How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

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Ready to achieve beauty through bold textures and jagged lines? Here’s everything you need to know about designing and building a gravel or rock garden in your yard.

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Not all gardens need to rely on plants to make themselves attractive and inviting. Instead of colorful flowers and shapely curves, gravel and rock gardens achieve their beauty through their bold textures and jagged lines.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

However, if you wish to enjoy that type of beauty in your yard, you’ll need to do some careful planning first. The right place to start is to learn how to create a gravel and rock garden that will not only look great but stand the test of time as well. Here’s how to do exactly that.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
How to Build a Gravel or Rock Garden

Let’s address some of the more practical aspects of building a gravel or rock garden. No matter what your design intent may be, it will remain out of reach without solid preparation and construction measures. Here are five steps to get started.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
1. Find or Make a Plant-Free Space

As is the case with any garden plan, the first step toward making a gravel garden is to delineate a distinct area in your yard. The most straightforward approach is to select a location that is:

Before you move on, you’ll need to remove all vegetation from the ground where your new rock garden will be. Use a shovel or a grub hoe to do a thorough job, leaving behind nothing but exposed soil.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
2. Make the Ground as Level as Possible

With all existing vegetation out of your way, it is time to make the ground within the extents of your gravel garden as flat as possible. This stage of the process will be much easier if you take time to select a garden location that is relatively flat to begin with.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

Use an iron rake to smooth the surface of the ground. Then use a hand tamper to compact the soil. Taking time to compact the soil beneath will help ensure your rock garden won’t settle or form divots over the years.

3. Consider Using Landscape Fabric

Landscaping fabric is an excellent material to incorporate into your gravel or rock garden construction process. Laying a layer of this material directly on top of the soil you just compacted is beneficial to your rock garden because it:

At times, installing landscape fabric is as easy as rolling it out on the compacted base of your garden. In other cases, such as on slopes, you may need to use stakes or some other means of fastening your fabric to the ground.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
4. Set a Strong Edge

Setting a definitive edge to your garden spaces is a highly effective but often overlooked aspect of landscape design. Firm edges serve as a clear marker of where an outdoor space begins and ends while also giving it an exact shape.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

When you make a gravel or rock garden, edges are critical because you’ll need them to keep the gravel in your rock garden in place. Without a suitable edge, a gravel garden will often fail to hold its form and deteriorate much more quickly. Here are some of the materials you can use to construct an edge for your rock garden:

5. Fill the Area with a Gravel Base

Once your edge is complete, it is time to fill your garden with gravel. Doing so is as straightforward as it sounds. When your gravel garden is full, use your iron rake to make the surface of your gravel look neat and smooth.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
How to Make a Rock Garden that Looks Amazing

Now that you know some of the basics of how to build a rock garden, it is time to consider some of the ideas and garden elements that will take the visual appeal of your garden to the next level. Follow these four ideas to elevate your space’s beauty.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
1. Focus on Materials

Rock garden design is all about finding the right set of materials. Once you find the right palette of rocks and stones, making an aesthetically pleasing rock garden will be a much simpler goal.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

Take your time when considering the many colors and textures that you can choose for the gravel and other rocks that will give your garden its essential character.

2. Add Vertical Features

Typically, the most striking features of a rock garden are the ones that rise from the ground. Vertical garden elements can come in many forms, but large stones and boulders are most common in rock gardens. Those focal points usually have intriguing shapes or lines that captivate a garden visitor as much as any specimen plant.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
3. Consider Growing Some Plants

Although a rock garden deviates from the norm by focusing on stone rather than plant life, there is no reason you can’t add plants as a part of your design. If you choose to grow plants, make sure you select species that can survive in growing conditions that a rock garden creates.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden

If you can find the right plants for your garden, they can serve as an eye-catching accent and give your rock garden a more welcoming and complete feel.

4. Apply Basic Landscape Design Principles

Although gravel and rock gardens are part of their own unique category, designing one is not all that different than designing any other type of garden. As you would in any other scenario, you should apply these basic concepts when planning and designing your new rock garden:

Understanding and applying those concepts is the key to designing any successful garden. So, be sure to remember them while you make your rock garden dreams into a reality.

How to Create a Gravel and Rock Garden
Now You're Ready to Rock

Now that you know the basics of how to create a rock garden, you are ready to design and build one of your own. If you ever lose track of what to do next during that project, refer to the guide above. Remember that as long as you follow the correct design principles and construction techniques, there is nothing stopping you from making the perfect gravel garden for your yard.