Last Modified: April 6, 2024

Gravel Paths in Gardens

a DIY primer for Planning a Gravel Path

Flamingo garden path with paver stepping stones

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

Welcome to the enchanting world of garden landscaping, or better yet, hardscape design, where the humble gravel path has become a beacon of sustainability and aesthetic appeal in modern garden design. As more homeowners and DIY enthusiasts turn towards cost-effective or natural, eco-friendly ways to renovate their outdoor spaces, gravel pathways, which may sometimes be edged by rocks or plants for a charming finish, have emerged as a popular choice. Integrated well into the pathway layout, gravel or stone chippings are a favourite ingredient in the mixture of landscape elements. This guide will walk you through the many benefits, types, and creative applications of these aggregates, which we use interchangeably due to the similar nature of these materials.

Whether you're contemplating a DIY project or considering professional installation, gathering your tools to create that perfect pathway, this article will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision. So, let's delve into the gravelly details and discover how these simple yet elegant paths can transform your garden.

Hey guys, just a quick note about our new tool, the 'Pebble Picker', in the sidebar or menu. It allows you to effortlessly browse and choose from every decorative aggregate based on their colour and type.

Key Takeaways

  • Colour Range: Find out the easiest way to review your colour options from the largest range in the country.
  • Versatility: Discover the best type of gravel for enhancing your garden path.
  • Affordability: Gravel paths offer a cost-effective way to beautify your garden space.
  • Maintenance: Learn simple maintenance techniques for long-lasting gravel paths.
Golden gravel path along a driveway

Some Unique Gravel Pathway Ideas

Installing a hardscaped garden path can be a transformative addition to any landscape design, offering an optimal blend of functionality and visual enhancement. In this section, we shall proffer some less-commonly thought-of gravel pathway ideas or creative reasons for considering a path for your garden. 

  1. 1
    Making regions of your garden accessible for people with mobility issues.
  2. 2
    A low-maintenance solution to replace lawn areas prone to thinning from constant traffic.
  3. 3
    A practical solution for manoeuvring around trees, especially in spots where lawn grass or shrubs may not get the sufficient light required to flourish.
  4. 4
    Creating access for wheelbarrows and the like to areas where regular gardening takes place, such as vegetable allotments.

These suggested solutions are just food for thought, with the possibilities literally endless in landscape design. It's time to look at the benefits of using gravel for garden path construction.

Did You Know? Some Gravel Path Statistics

When considering the installation of a path, it's interesting to look at some statistics and surveys of common experiences:

  1. 1
    The typical gravel path is around 6.5 meters long.
  2. 2
    53% of homeowners choose gravel for DIY pathways due to its versatility, durability and ease of installation.
  3. 3
    A gravel path can last more than 10 years with proper maintenance. 
  4. 4
    A standard-sized gravel path requires around 2 cubic metres of gravel.
  5. 5
    85% of DIY enthusiasts surveyed found laying a gravel path both satisfying and achievable.

These data may reflect key considerations for building a gravel path and highlight their popularity as a DIY project. The data was sourced with the help of ChatGPT and cannot be verified. However, Outdoor Aggregates intends to survey readers in the future, so stay tuned.

Pea shingle path with shrubs and a fence

Benefits of Gravel Paths for Garden Landscaping

One of the critical considerations when planning a garden path is choosing a suitable material, as it can significantly impact the overall aesthetic, accessibility and durability of your garden. Gravel has a host of benefits, which we cover next.

Budget-friendly

When it comes to cost, gravel pathways are far more budget-friendly than other hardscaping options. Compared to block-paving or resin-bound surfaces, a DIY gravel path shines for its affordability. Generally, it involves lower material and labour costs compared to other features, with free and recycled gravel being widely available. Furthermore, its easy maintenance and longevity make it a cost-effective choice, sparing ongoing expenses down the road.

Versatile

Rooted among plants, edging walkways or defining garden borders, gravel fits right in. Using decorative stones for garden path design offers versatility that is unmatched in the realm of edging and hardscaping. Within the wide range of options featured on our website, there is a colour or texture that can harmonise with nearly any landscape and architectural style. From rustic country gardens to sleek contemporary spaces embellished with modern hardscape features, using decorative stone chips for garden path surfaces integrates the best of natural beauty with low-maintenance functionality!

We have a step-by-step guide about How to Make Edging For a Garden which may also be of great help to you.

