Have you ever considered planting in rocks and gravel? A drought-tolerant gravel garden is an attractive alternative to a lawn, especially if you live in a part of the country where you have drought conditions. You can use rocks and gravel to create a special feature reminiscent of a mountain scene, a rocky outcrop, or dry riverbed. Whatever your choice, make a feature that is part of the overall design of your yard and garden and not merely an afterthought. Most plants associated with rocks and gravel are alpines or other drought-tolerant plants
For a wide choice of plants, provide them with a sunny, open position, and a well-drained soil. South-or-west-facing slopes are ideal since rocks look at home on a hillside. If you have a flat, slightly shaded site, your best option is probably a simple gravel surface, or a site resembling a dry riverbed, sparsely planted.
When working on a level surface, such as a path through a gravel garden, lay down sheet mulch between the earth and the gravel. The best sheet mulch is woven polypropylene; this is more expensive than black plastic, but well worthwhile. This is because it is easier to lay, and also because water drains through it without puddling. Plant large specimen plants first and then fit the sheet mulch around them. You might find that ornamental grasses do very well in rock and gravel beds.However, most of your plants will be most likely be smaller plants used to fill the empty spaces, so you need to cut small holes in the sheet mulch. Make sure your space has been cleared of weeds. Perennial weeds are very difficult to get rid of so it is always advisable to try to get out as many as you can.
Planting around Your Rocks
You might have some different sized rocks to choose from, but if you only have small ones you can arrange the smaller ones to give the impression of being larger rocks. Select small rocks with similar markings and place them so the markings are running the same way. Tilt the rocks slightly to make them lean back into the rock garden. This will route any water back into the soil mix. Next, water the plant and allow it to drain. Meantime, pack some soil into the spaces and crevices. Take the plant out of its pot, and squeeze the rootball gently to make it less than the width of the crevice. Insert between the rocks making sure its roots are in contact with the soil. Water it again and replace any soil that washes away.
Preparing the Gravel
1.Plants with large root balls should be planted and watered in well. It is hard to move heavy root balls, so be sure you place it carefully. Large heavy rocks should be placed down first, since they will serve as the mainstays. They should be embedded with up to one-third of the rock below the ground level. Firm the soil down and make sure it is level.
2.Your next step is put a piece of sheet mulch down. Cut a 4-inch deep V-shaped trench and push the edges down into the trench with a spade. When you need to join two sheets, you will need a 1-inch overlap before securing the sheets in place with ground staples every 3-4 ft. Then, cut the sheet to fit around the larger plants.
3.To plant smaller plants, cut a cross in the sheet mulch. Pull the corners back and dig a hole. Make sure the roots have full contact with the soil. Replace the sheet mulch, then carefully place gravel around the plant.
4. It is recommended to cover the space between plants with 1-2 inches of gravel. Use a garden rake to get it level. At this point you should look at the design and change anything that you don’t like. You may also add in other items to finish off your overall design. Now that you are finished planting, wash off the gravel and admire your work.