first look: our new gravel backyard

gravel backyard

The back yard at my house has always been a bit of a problem. Well, a disaster, really. It’s cloaked in full shade, and I have two dogs, which means that when the rainy season hits, we’re dealing with a (probably) malaria-ridden swamp pit for most of the winter. It also means I spent much, much, much too much time with my Swiffer, cleaning up all those muddy paw prints.

Finally, I’d had enough – and this summer, we decided to pave over it. Except that paving over a yard is expensive, and tricky. So, we went cheap and opted to install landscaping gravel instead. I was actually really nervous about how this would turn out, but after spotting these photos in Sunset Magazine, I had to give it a try. I had visions of an awful urban jungle, devoid of color and personality, but the end result is so fantastic, I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner. The whole project took one day, and was under $500 to complete (including labor!). The new yard is so incredibly liberating – no more mowing, seeding, digging around in piles of mud. And it’s much prettier than I imagined, even calming. The borders are edged with soil, so we can plant a few shade-friendly plants around the perimeter, and the rest is totally, 100% maintenance-free. I can hardly wait to throw an outdoor rug underneath my patio table (which can finally come out of storage), and have a little end-of-summer barbecue to celebrate! The only down side I can think of is that one of my dogs isn’t so crazy about walking on the gravel (you can see her scoping out the situation in that photo). But she’s coping, and my other dog loves being able to lay on the warm gravel in the sun…so I’m calling it a trade-off.

Have you ever considered eliminating the grass from your yard? –Becki S.

From our partners
Mary T.

I really have to consider this. Our yard is a lot bigger though, so it might be a lot more expensive!

We graveled a chunk of our last backyard and since we did it ourselves the price was not too exorbitant. Dogs seem to mostly not mind, and if they do they usually stay on the covered (paved) patio. The newest canine resident apparently loves rolling in it.

Overall, the biggest cost to us was the soreness after moving and compacting three yards of gravel!

Megan B

Our backyard is enormous, but I want to install raised beds throughout the backyard next year (stay tuned for that project in the future). After chatting & planning today w/ my brilliant landscaper neighbor this might be a great way to fill in the spaces between the beds and keep them looking neat, and best of all, low maintenance.


It looks great!!

We had a gravel yard when we lived in Tucson…many are there because it’s so desert friendly and doesn’t require watering. My kids love having a big, grassy backyard now, but as they get older, I’d love to have gravel sections with less maintenance…maybe big pots for plants in them…also seems like a great way to divide a larger yard into cozier sections/seating areas.

How do you keep the weeds from growing up thru the gravel? Did you do the moving and compacting yourself?

carol w

I am sure you put down landscape fabric first, below the gravel.

Mary T.

Do share with us the details on preparation. I also like the hodgepodge of fences — I’m being serious. It gives it a charming look.


I have 3 boxers and they have made the backyard their dirt playpen. Hubby and I got a quote for 700 sqft of river rock…..$440 including delivery! My swampy, dirt filled yard is…out of here! I’ll post a pic when we finished

Jess Cates

Our landlord put gravel in our backyard – unfortunately it was cheap “filler” gravel and (a) it’s sharp to walk on and (b) there’s a dust on it that if we don’t wash our feet/shoes before coming back into the house, we bring it in and its really hard to wash off. Be sure to use a good 5″ of rounded rock and yes, good thick landscape fabric so the weeds don’t grow up through, but if the area is shared, you should be ok. Most weeds are shade intolerant.

Bill Riley

What is the name and type of landscape fabric that I should use prior to putting down stone in my back yard

Bill Riley

What is the name and type of landscape fabric that I should use prior to putting down stone in my back yard

Jocelyn Perry

Need to get gravel placed in mother’s back yard. Puddles are too deep. I want it delivered and put down myself. Where can I go. May have to do a little at a time.


We have two big dogs that dig. Our yard is dirt and holes right now. The gravel idea is great. Can you give more specifics?