River Stone

serene123July 3, 2012

I have seen river stone and am thinking of adding it as part of my yard. I have a few questions.

1 - How long does it last?

2 - Are there any concerns about it blowing away during a blizzard?

3 - How good is it with stopping weed growth as long as you put down the fabric?

4 - Are there any safety concerns.



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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

All riverstone is not created equal.
Some are more angular than others and look more like crushed stone and some are very tiny round pebbles while others are larger in size to about 4 to 8 inches round and larger - all called river stone. There is a great variety in color too.

It has lasted for a few thousand years so it has a pretty good life span until it reaches the decomposed phase.

I suppose if you are putting it down in the Arctic it could blow away, but you don't state your zone so whose to know what weather conditions you might have. Usually the concerns around snowy weather is the stone getting scooped up by a shovel , snow plow blade or snow blower.

It can be fairly effecting in keeping some weeds at bay. It all depends on proper sub base preparation and your climate and location to an open weedy field with lots of blown in seed or bird dropping seed. Proper fabric is just one element in the process.

If you have small kids that like to throw pebbles or rocks I could see it being a safety concern.

This crushed river stone path has been in 12 years and due to the climate and the proper installation it has required very little maintenance. The biggest month of weeding maintenance is May when the rains stop and the warmth kicks in. It can take an hour to weed the paths. After that its about 5 minutes once a couple of weeks. From California Gardening

This is rounded river rock in photo below. Soft on bare feet. Same maintenance requirements as above. The color is a darker gray

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:00PM
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In my area, this product is normally referred to as river rock - a smooth, rounded natural stone typically used for decorative purposes. Since it does come graded for size, I'd assume the smaller dimensions would be the stone :-)

1) It's rock - it lasts forever or at least forever in common human terms.

2) It's rock - it can't "blow away", short of a major hurricane or tornado.

3) How well it does at weed suppression depends on how thickly it is laid. IME, smaller sized stones are better at weed control than larger. It would not be my first choice for this purpose regardless of size.

4) It provides a very uneven surface to walk on - that is the only safety issue I can think of.

FWIW, river rock is most commonly used to create dry stream beds or augment ponds and other natural water features, not necessarily for mulching purposes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fine Gardening dry stream bed article

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:42PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I see river rock the size of grapefruits down to about baseball size used for drainage alongside driveways and sidewalks. To me, that's the wrong place for them. I call them ankle breakers when used next to areas where there is foot traffic.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:23PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Safety hazards might include a choking hazard for toddlers if you go with rocks that are small enough. Without more info about your who-what-where-why parameters, it is hard to be sure all possible safety issues have been covered.

A neighbour has a yard of pebbles. It doesn't seem to host a lot of weeds, but I don't think even dirt would do so in this setting as it is much walked on by people and dogs. Left alone, I'm sure weed seeds would get a better foothold.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 6:57PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

I used pea gravel in our back garden, which is probably smaller than "river stone." Weed seeds just love to germinate in the gravel and even with landscape fabric underneath, the proliferation of weeds has been terrible. Adjacent areas with bark nuggets or woodchips have maybe 10% of the weeds that the gravel area does. So here (Montana) at least, weed suppression is a big drawback of gravel.

Otherwise, it sure makes a beautiful pathway.

Karin K (not to be confused with Karin L) :)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 7:19PM
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This is one of the oddest questions.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 9:55AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

yes, but love karin from mt. garden photo , and it's much less ridiculous than the oh so predictable poison ivy thread.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 11:32AM
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completely agreed.

Heres a photo of a smooth stone drip edge we did next to a patio. The stone is actually mexican beach stone, but I prefer to call it maine beach stone thats regionally appropriate and I don't think they are really shipping stone up here from mexico. The best part is that it has not blown away in several blizzards now. Not exactly river stone, but in the same vein.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 2:41PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

are you absolutely sure that those rocks have never blown away ?
these look just like the mexican pebbles that I've seen around the arroyos in mexico so I wouldn't doubt that your beautifully placed stones didn't immigrate from south of the border .. legally of course.

- love the new england flagstone patio. a very nice lay.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 12:25AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

drtygrl - I'm afraid I absolutely hate the stones like the ones in your picture! I used to volunteer in the garden at a long-term-care home and they had that stuff all along the base of the buildings. It collected weeds like mad and it was virtually impossible to get rid of the weeds! You had to clear all the stones away to get down to dirt level, remove the weeds, and then put all the stones back again. A serious PITA! And then you had to do it all over again in a week or so when more weeds appeared. A couple of neighbours have used that sort of rock to make 'dry rivers' in their ditches. It doesn't take long for it all to turn into a weedy mess. One neighbour removed all the stones last year to clear the weeds - and then (foolishly IMO) put them back again. It's a mess again already. He would have been better off to just grass over the area again and mow it - the ditch isn't that much work to mow. Those stone 'rivers' tend to look good in pictures but, unless you have some poor fool to do the maintenance for you, I don't see it as a practical option longer term for most people in a climate like ours.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:56AM
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Guess I am the poor fool who does the maintenance for those things!

