Put stones in place of (side) lawn?

bienesraicesAugust 18, 2010

hi, what a great forum!

I have a narrow "lawn" on the side of my house as you can see from the first photo. It's not visible from the street, due to fence, and I don't use it or see it unless I'm walking through it to get to the back. Obviously it's a mess right now. I was thinking of killing it off and just putting stones in the side part, and then having the landscaper put new sod and tropical plants in just the backyard part (second photo). Is this a good idea? Are there any drawbacks to putting gravel on the side, or is there a better idea or material for this? I'm trying to save money (and yardwork) and since I don't use or see the side area often it doesn't seem practical to pay to have sod put there too. Thanks.

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    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 11:41AM
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Use the word gravel in the search feature box - you'll get over 300 matches on this forum alone discussing the pros and cons (mostly cons).

But, without some kind of underlayment - lots of cons regarding plastics and landscape fabric, too - you'll get whatever that scrub is growing back up through the gravel. Plus the gravel gets dirty dusty and weeds start growing on top of it; gets ground in and it travels. Virtually impossible to get rid of once down.

Looks like pure sand, like around the houses we rented for vacations on the Outer Banks. But they'd throw in some gaillardia (Blanket Flower) which does quite well in hot, dry, sandy soils.

Whatever you do, you're going to have some maintenance and expense. With gravel, the next occupant of your house is going to have maintenance, expense, and nightmares.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 12:00PM
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Yeah, I don't think gravel is the best choice, the aforementioned things plus it might look a bit harsh on such a relatively wide side if you make it all gravel(atleast wide judging from the pick).
If the side leads to your main yard, you probably will be walking through it quite a lot. So it wouldn't hurt to make it look nice as well.
One thing you could do is to pave in a path or pave one side and add some nice low maintenance plants around the paving. But of course something like this isn't the easiest/cheapest option.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 12:49PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

What duluth said about gravel, landscape fabric, and nightmares.

Before you commit gravel, look at graveled spaces in your area to see how weedy they get. Keep in mind that vehicle traffic keeps down weeds to some extent; so your side yard would have many more weeds than gravel driveways, parking lots, and roads. Also keep in mind that unless you see their landscaping bills, you don't know you much they're paying for weedkiller.

It doesn't much matter what kind of stone you use: within a year or two you'll get major weed growth. The only guarantee you get is if you cover the side yard with concrete or spray Round-up regularly (and have you checked the price lately?). [Note that because of the stone, it will be much more difficult to pull or dig weeds; you'll need to poison them instead.]

That said, have a look at deviant-duhziner's post in the "Cheapest way to build a patio" thread below for different types of stone; also laag's post about the different kinds of costs (true for all landscaping and hardscaping -- and most other things in life too):

And then price the various types of stone in your area and figure out the square footage you have and how much stone you'll need -- adding the price of a good hand sprayer and a year's worth of Round-up concentrate. [Have someone with experience tell you how much Round-up you'll need for that amount of square footage per spraying, and how many times per year you'll need to spray.]

Just mowing the side yard when you mow the rest of your lawn will take the least effort and cost far less than adding gravel or making any other changes. The side yard still won't look good, but you rarely go there. If your climate is such that it gets too muddy, add a walkway of stepping stones.

Keeping the side yard in lawn/weeds allows you to change your mind later -- add sod; dig it all up and plant veggies; etc.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 12:51PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

It's a pathway. So landscape it as a pathway.

Your pathway can be straight or meandering or can consist of offset blocks; it can hug the fence or go down the middle, and it will demarcate gardening areas on either side of it which can be just sod or anything more extravagant. You can do something like gravel (or liriope, its plant equivalent) with containers along the wall, and have any kind of garden along the fence. You might actually go there if there is a garden to take care of.

Is there pleasant shade here at some point in the day in the summer? Maybe make a landing pad with a bistro set as well.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 1:27PM
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Thanks for the responses. If I decided just to lay sod in the backyard (to save money) and leave the side as is, would the weeds and grass from the side "infect" the new sod over time?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 1:46PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

It should only be a problem if the side yard goes to seed, or if there's a really aggressive grass like Bermuda which you don't want in the backyard. [There are some other grasses which spread as relentlessly as Bermuda, but the only ones I'm familiar with are the nut sedges.]

Some other grasses also spread by underground shoots, but not as single-mindedly. You may get some crossover where the side yard meets the new sod, depending on various factors.

And invasive grasses aren't the only danger: I've got a perennial creeping wildflower -- Virginia Buttonweed -- which is fighting the Bermuda, the green kylinga (a nut sedge), and the Makino Korean clover (a wiry annual bush clover) for control of my lawn. The buttonweed roots as it creeps, and (like the Makino clover) flowers and sets seed below the mowing height. They both migrated from my uphill neighbor.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 2:15PM
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If you have a landscaper, I would suggest you tie in the side yard and the back yard. Give him/her your budget and go from there. It is really pretty easy to garden cheaply if you keep it simple and use a limited number of dependable plants, and repeat them. You say you don't use the side yard, but I have to argue, yes you do. You go thru there all the time. Also it seems there is a screened porch perhaps there? That could be a great place to sit and have coffee or wine, and look out on the little side yard. I would definitely put a garden there and a fountain or bird bath or something. I would put a path either stepping stones or mulch over thick layers of cardboard or newspaper. You can spray the grass first to kill it for the path. The path could go down the middle where you can have some plants or groundcover on either side and easy to reach from the path, or put the path down the side with the screen so there is good air flow, and you would have a bigger garden along fence. Ask the landscaper for ideas or look around awhile and do searches for side yards. It could become quite a lovely place.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 9:39PM
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Thanks again. I'm trying to decide between Zoysia, Bahia or St. Augustine.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 10:02PM
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