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This article has been extracted from “Water- Conserving Gardens and Landscapes Water- Saving Ideas Plant Selection List Home Drip Irrigation Guide Easy- Care Landscapes All- Region Zone Maps” By “John M. O’ Keefe”. Hardscape refers to hard landscape materials in the built environment structures that are incorporated into a landscape. “Tree Trimming Oakland CA” renders services on this.

Sand, gravel, pebbles, rocks, and other inorganic mulches allow water to percolate through to the soil and can be used in a variety of ways in the xeriscape garden:  a ground cover beneath trees, a border, a setting for prize container plants, a divider among different zones of the garden, or a way to tie the garden design together and to unify the separate elements.  Sand, gravel, or rocks can be used to great advantage in those problem areas where nothing seems to grow, in heavily shaded areas, or in difficult corners.


Sand can be purchased from most building supply yards in a variety of colors that range from stark white to umber, blue, and black.  Do not use beach sand.  It is too fine and will blow away in a strong wind or wash away in the rain.  Sand makes a perfect stage-setting for distinctive, single shrubs, such as a clump of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), New-Zealand-flaz (Phormium tenax), or for a single decorative tree, such as the wonderfully convoluted shore pine (Pinus contorta).

Sand has been recommended by some gardeners as mulch around shrubs; a 3-to5-inch layer will keep the soil cool and help it to retain moisture.  The only problem with using sand as mulch is that if you want to change that area of the garden or need to condition the soil, you will have to dig the sand out of the way and then return it to the spot or replace it with new sand.  That is the problem with

All inorganic mulch materials.  (Personally, I would rather use organic mulches or use ground cover plants as living mulch.  When these need replacing or you want to rearrange an area, organic mulches can be dug into the soil to condition it.)

To use sand as a hard cape, remove weeds and cover the area with black polyethylene sheeting that has been punctured with holes for drainage.  Spread about 2 inches of sand and either tamp or roll it.  Add a final 2-inch layer of sand and tamp or roll it in place.  If you do not want anyone to walk on it, draw patterns in it with a fork or rake.  If you want to place a few choice shrubs or decorative grasses in the sand, then plant these plants before laying down the polyethylene sheeting and the sand.  Do not lay the plastic next to the plant stem; leave room for the plant to breathe and grow.  With far few choice rocks or boulders, you can have your own miniature Japanese sand garden.

Gravel and crushed stone can also be used decoratively and as inorganic mulches.  Like sand, they will not add anything to the soil, but they will keep it cool and help it to retain moisture.  The best gravel to use for mulches is natural river washed gravel, which does not have the sharp edges of crushed stone.  It is usually sold in sizes that range from ¼ inch to 2 ¼ inches in diameter.  You do not want to use gravel less than a ½ inch in size because it gets kicked around, will end up where you do not want it, and rain will wash it away.  You can use gravel in the same manner as sand by using black polyethylene sheeting to prevent weeds and by compressing ½-inch gravel with a roller if you want to walk on it.

Crushed stone is a cheaper substitute for natural gravel, but is difficult to walk on because of the sharp edges.  Those edges, by the way, are sharp enough to cut a dog’s foot pads.  Beware of that fact if you have a pet.

Cobble is large round-edged gravel from 1 to 10 inches in diameter and has many uses in the garden.  It can be pressed into concrete, either close together, far apart, randomly, or in intricate decorative patterns.  Cobbles are great as and edging for driveways, as a protective and decorative fill in a small planting area, or as an entrance way or driveway border.  Laid close together in double or triple rows on either side of a concrete path, they give the illusion of running water.

Unfortunately, if you want to use cobbles in a driveway or for a path that receives lots of foot traffic, the cobbles will have to be set in concrete.  Note:  Keep the cobbles in a bucket of water until they are set in the poured concrete; dry cobbles absorb moisture from the concrete and will weaken it.


To lay the cobbles:  First, see “Brick path” on.  After the concrete has been poured and leveled, press the cobbles flat or on end, depending upon the effect and surface that you require.  Push them in far enough so they are firmly set in the concrete.  Pack the cobbles closely together so only a minimum of mortar shows between them.  Make sure the cobbles are level, and then wash off any excess mortar.  Do not allow anyone to walk on the surface for about 10 days.

If you are handy with tools, wooden decks are fairly easy to build.  There are numerous detailed plans available in books that will lead you through their construction step-by-step.  Wooden decks can be laid over gravel or other hard capes as an added design element or as a raised staging area for garden furniture or potted plants.  Wooden decks have a seasonal advantage over concr4ete or stone paving.  In cold weather, paving can be uncomfortably cold to walk or stand on for any length of time.  A wooden deck, on the other hand, tends to stay much warmer and dries quickly after a rain.

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