I have done dry stream beds before and lined them with high quality landscape fabric, as this drip edge is lined with and really not had a huge problem with weeds. This house was newly constructed and really doesn't have any soil in this area because the patio was planned from the beginning of the construction. There is 2 feet of base material under there, so that might explain the lack of weeds. What bothers me more is the leaves it collects, but thats nothing a blower can't make quick work of.

I think I had a similar discussion here before, because very few buildings or homes have gutters where I live. Because of that there has to be a stone drip edge because otherwise the roof runoff causes erosion. So here its a matter of using the right depth of stone and quality of fabric to make a drip edge work.

DD thanks for the compliment! I was wondering is you often use a stabilizing additive with peastone and in what situations? Do you have one that you prefer?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 4:04PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

drtygrl - the weeds at the LTC facility were growing in about 5 years accumulation of leaf (and other...) debris. As in your case, there were no gutters - or roof overhang (flat roof; three story building) so the rocks were probably meant to break the force of water falling from the roof edge. The problem was that they were too cheap to pay the landscape maintenance company to do anything other than mow the lawns. The original landscaping had only been mulched when it was installed. Nobody had done anything to the gardens until I came along as a volunteer. And I was the only volunteer willing to work in the garden! I lasted two years before I gave it up as a lost cause. The second year, an 80+ year old husband of a resident was also trying to help out. But, given his age and my disabilities, we weren't too successful trying to keep some sort of order in an acre or two of neglected space, even when we concentrated on the most used patio space. It's under new management now and I wonder if the situation has improved. But that place, and what I've seen on our street, has given me an abiding dislike of that stone - I have serious trouble believing that it could ever be easy to control weeds in it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 4:51PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I believe the amount of weed growth has a lot to do with how the sub base was prepared and the exposure to the various elements.

When we installed this foundation planting scheme
( please don't take me to that lunatic thread ! ) we used shiny black mexican pebbles over a compacted subbase of class II aggregate. A layer of double bonded weed cloth was also installed.
Due to the exposure and preparation there is very little weed growth. The pots have to be weeded more often than the pebbles.

drtygrl, I haven't used a binder with peastone but have used a binder with decomposed granite. - We've used two types and they render a completely different looking finish. - The powder form , which is derived from the roots of agave plants leaves the dg looking very natural. The liquid form ( terra pave product) leaves the dg feeling / looking/ functioning more like asphalt

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 8:19PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

^^ Wow, that looks really sharp!

Do you suppose the degree of weediness also depends on the general environment? Assuming the weed seeds are coming in from above the gravel, I'd imagine that some spots are simply bound to have more abundant weed seeds than others. The photo above looks to be part of a fairly "built" environment that might be spared a constant airborne stream of weed seeds.

I love the look of various types of gravel, but am so turned off by my weedy paths that I am hesitant to use it anymore.

Also, would a binder be appropriate for use in the joints between dry-laid flagstones? That is another spot where weed seeds are an annoyance and are hard to pull.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 1:08AM
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I work in NYC, am looking desperately for stones for a dry river bed in Connecticut. Here is a photo of what my boss saw - - the larger, grey stones are pretty flat, she says they are 7-8" long . . and we need 300 sq feet of them. If anyone has ideas about where to procure these in NYC, Long Island, CT, Westchester, you name it, I will be beyond grateful.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:06PM
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deviant-deziner, what is the shrubby blue flower in your first photo? That looks great.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:54PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

In my area ( N. Cal ) you can find mexican pebbles at any well stocked landscape supply store that sells stone , soil and mulch in stock.
Also the big box store sells 50 pound bags of the small ( 1' miunus) mexican river wash pebbles. - You might trying calling around supply stores in your area. PS- really like that orb in your garden, is it cast concrete or resin ?

The bluish purple flowering shrub in the photo above is Lavender - either Munstead or Hidcote sp.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:14PM
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Thanks, Deviant Designer. Mexican beach stone comes as large as 7"? (We are also looking for the shiny black beach pebbles, but I guess those will be easier to find.) The fountain is not in our client's garden, but at an apartment building on Central Park South here in NYC. I called the landscape designer for info, but she didn't even know that the fountain and rocks had been installed! Not sure what material the fountain is made from, didn't see it directly myself.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 8:52AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Yes, Mexican river stone comes in a wide variety of sizes. From 1/2" to 2 feet diameter

Her, in N. Cal our supply shops segregate the size of the pebbles into baskets or bags .
You can buy bags of 1" , 4" 8" ect.... up to individual small boulders.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 12:59PM
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