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I’ll trade you a bucket of lawn for a bucket of pea gravel!


These photos are from and  on occasion I will visit this website to be inspired when I am working on our Urban Potager. This spring I have been busy adding more edible plants and natives while learning to landscape with pea gravel. I have found pea gravel to work well in our urban oasis since it is an affordable choice. I need to get inspired by other gardens, so I searched on Houzz under “pea gravel in the garden” and found some great ideas!

This was designed by Rebekah Zaveloff | KitchenLab  for the Houzz web site. I really like how it integrates living space with sustainable plants. I have found pea gravel to work well in our landscape. I like the simplicity of this garden. It does not have a lawn to guzzle all your water.

This was designed by Debora Carl-landscape-design + I like the integration of pea gravel with flagstone. My goal is to eventually add some flagstone to our pea gravel areas, but it is not possible at this time.

Huettl Landscape Architecture designed this space and I like how you do not need a lawn to create inviting places to hang out. The past 3 years we have been dealing with terrible droughts here in zone 5 Midwest which means thinking outside the box for the future of city landscaping!

Marcus & Willers Architects created this beautiful area. In many cities across the USA, we are having to ration water. This is motivating me to “rethink” my urban potager. If I have to water, it should be for food for ourselves or our native pollinators. I have been replacing many of our non-native plants with native plants to create mini habitats around our urban potager. That way we can provide for nature while we also grow food for our own sustainable living!

Site Design Studio created an inviting outdoor place to dine. Who would not want to eat here!

Bruce Clodfelter and Associates created a place I would love to just sit and read a good book! I have been working on creating some living walls that provide privacy on our small lot. Last year I added a few more native bushes that will fill in over the years to create privacy where some of the older landscape plants have died.I had to find plants to recreate the privacy that we enjoyed when we purchased our home in 1999.

When we moved into our home in 1999 the former owners had collected old bricks from buildings downtown. They never did anything with them, so we have been using them over the years to edge. Pea gravel and old bricks are great edging material.What a lovely garden created by Leslie Eberts.

Living Gardens Landscape Design know how to use every inch of a landscape!

PLNA used pea gravel in this small city potager that invites you to spend time in it every day.

IMG_2574_4853_edited-1A few days ago I moved two dwarf evergreens and my Penstemon digitalis “Husker Red” Beardtongue to the entrance of this sunny section of my urban potager. My neighbors behind our city lot removed more dead trees a few weeks ago, so I have more sun and this will be my area where I rotate my urban potager plants. Now that trees and privacy bushes have been removed in our adjoining lots I have had to create privacy on our small city lot and keep the sun on our garden beds.

IMG_2578_4857_edited-1Shoveling pea gravel this past week to create a sustainable floor that will last for years. Pea gravel is easy to install and affordable. My dream is one day to have a flagstone porch,but that is a “Want” not a “Need”, but we “Need” to exercise our dogs here and since we took out the grass we do not have to worry about the drought and our lawn. We now grow food in this sunny area! Our dogs like to jump in our raised beds, so we had to put a temporary fence up for now.


I put up more bamboo fence and built simple bamboo trellises to create a sunny vertical growing area.This area is FULL SUN and gets so hot during the summer! Before a storm, a few years ago this area was shaded with a lovely golden maple. Once the tree was taken out grass was unable to grow here unless you watered it twice a day!

IMG_2588_4867_edited-1A bucket of lawn at a time is all it takes to develop your own sustainable yard. A yard that grows more of your food + feeds nature. Trust me you won’t even miss it!

28 replies »

  1. I love the idea of replacing your lawn one bucket at a time. Sometimes people think that in order to live more sustainably and responsibly, they have to make huge sweeping changes all at once. This can seem overwhelming, which can prevent action… tiny, small steps in the right direction will get you there eventually. “And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” ― Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

    • love the quote:-) You are right small changes. I have been doing it over the past decade, one section at a time. It has been a work in progress or it is overwhelming, but if you take it slowly and try to make small changes every so often it all adds up and you can really see the progress. I am seeing worms in my “hard clay” soil that when I started was just ROCK hard. I could not even use a spade in the earth! Now I am seeing soil that is alive!!! Plants that are alive and things are tasting better, slowly. I also don’t have all that grass to water all the time to keep up with the other “lawn lovers”…I took out only half in the front yard since my husband was not eager to go all the way! lol…but it is at least half as big now!

