I hate weeds! What’s the worst part about them, you ask? The fact that weeds and unwanted grass can grow anywhere regardless of the soil or floor type.
To that end, if you were to ask, “Will grass grow through gravel?”, the answer, unfortunately, is yes.
Gravel is a practical choice for garden paths or backyards. Not only is it easy to lay down, but it’s also easier to maintain than lawns and helps prevent soil erosion or runoff during rainfall. It’s also fairly inexpensive and easy to reverse if you decide to remove it.
This guide will take you through how grass can grow through gravel and the possible solutions you can employ. Let’s get to it!
Stop Weeds And Grass Growing In Gravel Or Pebbles
- Grass Growth Between Gravel and Pebbles
- Preventing Weeds From Growing Through Gravel Drives
- Why Weeds Grow in Paths and Driveways
- Getting Rid of Weeds in Gravel Drives and Paths
- Final Thoughts
Grass Growth Between Gravel and Pebbles
Unfortunately, grass will grow through gravel or pebbles if given the chance. For the most part, an evenly laid gravel path won’t provide a good environment for grass or weeds. But sometimes gaps in the gravel itself can provide just enough soil, sunlight, and water for grass blades to thrive.
Grasses, in particular, are notoriously hardy vegetation that can survive in the least accommodating environments. So, if there’s even the slightest chance grass can take root and grow through gravel, it will.
The roots play a large part in the hardiness of the plant. If the roots go deep under the earth, they’ll become stronger and harder to get rid of. For example, if you lay a gravel path over your lawn, the grass root system will still exist under the earth. Because of this, there will be a greater chance that the grass will continue to grow, especially if they can find gaps in the gravel for air, water, and sunlight.
However, there are ways to keep this from happening. Tearing up all the grass or sod before laying gravel can help, as can diligent weed-pulling. The most effective way to prevent grass from growing through your gravel is to remove it entirely or use different methods to smother the grass.
Of course, not all grass growth looks terrible. Lots of people find that a few strands of grass here and there make their gravel path look nicer and less abrupt. And sometimes, grass in a gravel path can soften the appearance and make your backyard look less like a rock quarry.
So, if you don’t mind occasional grass growth, there’s no particular reason you should get rid of it. But if you think it looks better without it, read on!
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Laying Gravel Directly onto Soil or Grass
It’s not a good idea to lay gravel directly on top of soil or grass unless you don’t mind weeding!
Though it might sound like the easiest method for laying gravel, you can’t simply put it down and walk away. You must kill the root system plus any other living matter first. If you don’t, the grass will continue to grow and start poking through your freshly laid gravel path in no time.
The best way to take the root system out of commission is to dig up all the grass before laying your gravel floor. This includes removing the entire root system, as well as any weed seeds and roots too. This will also help prevent any landscaping damage to your yard for years to come too.
Once the site is cleared, you’ll need to level off the soil to ensure an even area for your new gravel path. A level path, without bumps or depressions, removes the possibility of water seepage, which can lead to run-off or erosion and cause problems down the line.
An alternative approach is to lay landscape fabric or plastic sheeting over the soil or grass. This does help to prevent weeds and grass growth but any tears in the protective barrier does mean that growth can still occur.
Depth of Gravel to Prevent Weeds
The thicker the gravel, the less chance of any air, water, or light getting through, and the more likely it will smother any living plant matter that is hell-bent on growing upwards. I recommend a minimum gravel depth of 3.5 inches. Ideally, you want your new path to be 5.5 inches deep.
If your gravel isn’t thick enough, it could allow pockets of oxygen to reach the plant life below, which will keep it growing. On the flip side, if your gravel is too thick, it could lead to soil compaction. Whilst this is great at killing grass, persistent, deep-rooted weeds can still survive.
Using Pebbles or Pea Gravel to Prevent Weeds
Pebbles and pea gravel are both options for gravel driveways or paths. Pebbles are larger, usually between one to three inches in diameter. In contrast, each rock of pea gravel is roughly the size of, well, a pea.
Pebbles offer a hardy and heavy gravel path. They allow for easy drainage so you don’t get any puddles in the rain. However, their size can sometimes leave substantial gaps that allow airflow or sunlight to reach smothered grass. Both grasses and weeds have an easier time navigating through a light layer of pebbles than a thick layer of pea gravel.
