Pea Gravel...

heddarosa(8)April 29, 2010

I recently moved into a new home that had a lot of defered maintenence in the yard and then sat vacant for 10 months prior to our pruchasing it, so think are in pretty bad shape. Add to that, I'm a novice gardener.

We have one area of about 20'X40' that is partly to mostly shaded. I want this area to become a Child's Garden for my kids. The problem I need to solve is that it is covered in an inch or two of pea-gravel that has all kinds of weeds and grass growing up through it. Under that the soil is a heavy clay with large gravel mixed in, probably just what the builder left behind when the house was built.

Should we try to remove the weeds and pea gravel and weeds ammend the clay underneath and then put down grass seed or sod? Or should we find a ground cover to grow over the pea gravel and hope it will choke out the weeds eventually?

Thanks for any help!

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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

In your last para, the first question is an incredible amount of work and will take a long time and a fair amount of money. The second is unlikely to work, and if it eventually does, may take so long that your children are starting high school and no longer interested....

There are better solutions. I'm guessing that your "Children's Garden" concept is more than just garden areas for the kids. You're looking at maybe a swing, crawl-arounds, other play areas, maybe a treehouse, etc?

I would build up instead of digging down. It's safer for the kids to get more 'padding' between themselves and the gravel, and also the rocky clay below. Both are painful falls.

But you should first take a look at what kinds of weeds you have there. Doesn't matter what species. But does matter what *kind*. If there are lots of runner grasses, or deep-rooted perennial things like thistles, it probably will be worth the work to weed them out as thoroughly as possible before you build up. Most annual more shallow-rooted ordinary weeds should not be a problem this early in the year.

If you are dealing ordinary weeds, I would invest in some loads of topsoil and/or compost. If you have a vehicle that can deal with it, you can often get this very cheap from the city or county. Spread at least 3 inches deep. Preferably more. Then plant grass or whatever. And keep in mind that some ground covers are kid-friendly while others are trip-hazards... Avoid Vinca, as an example.

If you have the money and are concerned about neatness, it would be good to edge the area with boards to hold the soil. But this isn't necessary.

Hope this helps some.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:49PM
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Helps a great deal thank you! The kids are 5 and 7 so I want an area where they can experiment with plants that they choose for their own mysterious reasons - for example last weekend we planted impatiens and kale - and where they can play and I don't care much if they step on the plants. I don't think we'll put in any structures more elaborate than an arbor or teepee.

The whole area just looks horrible and uncared for right now. I often think very ungenerous thoughts about the previous owners of this house...though with some clearing out of a corner I found a rose!

Anway just putting topsoil over the peagravel is a great solution, and one I hadn't thought of. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 7:49PM
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Leave the gravel and build boxes for raised gardens. They are easier to work in and you can just add great soil without having to deal with the pea stone or the clay.

more kid ideas...
1. Sunflower Houses: This is my number one pick. You can use sunflowers to create a rectangular or square section for the house. Once the sunflowers grow to almost full height you can take string and tie the tops together to form a string âÂÂroofâ then morning glories can be grown up the sunflowers until they reach the string and fill in the roof.

2. A garden tee-pee: This is similar to the sunflower house in concept. You put wooden poles in the ground and angle them to form a tee-pee. Make sure it is big enough for kids to pay inside. Then plant vines like morning glories, beans, and gourds so that the walls will fill in with vegetation. Guide the vines at first to make sure that an entrance is left open for little bodies to crawl through.

3. Try a Moon Garden: Instead of making a tee-pee with plants that flower during the day, you can also grow a moon garden and use plants that flower at night. Then the kids can spend some evenings outdoors looking at the stars and fireflies. Moonflowers would be perfect to climb the tee-pee walls and for around the perimeter you could plant evening primrose and four-o-clocks.

4. Grow some unique and whimsical plants. What kids wouldnâÂÂt like to grow some bleeding hearts, sunflowers, or gourds that can be hollowed out to make bird houses and musical instruments? Let them pick out the plants that appeal to them.

5. Make a rainbow: Have the kids help you pick out flowers or herbs in the 6 different rainbow colors⦠red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Plant them in curving rows with gravel or rocks between each row. When they bloom you will have a rainbow!

6. Create a fairy garden: Use twigs and sticks that have fallen from nearby trees to make fairy houses and furniture. Use tempera paints to give them color and texture. You can even use one half of fallen nuts to make little boats for them too.

7. Make a Pizza Patch! Carve out a circular section for this one and divide it into sections or slices. In each section grow a different pizza ingredient like tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, rosemary, etc. When harvest time comes go out together and gather your ingredients and make pizza from scratch together. This can be cooked or raw pizza.

8. Build a worm box: Worms are an important part of any garden. They help us recycle waste into compost and by building a worm box or house you can get lots of wonderful compost and feed the worms your kitchen scraps. You can build your own worm box or buy one and it is a great scientific experiment for kids to be a part of.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 9:15PM
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