All gardeners have insider secrets to make their flower beds look beautiful and elegant with less cost and maintenance, and one of those secrets? A pea gravel flower bed. This hardscaping stone is low in long-term cost and high in aesthetics and function, but its not without its flaws. Here’s everything you need to know before adding pea gravel to your flower beds.
Is pea gravel right for you? The Pros and Cons:
Pea gravel is aptly named because the small, smooth stones are roughly the size and shape of peas. Hardscaping enthusiasts have popularized pea gravel for pathways and garden walks, but is it right for your flower bed? Here are some things to consider.
Pros of putting pea gravel in a flower bed:
- Weeds have a difficult time pushing through pea gravel.
- Pea gravel comes in a variety of colors which can make for an exceptionally beautiful garden.
- The small stones facilitate superb drainage and erosion protection.
- Critters won’t usually dig through pea gravel, so they’ll be kept at bay.
- While it carries an initial cost 2 to 3 times higher than organic mulch, it doesn’t need to be replaced every year so it can save you money over time.
Cons of putting pea gravel in a flower bed:
- Small stones can get dragged into your lawn, home and other areas, if you’re not careful.
- If you have a change of heart, you’ll have to go through the tedious process of removing the pea gravel by hand.
- The small stones trap heat more than organic mulches do, so pea gravel should only be used for plants that prefer high heat (it’s perfect for succulents!).
- It doesn’t add nutrients to the soil like organic mulch does.
Installation: Pea Gravel in Flower Beds
First, you’ll need to choose where you’re installing the pea gravel. Try to install your pea gravel flower bed away from trees that drop lots of seeds and leaves to prevent the arduous task of picking up all of that tree debris out of the pea gravel.
Second, create a sturdy metal, plastic or stone edge at least one inch higher than the pea gravel will be to keep it all in place.
Third, it’s not a good idea to install pea gravel directly on top of soil, so you’ll have to place landscaping fabric over the top soil. The fabric will help prevent weeds that could eventually displace the pea gravel, causing a not-so-appealing mess.
Fourth, take your flower plants and set them on the landscape fabric where you’d like to plant them.* Use a utility knife to cut an “X” where you want each plant , dig an appropriate hole and plant the flowers.
Finally, install the pea gravel. Spread about two inches worth of pea gravel, making sure that it’s slightly below the edging height (or, again, you could have mess on your hands.)
* It’s important to choose plants that will thrive in your pea gravel flower bed. As previously mentioned, succulents do well in pea gravel flower beds. Hardy perennials, shrubs, and some culinary herbs are also great choices. Plants with very delicate stems or seedlings will not do as well. If you’re still questioning, ask your local greenhouse gardening experts or review this helpful list from the Royal Horticultural Society. Once you’ve made your choices, plant into an even soil layer about 2 inches from the surface to allow for a solid layer of pea gravel.
Maintenance: Keeping Pea Gravel in Place
One of the best features of pea gravel is how little maintenance it needs. To keep your decorative gravel in tip-top shape, make sure the flower bed edging is in good repair so the gravel stays in place. Keep a rake handy to even out the pea gravel if a hard rain or wind has moved some of it around. The stones will settle over time, so you may need to refresh them every 2 to 3 years or so, but even then you’ll only need a thin layer.