The time has finally come, and you’re creating the gravel driveway you’ve been dreaming of installing. The only problem? There is an unruly patch of grass covering your intended driveway. It seems easier just to lay the gravel over the grass—but is it a good idea?
You should remove the grass before laying gravel as grass and weeds may grow through the stones and make the driveway unsightly. Growing grass can encourage your gravel to spread—and make an uneven base for your designated drive. It’s best to remove the grass, even if it requires extra work.
Gravel is helpful for all kinds of things, from driveways to garden paths. So let’s take a look at what the process entails.
Reasons Why You Should Remove Grass Before Laying Gravel
Laying gravel over grass is sure to create problems in the future. Let’s look at a couple of these problems in detail.
1. The Grass Will Grow Through the Gravel
You should remove the grass first—primarily because you will end up with weeds and grass poking through your gravel within a couple of months. Most outdoor plants evolved to grow in environments where there may not be a lot of sunlight and water.
While you may assume that the gravel will kill off any grass and weeds previously in the area, that’s not the case.
Because outdoor plants are hardier, you can expect them to grow through all the cracks and crevices in your gravel.
Gravel, while it can look relatively solid, contains a lot of spaces that are perfect for seeds to fall into and germinate.
Once they take root, it won’t be long before your gravel path is mostly grass and weeds again.
2. The Gravel Will Become Uneven
Another major issue you’ll encounter is that the gravel will become uneven over time if it is laid directly over the ground. There are a few reasons for this.
One reason is that new plants are constantly growing. As the root systems begin to develop, it causes the ground to shift and change.
If the plants take root near your gravel pathway, the plants will uproot the gravel— and the rocks will end up on top of one another rather than laying evenly.
Over time the gravel will develop bumps and small hills inside of it, leaving you with some areas overloaded with rocks—and others that are barren.
Another reason is that dirt is washed out from under the gravel when it rains.
Because gravel contains multiple spaces, it provides many opportunities for water to move the rocks and the dirt beneath.
Usually, the gravel won’t shift as much if you’ve gone through eliminating grass beforehand and laying a cover over the ground.
When done correctly, the gravel path will also have small trenches on each side to help prevent the gravel from moving as much.
We’ll go over that a little more later.
3. The Gravel Will Spread
Without a containment area—the gravel will spread as you walk or drive on the surface.
This spread is especially the case if the stone is laid directly over the grass since you have the pressure of the grass pushing against the rock as well.
You also have to factor in wildlife when gravel is laid directly on the grass.
Birds, squirrels, and so on will search for food within the stone.
This process is yet another factor that compromises the integrity of your gravel.
No matter how tightly you attempt to pack the gravel in the initial laying—you’ll find it redistributing itself over time if not adequately contained.
One of the benefits of clearing out the grass ahead of time is that you also end up leveling the ground.
This leveling helps a lot to keep the gravel contained.
Now, let’s get into the process of removing the grass!
Removing the Grass Before Laying Gravel
We’ve already established that laying gravel over the grass for any reason isn’t going to fair well in the end.
Unfortunately, even if you’re laying weed cover or similar instruments down over the grass, it will eventually spread the gravel apart.
This tendency to spread may be due to the grass growing further—or it may be because various trees in the area spread seeds you didn’t notice.
In any case, the gravel will spread, and you will need to remove the grass.
Let’s take a quick peek at some of the best and easiest ways to remove the grass.
1. Removing the Grass With a Shovel
This method can be easy for smaller areas such as small walkways or seating areas.
However, most of your gravel projects will be more extensive, and removing grass with a shovel can get tiring quickly.
However, should you pursue this option, you’ll start with ensuring the area is well watered the day before.
This moisture will loosen the grass’s roots and make it easier when you start with your shovel on day two.
The next day grab your shovel or spade and start the grass removal process.
Likely, it will take multiple days to complete this if you need to clear a larger area, but again, using a shovel can be very useful and quick in smaller spaces.
Continue shoveling until the area is clear. It’s also important to remember to remove the grass heaps a little ways away.
