Can gravel be kept clean with a leaf blower?

castorpApril 13, 2006

Can graveled areas be kept clean with a leaf blower? And if not, how much gravel is needed to "top off" a graveled area to keep it looking neat? I'm considering using gravel in an area in the back yard, but I wanted to get some idea of maintenance first. Although there are no deciduous trees directly over the area, there are oaks on the neighboring properties, and the willow-like leaves often blow in, especially in March.



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patjonking(z7 VA)

Maybe it would work up to a certain point, especially if you used some kind of big chunky rocks instead of gravel. Of course, you've got weeds to worry about, too. Seems like a bad idea to me.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 9:28PM
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Peter_and_Malin(Sweden zone 1)

Does anyone know if the garderners in a japanese garden take any effort in the spring to clear away all the dead fallen leafs? I piched about 40 liters of dead leafes mostly from oaks and willows but also a little from my bamboo and maples. How much effort is taken in japan to clear away all this stuff? I read once about a scene with a japanese maple in the autumm... the gardener didnt think the scene was perfect until he shaked the tree a little so that a few red/yellow leafs dropped to the ground under it...

Anyone have any thoughts?


    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 2:41PM
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What do you mean by "in the spring?" How does "every day" sound, instead? Only a sloppy gardener/owner would wait until spring to clean up fallen leaves.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 8:45PM
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Peter_and_Malin(Sweden zone 1)

Well I do collect some leaves during the autumm but then we have snow from november to match then its impossible to clean any leaves. And then when the snow is gone (like it is now) There are lots of leaves to clean everywhere.

Anyway, my question was about how japanese gardens felt about leaves. In western gardens they should be cleaned away from the lawn as soon as possible


    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 6:13AM
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How are leaves traditionally cleaned from gravel? Can they be swept or raked out in any way?

I once read in a Japanese gardening book that a very old man or a boy should be the one to sweep or rake the garden because neither would be too diligent and it was picturesque, having a few missed fallen leaves here and there. If kept too carefully clean of fallen leaves it could look artificial rather than natural and spoil the feel.

But again, can you rake leaves out of gravel? I've never had any gravel in the garden before, so any imformation on how to maintain it would be helpful.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2006 at 5:47PM
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You could remove the surface leaves with a leaf blower, then use a steel rake to remove the ones that are stuck in the gravel afterwards. Or just rake them out. Obviously you'll need to tidy up the gravel a bit afterwards if you've shifted it too much. I would remove the leaves, level the gravel back out and then rake to leave behind rake marks in the gravel.

As you mentioned, a scattering of a few leaves is lovely. But if you get leaves like I do (four mature trees drop their leaves on my garden every year), you have to remove a good many every year.

Oh, and, if you need to kill perennial weeds in your gravel, try boiling water poured on them. It works a treat on dandelions, etc. without putting toxic chemicals everywhere.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:07AM
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Thank you for the information, Matrinka. It's very helpful. Whether or not I go with gravel, I'm going to try that boiling water trick on the patio, where weeds are always coming up through the cracks.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 10:57AM
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This year I'm killing out the few remaining weeds and am actually going to spread the stones in my patio out so I can plant between them. If something insists upong growing there, let it be thyme! ;) On one side of the house the garden is rather English cottage style (the other side is Oriental influenced), so that will deal with that issue.

On the Oriental side, I'll be installing a meditation deck next spring. Just a quiet spot to do my yoga in the garden without being exposed to the street. I thought originally of doing a zen garden in that space, but I really do need a place outdoors to do my yoga more right now. Someday I'll have the space to have both. The pathway into that will be pebbles, as my walk out the back is. Which is why I have any clue how to maintain gravel. You HAVE to keep it cleaned out, or it will fill up with weeds in short order.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 8:13PM
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ltfuzz(Ctrl CA)

I use the "vacuum" function of the blower. It seems to work for everything except the smallest stones.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2006 at 7:09PM
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Hey Bill,

I lived in north Florida for 20 years and I know about the torrent of leaves from the oaks in spring, especially the laurel oaks. Since they are so small, thin, and light, they will pose a problem getting into the gravel areas, so a lot depends on how much time you are willing to devote to cleaning them out. I think that once a week is a good idea most of the time in which case a blower should work fine. During heavy leaf fall you're gonna have to be more aggressive about it.

Here in Japan small rakes and traditional brooms made of plant materials are used frequently, if not daily, to remove unwanted leaves, etc. A traditional garden will be very clean most of the time with bare soil in many spots, some mossy areas, and of course gravel. Yes, fallen flowers and leaves are enjoyed for short periods, but are always removed before they become a problem. A well kept garden in Japan (and anywhere really!) is high maintanence.