DIY-Friendly 

The ease of installation is another significant advantage. Unlike more labour-intensive materials like pavers or bricks, gravel paths can be laid down relatively quickly and without much specialised equipment. Plus, with the right tools, their maintenance is straightforward. Regular raking and occasional topping up are all it takes to keep a gravel path looking top-notch.

An Eco-Friendly Garden Path Material

Gravel paths have found their niche as an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution. Often made from recycled materials, they are a sustainable choice for environmentally conscious gardeners.

Now that we have covered some unique gravel garden path ideas and made the case for gravel as the primary material, we have yet to dig into an important detail: What type of gravel is best for a stable walkway? To answer this requires looking more closely at the sizes and shapes of the various stone chippings and gravels available today.

Choosing the All-Important Colour

Choosing the right colour is an incredibly important decision when it comes to designing the exterior areas of your house. It is a choice that requires careful consideration, as it not only reflects your personal taste but should also complement the surrounding landscape, features, and the overall style and colour scheme of your house. The colour you choose can make an impact on the visual appeal of your home and can even affect the overall value of your property. Therefore, it is essential to take your time and explore different options before making the final decision.

Decorative Aggregates is more than just a DIY landscaping website. It is the first and only encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates in the world, born and bred in the UK, for British homeowners. We feature the only comprehensive list of gravels, decorative stones and chippings available in the UK, which offers you a vast range of different coloured options graded to 8 - 14mm to choose from. These aggregates are the ideal size for pathways. You can start your exploration by choosing by colour or preferred type of stone using the colour picker in the sidebar. It doesn't get an easier than this.

Heather growing in a gravel garden. Jpg

Best Types of Gravel

Choosing the best type of gravel for your garden path can significantly impact its look and functionality. Here are some popular options:

  • Crushed Pea Gravel: Known for its remarkable ability to interlock due to its angular shapes, this gravel type is available in sizes like 6-10mm and 8-14mm in diameter. This type of gravel is perfect for creating eye-catching paths that are both comfortable and stable underfoot. For wheelchair accessibility, it is second only to concrete or paving.
  • River Rock: Smooth and often varying in size from 6-10mm and 8-20mm in diameter, river rock is ideal for creating natural-looking pathways that blend seamlessly into the garden. However, they usually require more maintenance to keep appearances and level surfaces.
  • Fine Pea Gravel: As a choice of stones for garden path surfacing, these small, typically 2-8mm diameter products create a very soft and delicate surface. They are prone to scattering and do not work well for high-traffic walkways.
  • Decomposed Granite: Offering a finer texture, decomposed granite is perfect for paths that require a more compact surface.
  • Self-binding Gravel: A mix of stone, sand and stone dust, it's excellent for creating stable and durable paths. Examples include Hoggin, which contains a natural binder that helps the gravel stay in place and creates a more solid surface. This type of gravel is ideal for paths on a budget that experience heavy foot traffic.

Each gravel type brings its own aesthetic and functional qualities to a garden path. Crushed gravel is the most versatile option, which explains why it's the most commonly used gravel for garden pathways. When selecting, consider the overall design of your garden, the edging, and the type of foot traffic the path will receive.

Limestone chips pathway through grass

DIY vs. Professional Installation

If you want to lay a gravel pathway, you have two options: DIY or hire a professional. We briefly cover some of the crucial steps to installing a path which can be used as a guide whether you are planning to build it yourself or bringing in professionals. We have plenty of information and DIY guides featuring step-by-step instructions available in our article: How to lay a gravel path.

DIY Gravel Paths

DIY is more than manageable with the right tools. You'll need to plan the route, choose the gravel, prepare the ground, lay a heavy duty weed membrane, and spread the gravel. Lastly, define the edges of the path for a polished look. It's a rewarding and cost-effective project that we touch on in more detail a bit further down.

A Professional Job is Sometimes Worth the Money

On the flip side, while gravel paths are generally cost-effective and offer easy maintenance, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when incorporating them into your garden design. For example, if your garden path involves complex designs or large areas, steep gradients, or poor soil drainage, taking some professional advice may be money well spent. 

Further, if you're not confident in your DIY skills, assuming the role of project management to plan out a professional installation might be the way to go. Experts can handle the nuances of grading, drainage, and design, ensuring a long-lasting and beautiful pathway on your property.

