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
Will Grass Grow Through Gravel or Pebbles?
Yes, 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, read on!
Can You Lay Gravel Directly onto Soil or Grass?
Yes, you can lay gravel directly on the soil or grass. But consider this: will the gravel prevent any unsightly grass from growing in places you don’t want it to grow? The answer is no!
Though placing gravel right on your lawn might sound like the easiest method for laying gravel, you can’t simply put down gravel and walk away. Anytime you want to place gravel directly on grass, you must kill the root system 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. Digging up the grass or sod will also help prevent any landscaping damage to your yard.
By digging, you’ll smooth out the soil for a solidly level gravel path. When the gravel is level and there are no bumps or depressions, it removes the possibility of water seepage, which can lead to run-off or erosion.
This doesn’t mean you can’t lay a gravel floor on grass. But if you choose to go that route, you’ll need to prepare your lawn before laying a gravel floor if you want to prevent the grass from growing through.
Depth of Gravel to Prevent Weeds
Preparing your lawn can be as simple as increasing the thickness of your gravel to keep out weeds or grass.
The thicker the gravel, the more likely it will smother the grass underneath. It is commonly accepted that the best depth of gravel is 3.5-5.5 inches or seven to 12 centimeters.
If your gravel isn’t thick enough, it could allow pockets of oxygen to reach the grass, which will keep it growing. But, if your gravel is too thick, it could lead to lawn compaction, which kills grass but leaves the lawn vulnerable to deep-rooted weeds.
Pebbles or Pea Gravel to Prevent Weeds?
Pebbles and pea gravel are both options for gravel floors 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. Pea gravel is more forgiving than other gravel if you trip and fall, but it also works well to smother grasses.
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. As I mentioned before, some weeds thrive on compacted lawns. Therefore, although pea gravel will be more effective at smothering grass, it’s also susceptible to certain weeds that will come up through the gravel.
Pea gravel also does not drain very well, thanks to its compacting ability. If you’re using pea gravel to prevent grass growth be wary of puddles or drainage issues that could arise during wet weather.
How to Prevent Weeds Growing Through Gravel Drive?
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 successful methods to choose from.
Placing something under your gravel drive or path, like landscape fabric, and choosing appropriate gravel are two ways to prevent grass growth.
If you’ve never come across landscape fabric before, it’s a fabric that goes under a layer of gravel next to the soil. 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 to your gravel drive. In terms of weeds and grass, the fabric keeps any shoots from reaching the gravel layer and beyond. It also will prevent stray grass seeds that appear in the gravel from interacting with the soil.
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 of 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. 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 is 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 Do Weeds Grow in Gravel Paths and Driveways
Weeds will grow anywhere they find a suitable patch of soil with access to oxygen and water and it addresses the question of will grass grow through gravel. Sometimes if weeds already exist on your lawn and become buried under your gravel, they can 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.
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 to 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.
It’s a commonly known fact that birds eat seeds. When this happens, the seeds won’t break 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 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 take root and flourish into a plant.
Carried Under Foot
You can also be the cause of the weed growing along your gravel pathway, unknowingly. You may have stepped on weed from an unknown location, and it pulls out from your foot on the gravel floor.
Get Rid of Weeds Growing in Gravel Drive Or Path
Regardless of how weeds and grasses ended up in your gravel path, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Some of the ways you can get rid of weeds include:
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.
So, will grass grow through gravel? Yes. Weeds and grasses don’t need a lot of encouragement to grow through your gravel driveways and paths. Planning out your gravel sites ahead of time and digging up the grass can get you a head start on removing potential growths.
You can use gravel and landscaping fabric to your advantage. And if all else fails, there are still plenty of great methods for grass and weed removal to keep your gravel plant-free.