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Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

Posted by melle_sacto Z9/Sunset 14 CA (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 20:05

Our pavers with gravel are sad, sad, sad. They flank the driveway on both sides, and have been in place about 8 or 9 years now. Many weeds are growing in the gravel -- or what used to be gravel but is dirt for some areas! Some of you may have seen photos that I think I posted last year. We're finally ready to tackle this area.

Here's a pic from last year. We have been making a lot of progress in the rest of the yard based on the LD advice, but this eyesore still hasn't been addressed:
 photo IMG_1784.jpg

My goal for the last 5-6 years was to fill the gravel with wooly thyme. The thyme has grown well in a few spots, but very slowly and even the thyme has weeds coming up in spots. In many spots it died.

Looking back, I think pavers with gravel was not a good long-term choice. I had always hoped we would have moved several years ago, but it has never worked out so we're still here, now dealing with fallout from some of the bad landscape choices I made.

I talked with my husband, and he really wants to try to get them back into shape, maybe with new gravel between them. Ideally we'd have concrete poured but that's not in the budget for at least another 5 years. If we put new gravel between them, what would compact the best and minimize weeds?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

how wide are your joints? We're doing a project for a client that involves flagstone with wide joints and we're using Gator Dust. It can handle joints up to 4" wide.

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

They are about 3". I'll have to Google Gator Dust, thanks for the suggestion!

What about decomposed granite?

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 23:10

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

I wouldn't. DG is just going to wash out, and I have a patio with large stone dust (DG) joints. It's a weedy nightmare. The Gator Dust (or similar product) is going to give you the same look as DG, it just stays put.

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

Mine were set in sand just a year ago, and I've already called the landscaper to have them cemented. If you don't want weeds, shifting, and other problems, the best solution is cement, as pretty as the other alternatives are. ;o)

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

Successful pavers rely on a solid, tightly packed granular base, side-to-side interlocking and secure edge retention. It doesn't look like you have a solid base and for sure you don't have side-to-side interlocking. Gator Dust (which is dry-applied mortar) will not work long term if your base is inadequate as the pavers will shift and the GDust will break up (the same as how the grout of a ceramic tile floor gives way over time on a wood floor if it is slightly bouncy.) If you want to grow plants between pavers, you still need a solid base and must use a pattern that still interlocks while leaving gaps between the stones. If not using special "grass block" type pavers, the most common pattern for this is as in the illustration below. (Don't allow a plant-growing-gap dimension greater than 1/3 of the paver length. Alternatively, you may decide not to grow plants between the pavers and have them be contiguous and solid. You need good edge retention which could be plastic paver edge, or the old standard, tooled concrete with its surface sunk 1" below the surface of the pavers. It will be easier to apply the edge restraint if you install a row border of pavers (with the field pavers being cut where they meet the border. Plan for and prepare all of the cutting so it can be done in one day or less in order to keep rental cost of the brick saw to a minimum.) I suggest an 8" brick shape paver for the edge row. The pavers should be at least 2" thick or they're not designed to support vehicles. Not just any stone works for the base. Something like pea gravel would be unusable. Instead, it could be a combination of layers beginning with crusher run (driveway gravel) on the bottom and sand-like granite or limestone screenings above. (Limestone screenings is what we use in Florida and it's commonly referred to as "paver base." (In warm climates, the crusher run may be eliminated and only a thicker base of the stone screenings used.) The sub-base of the excavated hole is compacted by using a vibratory plate compactor before placing any of the stone. (This machine is run over all the work, handled much as if one was using a lawn mower.) The various stone is compacted in two-inch layers as it is added. First dry, then wet. Above the stone is a 1" layer setting bed of UNcompacted screenings/paver base on which the pavers themselves are set. After the edge restraint is installed, the pavers are compacted into the setting bed with the vibratory plate compactor ... first dry, then wet. Installed like this, it will last. Get all the plants growing at once so as to get the jump on weed infiltration.

My own thoughts about using this scheme (growing carpet-like plants in between pavers in a vehicular area) is that it never works out as well as it's envisioned. I'm not saying that it never could, just that usually, it doesn't. The plants need attention and watering and unless this is kept up with, they're going to have too hard of a time. Also, having plants mixed in with pavers increases maintenance. It's not as easy to clean paving where plants are rising above its surface. I think it's better to have paver areas and then separate areas with plantings. Then, the issues of combining these two elements don't exist. In a paver area where no vehicular traffic will occur, it will be somewhat easier to allow plants to grow between the pavers.

RE: Pavers with gravel -- how do people make this work long-term?

Marcinde -- thanks so much for the suggestion of Gator Dust! It is a great idea and I think would work well for certain applications. I think we're leaning toward just re-doing it with interlocking paver stones, maybe something like these: s/

We have seen a few homes in our neighborhood that have interlocking pavers; they look nice and seem like they may lend themselves better to a DIY project that won't fall apart within a few years. I'm not sure what kind of cost we'd be looking at though, so that's something to consider. They would be appropriate for the neighborhood I think.

patty_cakes -- you are smart to deal with the issues now. We had a couple good years at first, and I like the look, but I don't think it's very practical. Maybe they need to do something like pavers with exposed aggregate in-between them to MIMIC the look of the small stones. Who knows, maybe they DO do that ;-)

Yaardvark -- thank you so much for your detailed description! I didn't know that plastic paver edge existed ;-) You are right that plants in the pavers need more attention than it seems. The only spots that the wooly thyme did well were the spots that got regular water (ie runoff from the yard).

This post was edited by melle_sacto on Tue, Apr 30, 13 at 16:06

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