The Ultimate Guide to Landscaping Gravel in Northern Climates

March 1, 2024
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What is Landscaping Gravel? 

Gravel is a versatile and popular choice for landscaping projects in all climates, but it can be particularly advantageous in northern regions. This guide will explore the benefits of using gravel in northern climates, critical considerations for making informed choices, and tips for successful installation and maintenance.

Why Gravel is Ideal for Northern Climates

Low Maintenance

Unlike organic mulches that require regular replenishment, gravel is a low-maintenance solution and can transform your outdoor area. . It doesn’t decompose, break down, or blow away easily, saving time and resources in the long run.


Gravel provides excellent drainage, preventing water from pooling around foundations and planting beds. This is crucial in northern climates with frequent freeze-thaw cycles, as it helps mitigate frost heave and protect plants from root rot.


Gravel is a highly durable material that can withstand harsh weather conditions, including heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures, and UV rays.


Gravel comes in various sizes, colors, and textures, offering design flexibility to complement different landscaping styles and add visual interest to your property. 

Types of Landscaping Gravel for Northern States

When choosing gravel for your northern climate landscape, including options like New Hampshire landscaping rock,  it’s important to consider factors like function, climate, drainage, and aesthetics. Here’s an overview of some popular types of gravel suitable for northern states:

Pea Gravel

  • Size: ⅜ inch to ½ inch
  • Description: Smooth, rounded stones with good drainage properties.
  • Uses: Ideal for walkways, patios, and around foundation plantings due to its comfortable walking surface. It can also be used for drainage applications.

Crushed Stone

  • Size: Varies depending on processing, typically ½ inch to 2 inches
  • Description: Angular crushed stones are available in various sizes and colors. Offers good drainage and superior weight-bearing capacity.
  • Uses: Commonly used for driveways, pathways, and areas with high traffic or weight requirements.

River Rock

  • Size: Varies, typically 1 inch to 3 inches or larger
  • Description: Smooth, rounded stones polished by water, available in various colors and textures. Offers good drainage and visual appeal.
  • Uses: Well-suited for decorative applications in gardens, flower beds, and around water features.

Quarry Process Stone

  • Size: Varies depending on processing, typically ½ inch to 2 inches or larger
  • Description: Crushed or screened stones from quarries are available in a broader range of sizes and colors than crushed stones. Offers good drainage and affordability.
  • Uses: Versatile for various applications, including driveways, walkways, drainage ditches, and around foundations.

Marble Chips

  • Size: Varies, typically ½ inch to 1 inch or larger
  • Description: Crushed or chipped marble stones offer a smooth, polished appearance and various colors.
  • Uses: Primarily used for decorative purposes in gardens, flower beds, and pathways due to their aesthetic appeal, they are not recommended for high-traffic areas or weight-bearing applications.
Landscaping Gravel
Image by nuraghies on Freepik

Designing with Gravel: Ideas and Inspiration

Gravel’s versatility and aesthetic appeal extend beyond its practical benefits in northern climates. Here are some inspiring ideas to incorporate gravel into your landscape design:

Gravel Paths and Patios

Create winding pathways: Gravel is perfect for creating meandering pathways that add visual interest and guide visitors through your landscape. Define the edges with edging stones or borders of contrasting plants.

Design a low-maintenance patio: Gravel patios offer a unique outdoor living space. Choose larger, flat stones for a comfortable walking surface and incorporate seating elements and fire pits for a cozy gathering area.

Gravel as Decorative Mulch

Suppress weeds 

Gravel can effectively suppress weeds in garden beds, reducing maintenance needs and minimizing competition for nutrients and water with your desired plants.

Highlight colorful plants: Use contrasting gravel colors to accentuate the vibrant hues of flowers and foliage in your garden beds. For example, white or light-colored gravel can beautifully complement dark-colored plants.

Create a dry riverbed: Simulate a natural riverbed with gravel paths, adding a unique visual element and enhancing drainage in your landscape.

Creating Focal Points with Gravel

Dry creek beds: A dry creek bed filled with gravel can serve as a functional and attractive drainage solution, guiding water away from your property while adding visual interest.

Rock gardens: Create a low-maintenance and visually captivating rock garden using various sizes and textures of gravel, incorporating drought-tolerant plants and ornamental rocks.

Statues and sculptures: Gravel can provide a beautiful and stable base for showcasing statues, sculptures, or other garden art, creating a focal point in your outdoor space.

Landscaping Gravel
Image by WangXiNa on Freepik

Installing and Maintaining Your Gravel Landscape

Now that you’ve explored the benefits, types, and design possibilities of gravel, here’s a guide to installing and maintaining your gravel landscape in a northern climate:

Step-by-Step Installation Guide:

Planning and Preparation

  • Measure and mark the desired area for your gravel installation.
  • Call your local utility companies to mark any underground utilities before digging.
  • Consider seeking permits if required by your local regulations.


  • Dig out the designated area to the desired depth, typically 4-6 inches.
  • Ensure proper drainage by creating a slope away from structures or a drainage ditch.
  • Compact the subgrade using a hand tamper or plate compactor.

Laying the Edging (Optional)

  • Install edging materials like plastic edging, metal edging, or pavers to define the borders and prevent gravel from spreading.
  • Secure the edging firmly, ensuring it’s level and slightly below the desired finished gravel surface.

Installing Landscape Fabric (Recommended)

  • Lay down a layer of landscape fabric over the compacted subgrade.
  • Cut the fabric to size and secure the edges with landscaping pins or staples.
  • Landscape fabric helps suppress weeds, prevents soil erosion, and allows water to drain through.

Spreading the Gravel

  • Choose the appropriate gravel type and size based on your needs and preferences.
  • Pour the gravel evenly over the landscape fabric, ensuring a consistent depth throughout the area.
  • Rake the gravel to achieve a smooth and level surface.

Compacting the Gravel (Optional)

  • For driveways, walkways, or high-traffic areas, compact the gravel using a plate compactor to improve stability and prevent shifting.

Keeping Your Gravel Looking Great

  • Top-dressing: Over time, gravel can become displaced or compacted. Apply a thin layer of fresh gravel (top-dressing) every few years to maintain the desired depth and smoothness.
  • Edging maintenance: Regularly check and repair any gaps or damage in your edging to prevent gravel from spreading.
  • Weeding: While landscape fabric helps suppress weeds, a few may still emerge through the gravel. Remove them promptly to prevent them from establishing.
  • Raking: Periodically rake the gravel to maintain a level surface and remove any leaves, debris, or accumulated dirt.


Gravel is a practical and attractive choice for northern landscapes due to its drainage, low maintenance, durability, and versatility. This guide explores its benefits, suitable types, design ideas, and installation/maintenance tips, empowering you to create a beautiful and functional landscape that thrives in your northern climate. Consulting local professionals can further assist you in selecting the best materials and techniques for your project.