Installing a garden walkway. Jpg

Creative Gravel Garden Path Ideas and Inspirations

The beauty of gravel paths lies in their versatility. Here are a few ideas to inspire your garden project:

  • Consider using contrasting gravel types to create patterns or borders.
  • Integrate stepping stones for a varied texture and added stability.
  • For a Zen garden, fine pea gravel can create a serene, minimalist landscape.
  • Use different coloured gravels to define different areas of your garden, like a seating area or flower beds.

Example Costing of Gravel for a Path

The cost of installing a gravel pathway in your garden varies depending on the type of gravel and the size of the area. In the UK, prices can range from about £50 to £200 per bulk bag, depending on the materials and complexity of the project. 

The coverage of a bulk bag of gravel at a 5 cm depth will depend on the size of the bag you are using. However, as a general rule of thumb, a standard bulk bag of gravel typically covers an area of approximately 10 to 12 square meters when spread to a depth of 5 cm.

Therefore, 10mm gravel is quite a budget-friendly option at approximately £8 per square meter. Other alternatives, like slate chippings or river rock, differ in price according to supplier and the size of your order.

Gravel grid beneath shingle

How to Make a Garden Pathway With Gravel: Basic Steps

If you're set on building your own gravel pathway, here's a simplified step-by-step insight into the basics of installation:

  1. 1
    Plan Your Path: Decide where your path will go, its width, and your budget. Once you have planned the basic elements of your gravel path, the next step is to determine the desired shape and arrangement of the path lines. Remember, the longer or wider the path, the more gravel you'll need.
  2. 2
    Choose Your Gravel: Select a gravel type that suits your garden's style and the path's functionality. For slopes, 20mm slate chippings are ideal; for flat surfaces, 10mm to 16mm gravel provides a comfortable walking surface.
  3. 3
    Prepare the Ground: Mark the route, and then create a trench along the path to ensure proper drainage before laying down the gravel. Remove the topsoil to a depth of about 10-15cm. The next step is to create a solid base by adding a layer of crushed stone and compacting it firmly with a roller or compactor.
  4. 4
    Lay a Weed-Resistant Membrane: Laying a weed membrane, such as a geo-textile fabric, over the compacted soil prevents weeds and keeps the gravel separate from the soil.
  5. 5
    Spread the Gravel: Distribute the gravel evenly using a rake, aiming for a depth of about 5-10cm.

Need to work out how many slate chippings your  project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Maintenance

Maintaining a gravel walkway is relatively straightforward, but it does require some attention and the right tools. Over time, the gravel may compact or spread, necessitating occasional topping up. Weeding is another aspect to keep in mind; although a weed-suppressant membrane can reduce their occurrence, some maintenance may still be needed. Regular raking will help keep the surface even and tidy, preventing the formation of ruts and dips.

Summary

Gravel pathways are a functional, beautiful, and sustainable addition to any garden. With a variety of gravel types available, you can tailor the pathway to match the personality of your garden. By considering the benefits, maintenance, and creative ideas, you're well-equipped to embark on your gravel pathway project. So, get ready to transform your garden space with a delightful and practical feature that's sure to be a talking point for any garden admirer.

We hope this guide inspires you to create a beautiful and functional gravel pathway that complements your outdoor sanctuary. Happy gardening!

Crushed aggregate path through woods

FAQs

How do I clean a gravel path in my garden?

Maintaining the cleanliness of your garden's gravel path involves regular sweeping to remove debris, and occasional washing with a hose to clear away dirt and dust.

What tools are needed for maintaining a stone chippings path?

To maintain a stone chippings pathway, basic tools include a rake for evening out the surface, a broom or leaf blower for debris removal, and a hose or watering can for cleaning.

Can I use a pressure washer on a gravel pathway?

Using a pressure washer on a gravel pathway is not recommended as it can displace the gravel and damage the path's structure, but if you prefer, use a low-pressure setting.

What should I do if my gravel path becomes uneven or rutted?

For an uneven or rutted gravel path, redistribute the gravel evenly with a rake and add more gravel if necessary to fill any depressions.

How can I prevent weeds from growing in my gravel path?

To prevent weeds on a gravel path, use a weed-suppressant membrane during installation and regularly remove any emerging weeds by hand or with natural herbicides.

There are many stunning varieties of decorative stone chippings available for your project. Check out them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.