Help with gravel "pit" in backyard!

jenottawaJune 2, 2013

A large area of our yard (16x30 feet) is filled with 2+ feet of rough gravel. We live in the city and have a fairly large lot (this area is half our yard). The previous owners have removed soil and added all the gravel as they used this area as a fenced-in dog run for their large dogs.
We would like to move a small apple tree to the area and also would love to start to garden in this area.
I just came in from moving 6 full wheel barrows full of the gravel from a small area and you cannot see any difference at all! The gravel is at ground level (our yard is not higher than other yards), so if we remove it our yard would be a big pit. Plus, the garage backs onto this part of the yard and I would not want to take gravel out from around the garage base.
I am looking for advice of what to do.
Can we add topsoil on top of the gravel? Right now there are also a ton of weeds (manitoba maple babies, huge thistles, gout weed, horsetail weeds, ivy's). Would it be worth adding landscape fabric first? Would the gravel just work it's way up through the soil over time? Could we put a foot of soil and then sod?
Thanks very much!

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First, it's not likely that landscape fabric can help you with this problem in any way. In spite of the fact that you've done a fairly decent job of describing the situation, is it possible that you could post a picture--that is not a close-up--in the thread? (looking for things that might be overlooked, but nevertheless impact the situation ... and to get a better understanding.) That you've hauled out a half-dozen wheelbarrow loads of gravel makes me think you've got a pretty good understanding of what's there, but since the areas is large, have you made exploratory diggings at other areas within the gravel bed in order to make sure it's consistent throughout (in the hope it's not! ... sorry, this sounds like quite the curse!)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 12:38AM
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Thanks very much for your response. Here are a couple of pictures of the area. Unfortunately restoration would be a DIY or nothing for quite a while...
The gravel covers the whole area, the green is all weeds and also a honey locust tree I planted two years ago. It seems like the gravel is a little thinner further away from the garage. I just ran out and dug a new hole further away. I got a good 2 feet deep and was still in gravel.
Thanks again!

This post was edited by jenottawa on Mon, Jun 3, 13 at 17:20

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 5:14PM
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Image 2 (sorry I cannot seem to add multiple images to a message)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 5:16PM
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Final image (my apologies again for the multiple replies to include all the images).
Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 5:17PM
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My guess is that the dogs were diggers and after killing all the grass and digging some deep holes, the previous owners just leveled it all with gravel. Some areas may not be so deep.

You could just add top soil and sod over that but you would be cursing yourself for ever after. Think about if you want to move a tree or plant in that area and you keep running into that layer of gravel.

If it were me and it was completely DIY and on the cheap, I would start with the edges and work my way in and it would take me forever. Advertise free gravel on craigslist or freecycle. You'll probably get some taker to come and dig up at least a good amount of it. Those can be a pain to coordinate but having someone come to your house, dig it up and take it away is worth it.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 6:19PM
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To me, it looks like someone was creating a driveway or parking space. I agree with Tanowicki that it would be a big mistake to cover this up with soil. And grading/drainage-wise, it would not work out with the house. Trying to unload on craigslist "Free" sounds like a great idea.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 9:55PM
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Can you re purpose the area as a Mediterranean type garden? (I don't know what zone you live in.) Move the gravel from the 'thinner' edges, terrace (looks like it is on a slope) and plant things that like the drainage or dig holes and fill with soil for individual plants, and supplement with pots and big rocks. Google Mediterranean gardens for great images.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 3:02AM
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Thanks very much for your comments. I have posted the gravel on freecycle and kijijii last year. I should do it again now as every load means less for me to do. I only managed to give away a couple wheelbarrows. I am in a zone 5 (more on the high 4 side).
Fortunately, the house is very far from this area as the house is quite a bit in front of the garage (the structure that backs onto this part of the lot. We have an irregular pie shaped lot.
Mediterranean gardens look very neat! I will definitely consider this.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Just as an update... I have had the gravel posted on online classifieds (most people in our city use Kijijii) and freecycle. It is slow, but we've made some progress! Thanks again for the advice. This seems to be a better time of year for people wanting free gravel.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 9:46AM
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Glad to hear it! That they will come and take your problem away...AWESOME! I am curious if any masonry contractors would be interested in the rock? Not sure if it is a size they use or not...but maybe put in a call to a local masonry contractor...ask. They may want to pass the extra savings to a customer...or keep the profit of the price rocks would cost for foundations and such.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 4:23PM
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