You’ll probably recognize pea gravel as the filling for playgrounds. It is more forgiving than other gravel if you trip and fall, but it also works well to smother plant life that lies beneath it.
Unlike pebbles, pea gravel has an easier time compacting. Its small size allows for fewer gaps between each gravel piece. With a thick layer of pea gravel and some pressure, these small gaps can become almost non-existent, therefore preventing air from reaching the grass below.
But, pea gravel is not immune to weeds. Some persistent weeds thrive on compacted lawns and soil. Therefore, although it will be more effective at smothering grass, it’s also susceptible to certain weeds that will find their way to the sunlight, air, and water above.
Pea gravel also does not drain very well, thanks to its compacting ability. If you’re using this medium to prevent grass growth you will need to make sure the ground beneath is sufficiently level to prevent puddles or drainage issues that could arise during wet weather.
Preventing Weeds From Growing Through Gravel Drives
It’s much easier to keep grass and weeds out of your gravel drive if you use prevention methods before laying gravel. Fortunately, there are plenty of highly effective methods to choose from.
Placing something under your gravel drive or path, such as landscape fabric, before laying gravel on top is the best way to prevent unwanted weeds and grass shoots from sprouting through.
If you’ve never come across landscape fabric before, it’s a fabric that is laid between your gravel layer and the soil you’re trying to cover. There are many types of landscape fabric you could use, but to stop weed growth, you need to have permeable fabric.
Permeable landscape fabric allows water to pass through to provide drainage for your gravel drive. In terms of weeds and grass, the fabric keeps any shoots from reaching the gravel layer and beyond. It will also prevent stray grass seeds that may have landed on your gravel path from escaping through gaps and getting into the soil below.
Though impermeable landscape fabric is available, using it will keep water from soaking through to the soil. Over time, this could cause damage to the gravel drive and also cause a potential flooding hazard in extreme cases.
The quality thickness of the landscape fabric also matters when you’re trying to prevent weeds or grass growth. A better quality fabric will last longer and do a better job of preventing weeds. To that end, be sure to buy the best quality landscape fabric you can afford and consider consulting with an expert landscaper for more complex projects.
Best Type of Gravel or Pebbles
The type of hardcore material you choose for a driveway will not only increase the curb appeal of your property, but it is also critical if you want to prevent weeds or grass from growing through.
Before making your selection, consider what usage your path or drive will get. Will multiple vehicles be using it for access? Will it act as a children’s play area? Each consideration is necessary to determine the best type of gravel or pebbles to invest your money, time, and effort in.
The best kinds of gravel or pebbles are:
- River rock
- Marble chips
- Decomposed granite
- Lava rock
- Jersey shore gravel
Here’s a closer look at each of these types of hardcore and their respective benefits and drawbacks.
River rock pebbles are smooth and lustrous, exactly like a stone you would pull from the bottom of a river. Though they vary in size, they are larger than typical pea gravel rocks and are a favorite material for pool edges or fireplace fronts as well as gravel paths or drives.
- Provides excellent drainage
- Extremely versatile
- Less able to prevent weed growth
- Can sink into the soil if there’s no landscape fabric
Marble chips are a little like pea gravel, except they are brighter and look exactly like chips of marble, as the name implies.
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Easily compacts soil
- Requires edging for driveways
- More expensive than most gravel
Decomposed granite is likely the most familiar of all gravel, as it’s very common in public areas, parks, and trails. Made up of weakened granite pieces, clay, and even sand, decomposed granite has small particles without many gaps. It is also one of the easier gravels to maintain and compacts tightly.
- Low costs
- Lasts ten to fourteen years
- Needs refills due to decomposing into the soil
- Makes mud
Lava rock is volcanic rock. It is lightweight and black or red, making it one of the prettier gravels available. It is also intensely durable as it’s very difficult for the pebbles to break down.
- Won’t decompose
- Drains well
- Almost too lightweight
- Can overheat
Jersey Shore Gravel
Jersey Shore gravel uses pebbles that are typically larger than pea gravel, being more similar to river rock pebbles. It has a very similar color to sand with tan and yellow highlights. Again like the river rock gravel, it’s often found in pool edging or other designs.
