pea Gravel May Leach Ochre

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

  7. Gravel Prices Aren’t Cheap

  8. 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.

  9. Gravel is Not an Alternative for Soft Fall

  10. It’s becoming more common for parents to create a pea gravel playground for their children. 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 least 1ft(30cm). Also, ensure that it gets raked prior to each occassion the children want to play in it. Otherwise it has a tendency to compact and little pebbles can easily lodge themselves in soft knees and elbows.

  11. Pea Gravel is Harmful to Dogs

  12. Walking on pea gravel with bare feet has the same sensation as stepping on a piece of Lego. Each individual piece of gravel hits the sole of your foot in the same way. Now, imagine this is what is happening to the pads of your dog’s paws each time they walk on this. The smaller stones can easily attach to the paw and over time infect their pads. To have pea gravel and a dog is a recipe for continuous maintenance. You will be forever checking the paws of your dog and pulling out rogue pebbles.

But, there are benefits too for using landscaping gravel. Landscaping with this material offers some stunning contrasts between lawns and garden beds. It can look really neat without too much effort. Some gardeners have been using it to create a pea gravel patio. 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.

Photo Credit: John McLinden Flickr via Compfight cc