Otherwise, the grass seed can return to where you laid your gravel when it rains.
2. Smothering the Grass With Newspaper/Cardboard
While this method can work, it will not bear the same results as others, and unfortunately, it will take significantly longer.
While semi-easy, smothering grass with newspaper or cardboard comes with many risks.
This method can be challenging to kill the grass and other weeds. Life fights hard to survive, and the plant world is no different.
You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen dandelions growing straight through the sidewalk.
When using the smothering method, you’ll unlikely eliminate all the grass and weeds growing in the area where you wish to lay your gravel.
Should you prefer this method, you’ll want to grab some cardboard or newspaper and lay it over the grassy areas wherever you’d like to get rid of it.
Weigh the material with rocks or other heavy objects, and then wait.
This method can take a few months to accomplish, but it will eventually yield results. It’s best to use it to make mulch beds rather than prepare gravel.
3. Using Herbicides To Eliminate Grass
Using chemical sprays is the quickest and easiest method of grass removal when it comes to large areas.
Herbicides come in many forms, although the most common are mist herbicides that require you to spray an area to eliminate the weeds.
If you choose this method, you’ll want to ensure the site is dry before spraying. Then, walk along the area and spray, as needed, thoroughly coat the area.
There are, unfortunately, a few downsides to using herbicides, though.
Chemical sprays are not budget-friendly options, particularly when you need a large amount of herbicide.
For many people, this knocks it out of the running for a viable option.
Chemical sprays can be dangerous to animals and people, particularly people with weakened immune systems.
During windy days, the herbicide spreads quickly during the spraying process and can leave you with unwanted coverage.
4. Rototilling To Remove the Grass
Rototilling is not the method I recommend since tilling the grass leaves all the seeds intact.
However, I do want to present it as an option. Sometimes, people prefer not to have such a neat space in their gravel area.
Some feel like a few grass sprouts here and there cause the place to have a more natural look.
If this is what you’re going for in a smaller, enclosed space, tilling can be a viable option.
During the tilling process, the grass is overturned and mixed in with the soil below, raising dirt to the top layer.
It will prevent sprouts from growing for some time, but tilling is typically only used for garden beds because you need to repeat this process every few months to get consistent results.
Despite this, tilling with a rototiller is a relatively straightforward process compared to removing the grass with a shovel and can get the job done faster.
Laying the Gravel
Okay, so hopefully, you’ve figured out how you’d like to remove your grass.
So let’s get into what the actual gravel laying process entails:
- You’ll first want to purchase some landscape fabric and lay it down wherever you put the gravel. The material provides a stronger foundation for the stone, especially in driveways and roads. It also is a barrier for any leftover plants trying to make their way through the gravel.
- After you lay your fabric, start spreading the gravel evenly and smoothly across the surface.
- Try to avoid any mounds of rock piling up. It may also be helpful to dig out a trench on both sides of your gravel pathway to help with water runoff.
- Most gravel is laid from a truck driving along the path or dumping it into a particular location. You will often need to go back over the stone by hand with a shovel or similar instrument to ensure that it’s even and compacted.
For a more in-depth look at gravel laying, check out this great Youtube tutorial:
What If I Still Want To Lay My Gravel Over Grass?
If you’ve decided you’d rather not expend the effort on removing the grass first. So let’s look at some ways this might be feasible.
If you want to lay gravel directly on top of the grass, you will, at minimum, need to mow the grass first.
Unless you have an abnormally tall gravel pathway, which can be dangerous to walk on and drive on, the grass will end up poking through the gravel without mowing.
You must also have some kind of covering underneath your gravel.
As I discussed before, typically, landscape fabric is used for this, but it could be any kind of fabric.
After mowing the grass and laying the landscaping fabric, it is time to apply your gravel.
Laying gravel over grass is possible, but I don’t recommend doing so.
It comes with a list of hazards and ongoing problems that are likely to present over time.
If you lay gravel, the best action is to use the grass removal methods we discussed.
Take your time, plan it out, and be patient with the process.
Cheers, tools owners!