How to Use Gravel in the Backyard

Inexpensive, readily available and easy to install, gravel is useful for a variety of purposes. If you wish to landscape with a non-degrading natural mulch, or if you're seeking a natural material for your desert garden, you may consider gravel. As you decide whether or not gravel is right for you, remember it has advantages and disadvantages. Gravel is weighty and will not blow away like organic mulches. This also means gravel is difficult and time-consuming to remove if ever you wish to get rid of it

Rock Garden Mulch

Mulches take a variety of forms, from bark chips and wood chips, to seashells and gravel. You can use gravel as a mulch in backyard rock beds. Installation of gravel mulch must be done properly so the mulch will stay in the bed, because gravel mulch that works its way into the soil can be difficult to remove. Stray pieces of gravel are also hazardous when mowing the lawn. You can avoid this issue by lining the bottom of your rock bed with plastic or landscape fabric and lining the perimeter with brick pavers or metal liner.


A gravel pathway, lined with heavy rocks, can look particularly sharp in a backyard with a desert landscape theme. This inexpensive material seems completely natural set among cacti, desert grasses and succulents, and should the gravel become kicked around over time, stray gravel pieces here and there will only blend in. You can establish your pathway by digging a trench, 3 to 4 inches deep and 3 to 4 feet wide. This trench will hold the rocks in place. With the trench dug, place the heavy rocks along the trench edges. On sandy soils, a 1-inch layer of tamped-down stone pack must be used to give the path stability. With all this done, install the layer of gravel last. Depending on the size of the path, this project will probably take at least one afternoon to complete, and possibly several days.

Paver Base

In addition to its other uses, you can use gravel as a base beneath a paver patio or pathway. In this way, gravel adds strength and structure to the pavers, preventing them from sinking into the soil over time. In addition, gravel aids drainage beneath the pavers. A layer of sand over the gravel will help with drainage as well.

Creating Pet-Friendly Areas

Dog owners who also take pride in their landscape routinely struggle to establish pet-friendly areas unaffected by dog urine. Designating an area of your yard for your dog, paved with an inorganic mulch like gravel, will prevent your yard from being marred with dead spots. Your dog will need to be trained to do his "duty" in this area. You can make this area more attractive by lining it with smooth river rocks. As you decide which gravel to purchase, remember that smaller pieces of gravel may get tracked around your lawn as they become stuck in the bottom of your dog's paws. The best gravel for this purpose will come in pieces 3/4 inch or larger. Your dog-friendly area is best placed at the back of your lawn in a corner, where it is out of sight.