Making a gravel garden

Materials such as gravel, rocks, and different grades of pebbles have become widely used as an alternative to a lawn. More recently, gray or blue slate chips have become a popular alternative to pebbles, providing an attractive contrast to the plant foliage.
Covering the soil with these types of materials will help to suppress weed growth (by preventing light from reaching the soil) and will reduce the amount of water being lost from the soil due to evaporation. This type of gardening lends itself particularly to hot, sunny sites, especially where the soil is light, sandy and very free-draining. However, in these situations, the
plants to he grown must be carefully selected to cope with the warm, dry conditions, because the heat reflected from the stones can create a very hot micro climate. For this reason, the best plants to choose are those with gray foliage and a covering of felt or hairs over the leaf surface.
Before the stones are laid, you will need to cover the soil with a water-permeable sheet or membrane, such as woven black plastic. This helps to control weeds, reduces the level of evaporation from the soil, and means you can use a shallower layer ol stones. Covering the sheet with stones not only improves the overall appearance but it also helps extend I lie life ol the sheeting, as most forms ol plastic degrade when exposed to bright sunlight.
Alternative organic materials, such as wood chips or chipped or shredded bark, can be used to cover the membrane, but these materials will slowly decompose and need to be topped up every two or three years. They also tend to lade badly in sunlight, quickly becoming quite drab in appearance, and are inclined to blow around the warden.

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