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Easy CareEasy-care features : Gravel beds

Gravel beds are widely used to reduce the proportion of the garden covered by lawn, the idea being to reduce the work of mowing. Gravel areas need practically no maintenance compared with lawns, flower beds or borders, and they compare well with solid paving.

They have the advantage over paving of being cheaper and easier to install. Gravel sets off many plants very nicely. However, the location of gravel areas, and whether or not they contain plants, can affect their value for reduced effort.

Gravel beds

Gravel beds

Gravel beds are easy to maintain if they contain few or no plants. If the gravel is sufficiently deep 8 to 10 centimetres – very few weeds will come through. These can usually be pulled by hand. The weedkiller Simazine can also be used, except around non-woody plants.

All gravel areas need to be raked over occasionally to leave the surface even, but this is relatively light work. Gravel beds close to trees tend to suffer badly from falling leaves and germinating tree seedlings, typically sycamore and ash. Unless removed, leaves rot down to provide excellent rooting material for weeds. Although Simazine can be used where there are no non-woody plants, it will not control tree seedlings.

As time passes, gravel beds tend to sink into the soil and must be topped up. A lining of polythene, or woven polypropylene, beneath the gravel can reduce sinking but tends to encourage the accumulation of debris among the gravel, and consequently more weed growth.

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