  2. I love seeing non-lawn interpretations. Everyone has such great ideas! Pea gravel isn’t terribly common here, folks do similar things with ground up granite. I wonder how much of the trend in each area is due to cost of goods due to local geology? Or perhaps pea gravel retains and transfers heat moreso than granite?

    • Oh I would love to use the ground up granite, but you can’t get it here locally. Possibly through a landscape firm that puts in your hardscape, but I have never seen it used here in our zone 5. I think it would be much better than pea gravel, but you are right have to use what you have locally:-)

  3. What an inspirational post Robbie! I have no lawn here, but then I do not have much of a garden either 🙂 Even so, it is important to me to make an outdoor space that is usable, enjoyable and which can provide some food. I am constantly looking for ideas and went ‘wow’ a number of times looking at different set-ups. I must visit that site 🙂

    PS: Your urban potager continues to amaze and delight me!! 🙂

    • I find it a fun site to explore and get ideas:-) I was wondering the other day. if I moved to a smaller place would I have an area out back? Yes, I would just grow up and away!!!
      I will finish planting seeds this week, and than the wonder begins. I just love growing plants from seed! They are little treasures waiting to be opened in late summer or fall:-) A collage of color!

  4. OMG, these are beautiful ideas! I’m bookmarking this post, Robbie. I have too much lawn as it is. I need to get rid of some of it, but I have a question. What about fallen leaves on gravel? Would they be easy to clean?

    • Well, I just rake it up and I have not had a problem, but I am not sure if you have a lot of leaves. I have trees that have large leaves so they are a bit easier to rake up, but smaller leaves would be a problem-maybe?? My husband uses a leaf blower, and that does the trick for him. Try it in a small area and see how it works. I have done that in my “sunny area” and I am thinking about doing the dining area in the next few years:-)

  5. Oh Robbie, I love your pictures–I’m drooling at all the great garden ideas. I’ve been slowly taking out lawn too. I like the “stepable” plants like sweet woodruff, etc. I’ve used pea gravel a lot and it’s so delicate and pretty!

    • “stepable plants” now that is a great idea:-) I ‘ve wanted to try thyme since I read it sends off a wonderful perfume when you walk on it, but I have to leave some grass with my husband-lol.
      I never thought of “pea gravel” that way,but you are right!

  6. I wouldn’t like to be totally without lawn because green is such a lovely restful colour but I never use chemicals on it or irrigate in dry weather. The lawn gets smaller every year as I expand the beds. I have dug up all my front lawn because I don’ t see the point of a lawn in the front, it serves no purpose and so I just have plants with paths . Gravel is great though, because plants seed in it and seem to love growing through it . But where does the gravel come from? Does the extraction leave ugly scars on the landscape? I have just been to Wales where whole mountainsides in the beautiful Snowdonia area are disfigured by slate mining.

    • I agree a little lawn in front of garden beds makes them look beautiful:-), but we tend to have way more than we need on our lots. I have a loop in front of my perennial/mixed beds, so I do understand. I have a lot of clover since I don’t use chemicals either. I read many years ago clover in a lawn was considered normal. We have become too dependent on chemicals to make those carpets perfect.The pea gravel is from the USA and local quarries.That sounds awful the slate mining in Wales:-(

    • I know they are inspiring and that is why I search to “inspire” when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and don’t know where to go or how to make something work:-)

      • I too seek inspiration, on line and from books, for so much of what I do. It feeds the imagination to then come up with my own ideas. And it’s such eye candy to see other’s beautiful creations, feeds the soul – I guess that’s why I love Pinterest so much 🙂

      • I have my books, too. I tried pinterest, but it overwhelmed me a bit:-) lol. I already have too many ideas and projects, so then it is visible for everyone to see what I have not finished-tee hee- I have to admit, I really like looking at others pages, so inspiring, but it does take time and patience to collect all the photos.I guess my blog is all I can handle right now:-)

      • 🙂 I used to do alot of searching for stuff online (which just became boring and tedious) so find Pinterest good for just opening one page and having all those things that interest me just sitting there while I have my morning coffee. At the same time 15 minutes is about as much as I can handle in a morning.

