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How to Use Decomposed Gravel and River Rock as Groundcover in Your Desert Landscape Design


Desertscape - or desert landscape - unlike landscape anywhere else must be surrounded by hard material such as DG (decomposed granite) or 3/8-inch gravel (also granite) or larger it’s ¾ inch Gravel or River rock. This gives the landscape a clean finished look and also keeps the weeds away. Of all the materials DG is the most simple look with the least texture. It is also the least expensive. It comes in several different colors, most of them earth tones but also gray, off white and an earthy red. The only downside of DG is that it does not do well in the rain. In other words, it should not be placed under roof lines where there’s a lot of water runoff. However, 3/8-inch gravel is very good for water runoff or roof run off. It is also a very clean look just with a little bit more texture. I do not recommend using larger gravel as your main ground cover. Not only does it create a very heavy look but it retains a lot more heat and consequently is not good for plant material. Using three-quarter inch or larger gravel (sometimes referred to as rubble) or any size river rock is better in planter areas or in border areas such as along a hedge or house.

River rock also comes in a variety of sizes and colors starting with 3/8 inch and up to 5 inches. The larger the rock, the more heat it absorbs. So, it’s not a good idea to put it in full sun around plants that can burn. When placing DG or gravel as the ground cover, you should always allow for a minimum of 3 inches deep. DG is especially susceptible to thinning out after several years of gardeners using a leaf blower.

Visually it is best to keep your hard materials in a single area, such as the front yard, to no more than two. Otherwise it creates an overly busy look which is not esthetically appealing.

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