BTW, I would use a finer gravel, not one with a large diameter since there is less space for leaves, sticks, etc. to lodge into.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 6:40PM
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What type gravel are you guys using?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:34AM
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sammie070502(PNW z8)

Castorp, both the type of leaves and the type of gravel are important variables. I have a lot of gravel paths and driveway to keep clean. The main trees overhead are cedars and firs, so the tree litter is composed of very small needles--it would be almost a blessing to clean up only after a deciduous tree with "normal" sized leaves. The blower is ineffective on the small needles etc.

The original rock/gravel applied by the previous homeowner was inch and a quarter and was impossible to keep clean; raking only dislodged the rocks and didn't succeed in collecting much of the tree debris--but blowing might have worked if the leaves were bigger. Debris tended to stick to the surface and decompose, so, basically there is a layer of dirt accumulating on the rocked surface.

Remodeling the driveway--
The first time around, I covered the existing paths etc. with 5/8 minus (5/8ths of an inch and smaller--to dust) gravel but, although it was an improvement, raking still dislodged quite a bit of rock and blowing was ineffective for removing the leaves which had become sodden or embedded in the surface. At the time, this was the smallest gravel available to me. Then, after much searching, I located quarter minus (also called #4 to dust) gravel which is less than 1/4th of an inch and contains fines and I put a 2 inch layer of that over the top of the existing driveway/paths. This is a much superior surface. It compacts very closely like decomposed stone. I can easily rake it clean even of the small debris--bigger leaves and sticks are MUCH easier to collect. I do lose a certain amount of gravel each time, mostly because some of the bigger rocks from underneath get caught up by the raking. Reapplication of new gravel is necessary, maybe 2-3 large wheelbarrows full per 200 sq feet of paths (OK-this is just a wild guess) and not necessary every time.

For everyone who has posted a question in this thread--
Take time to locate a "real" rockyard. The selection is vastly improved over what you may be used to seeing at HD or Lowes. I have no experience with the types of rock used in "real" Japanese gardens, but you must look for sharp gravel (preferably with fines in it) if you want a stable path. Washed or round stone like pea gravel will never really compact and will continue to feel mushy and roll around under foot.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 7:25PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The key term is "crushed rock."

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 9:35PM
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To clean my raked garden I initially use the leaf blower (on turtle speed) then the vaccuum mode. My medium is coarse sand, so when the vaccuum mode is turned off the sand falls out due to the weight. I do not know if this will work with crushed granite.

Weeds are not a problem in the raked garden because I installed a high grade weed barrier before installing the sand.

The maintenance of a raked garden is extreme but well worth the effort. Cleaning should be done daily, but who has the time?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2006 at 11:45PM
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I use a plain ole push broom with soft bristles. It brushes up the leaves of all sizes but pea gravel rolls and just stays where it was all nice and clean.-easy, quiet and quick.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 1:54PM
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Castorp, I have a beautiful flagstone patio and inground swimming pool in my back yard, which my husband and I did ourselves (to save thousands of dollars). Surrounding them I put in four landscaped gardens, all of which I used red limestone in place of mulch. It was much more expensive, but long-term is a great savings because it requires no replacement and very little maintenance. I have a beautiful garden of a backyard and I do very little maintenance when it comes to my red limestone. I have both leaves and needles, but what doesn't blow with the blower I leave there. With the limestone being so similar to the soil color not much is very obvious, and what is, still looks fine. Red limestone has different names in different areas, but I absolutely love it. I laid a brick sidewalk because you definitely cannot walk on limestone in barefeet unless it is very packed limestone sand. There is another ornamental limestone that is, yellow, and green, that actually looks like it has leaves in it. It happens to be the most expensive stone you can buy at the nursery that I shop at.
I would suggest a dark stone to hide leaves that won't blow and spend less time maintaining and more time enjoying.
I love the soil and plants but my garden wouldn't rock without it's stones, bricks, and blocks.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 12:36AM
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I found the postings helpful but still am concerned about side property that muct have(according to code) a permeable surface. Grass will not grow because of two maple trees within this relatively small area. So, leaves and possible litter (I have dogs) might cause a problem to me and to my gardener. I've come away from my reading smarter but still confused as to the best way to go.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 6:55AM
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I'm with yogagarden--I sweep them up with a broom, and it disturbs the gravel very little. Sometimes I use the blower first, to get rid of the biggest of them. But I don't use a pushbroom, I just use a regular angled broom that I keep designated for outdoor jobs. It gets into corners and crannies very well.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 1:20PM
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We have over 200 linear feeet of pea gravel paths. To use the rake causes so much material loss that we were wondering if there were a powerful enough cordless leaf blower that would work. In looking at the stores they all seem only to work, and not really all that well, on a paved area. Any suggestions of one that were strong enough to handle the task. Sam in Charlotte

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 9:01AM
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1. Use a leaf blower. After the surface has blown off, use a metal rake to gather the leaves together and then dump them into a bin.

2. To make sure that the area is foliage-free, use a rake with thin wire to get the leaves hidden beneath the rocks.

*Repeat step 1*

3. Finally, rake the gravel in a single direction for the surface to look neat and even out.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2015 at 1:04AM
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