  7. Pea gravel–what a great idea! I’ve used pavers and pine chips but thinking this might work especially well in areas where grass doesn’t grow well, too–the muddy, shady bits, perhaps? Thanks for sharing this fabulous idea!

    • I like it for paths, too. If my husband was not so attached to the last “little” bit of grass, I would get rid of it:-) It works well in shade,too:-)

  8. Robbie, love Houzz and Pinterest! Thanks for posting the pics. So many good ideas, it’s better than a magazine. I have pea gravel around the garden shed and I really like it. I hand weed it in the early spring and then every so often during the summer. Leaves used to be a problem…I ended up raking up so much of the pea gravel with the leaves… I bought a small leaf blower for this and it works great. Still have “grass” yard if you can call it that with the mix of weeds that are in it, but the rabbits love nibbling on it and there are plenty of dandelions and clover for the bees, so I treat it like another big plant. Being up here on the hill with no neighbors, I let mullein and other wild plants settle in to the yard. 🙂 No chemicals allowed!

    • I have grass in some areas of my yard, but there were areas where I could not keep the grass alive with drought and sun beating down on the grassy area. I noticed my neighbors that have trees do okay with grass during the drought , but since we lost a lot of trees due to storms it does not do well in full sun. I had to rethink those areas and decided to landscape with drought tolerant plants/ pea gravel in those areas.I do enjoy some grassy areas, but try to not make it more than a 1/3 of the landscape:-) No chemicals the way of the future!

  9. I love pea gravel and you have inspired me for ways to incorporate it into my garden while I wait for the big stone purchase ha ha. (Because I also love, love, love rocks and stone.) I love how pea gravel feels underfoot, too. Your garden looks awesome! I picked my first salad from the garden on Sunday for brunch mmm mmm good!

    • I like pea gravel around where the dogs hang out and we exercise them since it does not tear up the grass( lol), and soft on their feet when they catch their ball. I also find it does not get that hot which I thought it would at times being in the full sun. Some of my perennials actually like growing in it ,too. I did an experiement this year to see if it would work. I started some lettuce in trays so we would have full salads a bit sooner this year. It was aggravating and they did not look so good in the garden back in late March when I transplanted them with kale, chard and other cole crops, but they actually took and filled in, and we have been eating salads a bit sooner this year. I also seeded some after diretly in the garden, but we have had had salads about a month earlier. It is a pain to do,but it actually worked this year:-)

  10. Your post is filled with inspiration. I agree with small changes, I don’t have the budget to create my dream landscape 🙂 so we keep working on it little by little, enjoy your day 🙂

    • I know what you mean:-) It has taken me 15 yrs in the same spot and just working a little bit at a time. I have changed in my goals, too over the years as well as the landscape of my small space. I have had to adapt but it is always an inspiration to see nature unfold right where I hang out every day:-)

  11. That greenery around those flagstones looks like creeping thyme. You could also use oregano for the same thing but it is more aggressive and you would end up walking on it…not so bad though :). The weed infested green (in winter, brown and blowaway in summer) “lawn” that we inherited seems to be attempting to regenerate some native bushland in it of late. We haven’t mown the lawn all year and there are small wattle saplings sprouting all over the place…the chooks and duck spend their days pecking, scratching and dibbling the “grass” to find tasty insects and we don’t bother with it. To put pea gravel in all of our problem areas would require a VERY large truck and a lottery win of substantial proportions so its not on my radar at the moment but it is very pretty 🙂

    • I know what you mean how it would cost a lot to use in a large area with acreage, but for our smaller city lots it is affordable:-) It sure beats watering grass all the time + our dogs love it:-) It is pretty, but I won’t be using in the entire yard because it would not work in some other areas. I sure like it where we have it:-)

      • You are very right about it being pretty and it is economical and a great alternative to lawn when there are water restrictions. Its not cheap here though even for a small amount. We have bluestone chips here as granite is the stone of choice over here but it doesn’t have that same lovely rounded weathered quality that pea gravel does, its WAY too spiky to walk on in bare feet!

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