- Drains well
- Aesthetically attractive
- Needs an edging to stay put
- Works best with another type of gravel layer underneath
Why Weeds Grow in Paths and Driveways
Weeds are capable of growing almost anywhere, even in the aridest of soil and with limited access to oxygen, light, and water. Even if weeds become buried under a newly laid gravel path, they can quickly adapt to these conditions and continue to grow. Otherwise, the seeds of weeds that land on top of your gravel path can take root in the soil beneath, growing up through the pebbles.
Blown by Wind
Wind can blow grass clippings or seeds from around your neighborhood onto your gravel drive. Indeed, many weeds rely on the wind to act as a carrier to distribute their seeds.
Dandelions are a prime example of this: their white seeds easily detach with only a puff of air. Once airborne, they can drift for miles before landing. If they fall onto your gravel and slip between the cracks into the soil underneath, they can easily take root and emerge in the spring between the stones.
Similarly, grass clippings from mown lawns can land on your gravel from the wind, and result in new grass sprouts once they have made their way downwards and taken root.
It’s a commonly known fact that birds eat seeds, and when this happens, they are often not digested and unlikely to be broken down completely.
If a bird poops on your gravel driveway, the seeds within this thoughtful gift can find their way to the soil below. Other times, a bird could drop these seeds from their beak by accident as they fly over your gravel.
Some seeds will also cling to a bird’s feathers, only to come free at an opportune moment and drop into your gravel. Once they reach the soil, it’s an easy step for the seeds to drop between the cracks of a gravel path, take root and grow.
Carried Under Foot
You can also be the cause of the weed growing along your gravel pathway, unknowingly. You may have unwittingly stepped on a weed, only for it to become dislodged in the gravel of your path.
Getting Rid of Weeds in Gravel Drives and Paths
Regardless of how weeds and grasses ended up in your gravel path, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Here are some of the best methods that I’ve successfully tried:
Weed Killer Spray for Gravel Drives
Chemical products such as a post-emergent herbicide weed killer are an effective way to spot and treat the weeds that poke through your gravel drive. Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer is a non-selective herbicide meaning it will kill whatever it comes into contact with.
It’s perfect for using it as a spot treatment on gravel paths but make sure you avoid using it around plants, trees, grass, and shrubs that you want to keep.
The Natural Armor weed killer that I’ve recommended is made using 100% natural ingredients meaning it is kinder to the environment and safe to use around people and pets.
With all gravel weed killer products, they do need to be treated with caution especially with the non-selective variety, as they can pose a risk to other plants in your garden, as well as pets, birds, and your family. Reading the instructions carefully and wearing protective gloves can prevent discomfort or illness.
Natural Weed Killer
If you’re wary of using chemicals, salt and vinegar make two great natural weed killers. Plus, you definitely keep at least one of these in your kitchen already, so it won’t cost you time and money to find them.
The problem with salt specifically is it can ruin your soil. If you’re never giving up your gravel driveway, this is a nonissue. But if you want to reconstruct your gravel path into a garden one day, you might want to choose another option.
With vinegar, only the top part of the plant will die, and even then, it will need several doses to do the job. Why is this? Vinegar, like many other natural weed killers, is a gentler substance that doesn’t do as much damage. So yes, it will kill your weeds in the long run, but it might take several days or weeks to accomplish it.
Gas Weed Burner
If you hate weeds with a burning passion (pun intended) using a weed burner will give you immense satisfaction. Gas weed burners quickly destroy weeds through the flame they give out, so you can scorch, torch, and walk away in minutes.
Though effective, anything to do with flames is a potential hazard. Be sure to carefully read the instructions and use caution while blasting your weeds to oblivion.
Weeding Hand Tools
Of course, you can always dig your weeds out by hand. Tools like trowels or dandelion removal tools can make it easy to target one weed at a time. However, this is a very time-consuming method that uses more physical exertion than your typical spray.
Long story short grass and weeds can grow through gravel and they don’t need a lot of encouragement considering they can survive in poor soil conditions, and with little light or water.
To avoid an eyesore and the back-breaking task of pulling weeds, I recommend that you plan out your gravel pathway project ahead of time, and spend time clearing the site to remove all signs of plant life, roots, and weeds. In addition, consider investing in some good quality, permeable landscaping fabric that can be used as a protective barrier.
In the unfortunate event that you do find weeds or grass shoots popping up, know that there are some great quality and cost-effective ways of getting your path looking as good as new in no time.